“With the election done, AGM season in full bloom, a vaccine surge underway and the weather, please god, the weather about to turn to the good, there’s a fresh start vibe around London town.
Sadiq has clearly been feeling it, getting out and about this week, including a little jaunt up to Yorkshire, a visit to the new Nine Elms tube station and to the Olympic Park for the opening of the memorial garden.
A positive vibe is a good start of course, with confidence in the economy and recovery seemingly high, but as the reports cited below show, there’s much else to consider, including London’s size and strength over the coming years.
There’s also the ever-vexing question of how the Government feels about us. The next deal with TfL is in the works and is vital to the future of the city; and while money is being doled out to communities across the country – like the High Streets fund we cover this week – is enough of it coming our way?
Read on to get yourself across the detail of all of this – transport, planning, politics, culture and more – and let us know what you think!”
LCA Board Director and LDN Editor Jenna Goldberg
No fewer than eight boroughs have held their Annual General Meeting (AGM) since our last edition:
- In Greenwich, last Wednesday’s AGM heralded relatively minor changes in terms of faces around the top table. Cllr Linda Perks is the only new joiner, taking up the brief for Finance and Resources, though we noticed some key changes to Cabinet Members’ portfolios, including Cllr Sarah Merrill handing over responsibility for planning and regeneration to Deputy Leader Cllr Denise Scott-McDonald.
- Enfield’s AGM saw no changes to its Cabinet lineup, though the Council’s leadership had to see off a vote of no confidence triggered by the Conservative opposition group at a boisterous Extraordinary full council meeting held later the same evening.
- Bromley’s AGM heralded few major changes, though with former Deputy Leader and Portfolio Holder for Children, Education and Families Cllr Peter Fortune heading off to represent the Bexley & Bromley ‘superconstituency’ in the London Assembly, the Council’s Executive has seen a minor reshuffling of portfolios and Cllr Angela Page has joined as Portfolio Holder for Public Protection and Enforcement.
- Tower Hamlets’ AGM similarly saw few changes to Cabinet (Mayor Biggs having overseen a mini-reshuffle only in June 2020). It was however confirmed that Cllr Kevin Brady has been replaced as the Labour Group’s Chief Whip by Cllr Tarik Khan and as Chair of the Strategic Development Committee by Cllr Kahar Chowdhury.
- Islington’s AGM saw Cllr Kaya Comer-Schwartz formally confirmed as the new Leader of the Council, leading a largely unchanged Cabinet – though Cllr Michelline Safi Ngongo has joined to take on Comer-Schwartz’ previous brief for Children, Young People and Families, while Executive Member for Housing and Development Cllr Diarmaid Ward becomes Deputy Leader while also retaining his previous brief covering Housing and Development.
- Hillingdon Council’s AGM was fairly uneventful – unsurprising considering it elected its new Leader only in January. However its Planning Committee had a bit of a shakeup, with a handful of new members and Cllrs Steve Tuckwell and Henry Higgins swapping the Chair and Vice Chair posts (Tuckwell now having the top job).
- Southwark’s AGM saw incumbent Leader Kieron Williams carrying on at the head of a partially reshuffled Cabinet. From our perspective, the biggest change is Cllr Johnson Situ having ‘decided to stand down’ as Cabinet Member for Climate Emergency, Planning & Transport. He has been replaced by Cllr Helen Chaucer, the new Cabinet Member for Climate Emergency and Sustainable Development.
- And only yesterday, Barnet’s AGM offered few surprises, apart from some notable changes to its Planning Committee: with Chair Cllr Shimon Ryde having gone Independent from Tory earlier in the month, he has been replaced on the Committee by Cllr Reuben Thompstone – and as Chair by Cllr Eva Greenspan.
Looking ahead, Lambeth Labour Group has selected Cllr Claire Holland (the current Deputy Leader) to succeed outgoing Jack Hopkins as Leader of the Council. Her appointment is to be confirmed at the Council’s AGM on 2 June. And in Haringey, Cllr Peray Ahmet has been selected to replace Joe Ejiofor as leader, with her new role expected to be confirmed at the Council’s AGM tomorrow. Once they are appointed, more than one-third of London’s boroughs will have leaders that did not head up their respective local parties when they competed in the last elections, in May 2018.
