POLLING HIGH, LOW IN POWERS?
This Monday’s reopening is a long-awaited relief for all Londoners, though recent news of COVID variant outbreaks in South and North London boroughs is a reminder that we should all remain cautious.
Meanwhile, with election less than a month away, it’s at the front out minds but is that only because we here at LCA Towers are both political anoraks and champions of this great city?
We ask because there are two interconnected points, covered below in more detail, that gave us pause. First, research showing that the name recognition of London’s Mayor is somehow lower than that of Manchester – especially considering the office of the former has existed for 20 years, while the latter has been in place only about four years. And second, a number of manifesto pledges by candidates for London’s Mayoralty clearly require Government approval to enact. If nothing else, both points underline the urgent need for further devolution.
Meanwhile read on for more news on the election campaign trail, planning, sport, transport, and more.
Two of the four main candidates for Mayor of London have now published their full manifestos.
- On 6 April, incumbent Sadiq Khan launched his manifesto, pledging to stand up against ‘an increasingly anti-London Government’ as well as protect and create jobs and deliver his ‘Green New Deal’. Khan makes a number of promises (some more detailed than others) on housing and planning, including a pledge to deliver 10,000 new council homes, a commitment to reviewing his estate regeneration ballot system and a promise to ‘pilot’ a new City Hall developer.
- Green candidate Sian Berry, currently placing third in the polls, has also published her manifesto, which in terms of housing and planning, focuses on increasing renters’ rights, creating a People’s Land Commission and including higher levels of ‘truly affordable’ homes in planning policies for Build to Rent.
Meanwhile Conservative candidate Shaun Bailey, who has not yet published a full manifesto, has in recent days pledged to reverse the current Mayor’s council tax increase, and open a youth centre in every London borough. And Lib Dem candidate Luisa Porritt has this week said that a new Mayor would be able to ‘reset’ the strained relationship between City Hall and Government.
A number of organisations have also set out what they want from the next Mayor: Generation Rent has called on the candidates to ‘lead a campaign to demand powers from the government to reduce rents’; Living Streets has urged candidates to ‘put walking first to tackle illegal levels of air pollution’; while RICS has set out its recommendations for policymakers ahead of the elections for the creation of ‘safe, sustainable communities’.
The results of two Mayoral voting intention polls this week are rather predictable and not too far apart. YouGov’s latest poll for the Mile End Institute has found Khan ahead with 47% of first preference votes against Bailey’s 26%, while Opinium’s second poll for the Evening Standard puts Khan at 51% and Bailey at 29% (a difference of more than 20 percentage points in both cases). None of the other 18 candidates breached the 10% mark. Rather more interesting are these two polls’ findings in relation to the issues that resonate most with voters. Their results are again similar, with divergences probably down to the slightly different angle of the relevant questions. The YouGov poll indicates that the ‘top three concerns for public investment in London’ are the NHS (63%), Housing (58%) and Policing (42%), while Opinium’s query as to the ‘top issues facing London’ resulted in Crime first (43%), followed by Health / the NHS (40%) and Housing / House Prices third (39%). The two polls also contain much aside the above, as they sampled Londoners’ views on everything from postal voting, to their approval of national political leaders and Low Traffic Neighbourhoods.
Hardcore political anoraks will also be interested in a recent Savanta ComRes’ poll for Centre for Cities, which went beyond petty electioneering to delve into public perceptions of local government in both Greater London and other English city regions. The poll found significant public support for further devolution to regional authorities – though it also found rather shockingly low name recognition for sitting regional Mayors: Only 63% of Mancunians polled were able to name Andy Burnham as their Mayor, while – believe it or not – only 60% of Londoners correctly named Sadiq Khan as theirs!
NOT A GOOD LOOK...
The two top candidates for the Mayoralty have both been embroiled in some sticky business over recent days. Labour has cried foul at the Conservatives’ campaign tactics on at least two fronts. First, it has called for an investigation into potentially inappropriate use of government resources after the Prime Minister (again) accused Khan of grossly mismanaging TfL during a televised Downing Street press briefing nominally focused on the pandemic. Second, Labour has demanded that Bailey’s campaign disavow aggressive online attack ads against Khan by the Fair Tax Campaign (an issue that first arose several weeks ago). The Tory candidate’s spokespeople have responded that they had nothing to do with the ads, but seem to have refrained from condemning their content. Khan’s team has also faced a bit of bad press of late, after a senior Mayoral advisor was found to have breached lockdown rules – though to be fair, a Mayoral spokesperson has come clean about the incident, which seems just as complicated as a certain other political adviser’s lockdown escapades...
LONDON TRANSPORT LATEST
- Transport for London (TfL) has obtained permission to appeal the High Court’s January ruling that its Bishopsgate low traffic scheme, which included a limit on taxis to encourage walking and cycling, was introduced unlawfully.
- Transport Commissioner Andy Byford has confirmed that the Night Tube is unlikely to reopen this year.
- TfL has now permanently withdrawn its heritage Routemaster buses from service. TfL is reported to have said that the iconic buses are no longer ‘viable’ due to environmental and accessibility issues, while changes in ridership over the last year has also been a contributing factor.
- The Department for Transport (DfT) has confirmed the 10-year extension of the period of time over which the Mayor of London can apply Community Infrastructure Levy (CIL) receipts to pay for Crossrail, which is now set to open in 2022, £1.1bn over the already increased budget of £ £17.6bn agreed when the project was bailed out in December 2018. If this isn’t confirmation that Crossrail 2 has been kicked into the long grass…
- But in happier news for London, the DfT is looking for a development partner to ‘fund, finance and build’ a railway connecting Heathrow Airport with lines to Waterloo Station, as well as Woking and Guildford.