ITS A NUMBERS GAME
We’re always on the lookout for clues about the state of London and the trajectory of the city’s recovery. For similarly-minded London-watchers, we’d highlight two key reports released yesterday by City Hall’s indefatigable data crunchers. First, a report on population change in London during the pandemic, which found ‘it is hard not to conclude that the population of London is likely to have fallen since the start of the pandemic.’ While it offers assurances that ‘the scale of such a fall is likely to be far short of the more dramatic figures that have been reported in the press’ it also underlines that ‘more important than the absolute size of any immediate drop in population will be the extent to which changes persist as restrictions are eased and the city begins to recover.’ Second, GLA Economics’ latest and 38th London forecast – which has also been highlighted by the City Hall press office – suggests some optimism in terms of a swift return to overall economic growth, while warning that the labour market is likely to get worse before it gets better. We’ve also been looking closely at the financial disclosures of the property sector’s ‘big beasts’, with British Land, Landsec and Shaftesbury among key players to recently publish half- or full-year results.
LONDON PLANNING LATEST
- The Old Oak and Park Royal Development Corporation (OPDC) has now launched a seven-week public consultation on a revised version of its proposed Local Plan, ending on July 5.
- Hackney Council has published its draft Dalston Plan Supplementary Planning Document, which was considered and approved by its Cabinet on 24 May.
- Southwark Council is one of 14 areas nationally – and the only local planning authority in London – where the new National Design Code is to be ‘tested’.
- The Friends of Mais House group has secured a High Court ruling ordering Lewisham to quash its consent for 110 new social homes on the Sydenham Hill Estate.
- Separately, the High Court has quashed the approval of a 291-home scheme by Tower Hamlets, on the former London Chest Hospital site.
- Weston Homes' plans to demolish a Tesco Extra in Redbridge to build 1,280 homes have been recommended for approval by officers. The scheme goes to committee tomorrow.
As we await news of a funding agreement between Transport for London and the Government – due by Friday – there’s plenty to report from elsewhere in the transport sector:
- As briefly touched upon in our last edition, TfL and London Councils have announced a rental e-scooter trial, set to start in June. Dott, Lime and TIER have been selected to participate in the 12-month trial, which will take place in at least five boroughs (Ealing, H&F, K&C, and Richmond, as well as Tower Hamlets from 7 June), plus the City of London and the Canary Wharf area specifically.
- The Williams-Shapps Plan for Rail has been published, setting out the Government’s ‘Great British Rail’ proposals. The Plan sets out the Government’s intention to implement, across the country, contracting and ticketing systems similar to those already widely used by TfL in London. Though the Mayor has called this a ‘vote of confidence’ in the capital’s transport system, it remains unclear how exactly the Plan will affect London. OnLondon has published a handy article on this by Charles Wright.
- CGIs of the £3m upgrade for Hackney Central Overground station have been unveiled. Set to be delivered by Arriva, alongside the Council, TfL and Network Rail and funded by the Department for Transport, the changes will see the introduction of a new entrance, as well as cycle parking and greenery. Work is set to begin in June and finish in early 2022.
BILLS, BILLS, BILLS
Following the Queen’s Speech earlier this month, a number of bills are coming forward – and some… are not. The Leasehold Reform (Ground Rent) Bill is currently making its way through Parliament at a spirited pace, with the Second Reading in the Lords having taken place on 24 May and the Committee Stage to start from 9 June. The purpose of the Bill, which is the first in a two-part legislative process to reform leasehold, is principally to ‘set future ground rents to zero’ from April 2023. The Environment Bill has meanwhile been returned to Parliament today for its Report Stage and Third Reading in the Commons. The Bill outlines a series of measures to reduce air pollution, reduce waste and – critically for the built environment sector – ensure that new developments produce a net plus effect on biodiversity. The Skills and Post-16 Education Bill has meanwhile also been introduced to Parliament, with its Second Reading in the House of Lords to take place from 15 June. While these and other pieces of legislation heralded by the Queen’s Speech are making progress, the details and timeline for the introduction of the long-awaited, much touted and – let’s face it, much-maligned – Planning Bill remain unclear. Perhaps many Tory MPs’ vigorous opposition to the proposals of the relevant White Paper has something to do with the delay?