- Manny Hothi has been appointed as the new CEO of Trust for London.
- Sarah Sands, a former Editor of the Evening Standard, has been appointed as a non-executive director of the Berkeley Group board.
- Rebekah Paczek has been appointed as Director of Public Affairs and Community Engagement for the Earls Court Development Company.
- Ronnie Wood, guitarist for the Rolling Stones, has been awarded the Freedom of the City of London.
We are saddened to hear of the deaths of founder and editor of the Camden New Journal Eric Gordon, of the current Mayor and former Leader of Waltham Forest Council Chris Robbins and of former Hammersmith and Fulham councillor Mike Cartwright.
While the pre-election period has led to a relative slowdown of some planning departments’ work, things are still moving. Late last month, Barking & Dagenham Council approved plans by Weston Homes for 147 homes (42% affordable) and 1,000 sq m of commercial space. Only last Thursday, Hounslow Council provided part outline- and part-detailed approval to Tesco and development partner St Edward for their plans to deliver a total of over 2,100 homes (35% affordable), a new supermarket and other facilities across two sites. Brent Council has meanwhile approved plans by Countryside for 308 homes (40% affordable), retail space and other amenities in South Kilburn. Brent has also approved Network Homes’ 1,600-home (40% affordable) scheme, which forms part of the Northwick Park Hospital redevelopment scheme. Our last edition also reported that Unilever’s new Kingston HQ was headed for committee – it has now been approved. Aside from the boroughs’ approvals, it’s worth noting that Communities Secretary Robert Jenrick has approved London Green’s called-in plans for 193 new homes in Hounslow – a complex scheme (details here), on a site just across the river from Kew Gardens.
Separately, following a virtual rebellion of local government officials and politicians, Jenrick’s department is now ‘supporting’ a High Court challenge seeking to allow councils to continue holding public meetings – including planning committee meetings – remotely. Not quite the same as ensuring the necessary legislation is in place well before emergency rules expire on 6 May, but a means to an end at least... The case is to be heard on 21 April.
BUMS (BACK) ON SEATS?
The approval of Unilever’s Kingston HQ is only one piece of recent news that gives us hope for the future of the office. Real estate services giant JLL last week cast a big vote of confidence in the City, agreeing a 15-year lease for 134,000 sq ft of office space at British Land’s Broadgate campus – a stone’s throw from Liverpool Street Station. The City of London Corporation’s planners have meanwhile recommended WELPUT’s plans for a new 49-storey building combining office, retail and community spaces right next to the Gherkin, for approval. Beyond the Square Mile, online fashion retailer Boohoo has shelled out £72m to purchase a 46,000 sq ft six-storey office for 600 staff at 10 Great Pulteney Street in Soho. Meanwhile, the – in places quite raucous, if perhaps less so than last summer – reopening of non-essential retail and hospitality also gives hope that Central London is at least starting to get its buzz back. Landsec CEO Mark Allan, representing one of the UK’s largest commercial landlords, has written a piece for Property Week where he explains out how this reopening must be different if it is to enable a sustained (and sustainable) recovery of England’s city and town centres.
One major sector of London’s economy – and a big part of the Central London economic ‘ecosystem’ – looks much less likely to recover anytime soon. In a financial prospectus for investors, Gatwick Airport has said that the city’s airports will not need to expand before the 2030s due to the enduring impact of COVID. ‘At least for the rest of this decade,’ the report reads, ‘London's airports will be relying on their existing physical capacity to meet expected increasing demand.’ As per a relevant article in The Telegraph, Gatwick’s admission also casts a shadow over continued infighting at Heathrow, where the row between the airport’s owners and airline operators over covering losses sustained by the airport during the past year has only deepened. London’s airports are not alone in facing a multitude of challenges – which besides the financial shock of the pandemic, include vociferous calls by campaigners to limit aviation’s environmental footprint. Plans for the expansion of Leeds Bradford airport have this month been put on hold to allow the Communities Minister to examine the plans more closely, while environmental campaigners call for all regional airport expansion projects to be blocked.
- The FA has said that Wembley will welcome 22,500 fans for each of England’s three Euro 2020 group matches this summer, as they will serve as ‘test’ events for the reopening of large gatherings. The FA is also reported to be planning for 45,000 spectators at the semi-finals and finals, which are also set to take place at Wembley. The plans so far are to have fans who intend to attend either take lateral flow COVID tests the day before the match, or provide proof that they have received the vaccine.
- The organisers of Wimbledon have also announced the measures they are set to introduce for the July tournament. Due to restrictions, this year fans hoping to secure a ticket will not be permitted to wait in the iconic overnight queue.
- It has also been reported in recent days that London could host the upcoming Anthony Joshua against Tyson Fury boxing match. While reports suggest that a number of different venues are being considered, Sadiq Khan has said that London is ‘ready’ to host the match at Wembley.
- Looking further ahead, as part of his re-election bid, Sadiq Khan has pledged to bring Indian Premier League cricket matches to Lord’s and the Oval. He has said that an exhibition match could take place as early as this year and that discussions are already underway with the Indian cricket authorities.
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LDN is put together by a dedicated team at London Communications Agency. The content for each edition is developed from news drawn from the last week from every London local paper as well as the regional and national press, from intelligence gathered by monitoring local, regional and national government activity and from the insight and expert knowledge of the entire LCA team.
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