BARRATT BUYS BACK
We mentioned leasehold reform above and as our readers will be aware, this is a bigger issue than just ground rents. The costs of addressing buildings’ defects including but not limited to dangerous cladding – and who is responsible for paying these – has been a hugely controversial issue. It is therefore worth highlighting a report by The Times according to which Barratt has decided to buy back 95 flats from leaseholders in Croydon following the discovery of significant ‘structural issues’ with the concrete frames on one of its developments. The issue was identified by Barratt following a review of its developments in the wake of the Grenfell Tower fire. The leaseholders were moved out of their homes in September 2019, with Barratt funding their accommodation until the end of 2020. In addition to buying the flats from leaseholders, Barratt is also reportedly buying the freehold of the development. A remarkable – and commendable – initiative. The question remains how many developers, housing associations and other housebuilders have the will, and the means, to do the same.
HIGH STREETS FIESTA?
The Ministry of Housing, Communities and Local Government (MHCLG) last week announced a new round of funding for 57 high streets in England to ‘improve transport links, build new homes and transform underused spaces’. Four high streets in London have benefitted from the funding, with £10m allocated to Tottenham, over £17m to Woolwich, over £7m to Wealdstone and over £1m to Putney. Looking at the allocations individually, London has fared fairly well, with only Grimsby receiving more than Woolwich - though Putney did receive the smallest share of funding of all 57 high streets and the capital’s cumulative allocation amounts to a paltry 4% of the total. Even if one doesn’t find the sums slightly concerning, one must be given pause by a relevant announcement by the Prime Minister, which linked this to wider ‘plans for better high streets, stronger schools and more jobs outside of London’ [emphasis added]. Aside from high streets funding, his announcement also mentioned support for local authorities, the expansion of the Opportunity Areas programme and the relocation of civil service jobs outside London and the South East. Thankfully, there are bright minds working on the challenges faced by London’s high streets, with Centre for London only today publishing a report on ‘Community town centres’, which urges the Government to give communities more of a say about what happens on their high streets.
HD5K - THE RESULTS ARE IN
We were delighted to participate in the ‘virtual’ HD5K charity run last week, in support of the Alan Davidson Foundation and the Motor Neuron Disease Association. Our runners raced alongside (although virtually) others from across the property and design world to support people with MND and commemorate the extraordinary life of the late Alan Davidson. Of course, this wasn’t a race per se, but… being competitive sorts we were rather chuffed that we came second in both the male and female categories of the race, with fleet-footed Board Director Suzi Lawrence and speedy Account Director Declan Bennett both bringing home silver medals. Congratulations to our other runners also, including our Chair Robert Gordon Clark who no less enthusiastically rowed the distance in his living room. And well done to our Managing Director Jonny Popper too, for spiritedly walking the five kilometres with his two toy poodles.
LCA TALKING POLITICS
The LDN team has been (virtually) out and about this week, delivering more of our post-election presentations to our clients, friends and associates. Just yesterday, Board Director Jenna Goldberg and Research Executive Emily Clinton shared their thoughts with the London chapter of Urbanistas and later in the day, our Chairman Robert Gordon Clark and friend Professor Tony Travers of the LSE talked elections and ‘the state of London’ with colleagues at London Councils.
LCA prides itself on its intelligence-led approach to PR and communications and our dedicated research team monitors London politics, news and issues as it happens. If you would like to know more about LCA or anything in this edition of LDN – London in short please get in touch.
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.
If you would like to know more about anything covered in this or any other edition of LDN or if you would like to know more about LCA please contact Duncan Hepburn on 020 7612 8480 or firstname.lastname@example.org.
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