As well as our usual precision focus on planning and development, today’s edition also includes a run down of the latest efforts to create a ‘green recovery’ and a ‘Net Zero’ future.
We’ve all gotten used to these pithy phrases but really it’s the images coming to us this week from across the pond that should be making an impact. A few days ago a tower block in Miami collapsed, quite likely the result, at least in part, of climate change, and at this very moment the North West corner of the North American continent is baking in unprecedented, and fatal, temperatures. Beyond the catchphrases, these should be quite urgent calls to action and while the stories below suggests the will is there, the Climate Change Committee’s report flags that much more effort is needed.
More generally, recovery is the watchword this week, with stories on the fortunes of the commercial property sector, the latest tech solutions in planning and London’s vaccination drive. With confirmation today that Londoners can once again hit the clubs from 19 July, that last one is fairly urgent!
We start though with the latest from Secretary of State for Housing, Communities and Local Government, who is possibly not the most popular person in London’s development community this week.
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JENRICK SAYS NO?
Secretary of State Robert Jenrick has clearly had London on his mind this week. Following a call-in last year, he has refused permission for regeneration specialists U+I’s plans to redevelop the former London Fire Brigade (LFB) HQ on Albert Embankment. The proposals would deliver over 400 homes (40% affordable), as well as office space, a hotel, a new fire station and a new museum for the LFB and were approved by both Lambeth Council and the Mayor of London before being called-in. Separately, Jenrick’s Deputy Minister for Housing Christopher Pincher has called in plans by a Stanhope and Hammersmith & Fulham Council joint venture (HFS Developments) for the former Edith Summerskill House, intended to provide 133 new homes (80% social rent and 20% sub-market intermediate rent), on the Clement Attlee Estate. This scheme has also been approved by the Council and the Mayor. It has meanwhile also been reported that the Secretary of State should decide on another called in scheme, J. Safra Group’s so-called ’Tulip’ tower in the City of London, ’no later’ than 23 September.
- It has been confirmed that City Hall’s hearing on Reselton Properties’ Stag Brewery scheme is set to take place on 27 July. The application was called in by the Mayor in May 2020 after Richmond approved Reselton’s masterplan for over 660 homes (17% affordable), as well as office, retail and commercial space (though the Council refused permission for related highway works). Since it was called in, the planning application has undergone several changes, including an increase in the number of homes to over 1,200 and an increase in the proportion of affordable housing to 30%.
- Lewisham Council has launched the Catford Town Centre Framework, its plan to make Catford ‘the greenest town centre in London’. The proposals are expected to be approved by the Mayor of Lewisham Damien Egan and the Cabinet in July, with work on the plans expected to start in 2022.
- Also in Lewisham, the Planning Committee is set to decide on plans by the City of London Corporation for the Sydenham Hill Estate - for a second time. Lewisham had approved the plans for the delivery of 110 new social rented homes in August 2020, a decision subsequently quashed by the High Court last month after local campaigners secured a judicial review of the original approval.
- Barnet Council has granted outline planning permission to Community Health Partnerships for the delivery of 130 affordable homes for NHS and healthcare staff on a site next to Finchley Memorial Hospital. There were over 600 objections to the proposals as the Council had previously pledged to keep the site for public use.
- Also in Barnet, a planning committee decision on plans by Home Group and Hill for the redevelopment of the Douglas Bader Estate has now been deferred. The plans, for the demolition of the estate and delivery of over 700 homes (40% affordable), were technically refused by the Council’s Planning Committee in early June, despite the principle of redevelopment having been approved by residents in a ballot. They will now undergo design changes. For more on the 'big picture' of planning and development in Barnet, read on.
- Greenwich Council has refused plans for Optivo’s 67-home development on Charlton Riverside. All of the homes would have been affordable, but councillors were concerned about density and design, and there was also opposition from local groups.
- For the borough planners among our readership, we highly recommend Future London’s new guide, outlining practical steps and case studies for how vacant or under-used buildings can help communities and local economies recover in London and across the UK.
BARNET PLANNING BONANZA?
The London Borough of Barnet seems very eager to deliver on the Government’s ‘build, build, build’ agenda. The council has just launched a consultation on the latest version of its new draft local plan (2021-2036) which incorporates targets for the delivery of 35,000 homes, 67,000sq m of new office space, a new ‘metropolitan town centre’ at Brent Cross, as well as more green space, sport and leisure facilities. Delivering many these ambitions of course hinges largely on private sector investors and developers, but Barnet is well placed in that respect; according to Planning magazine, Barnet ranks 9th in the country in terms of its development management workload (the second highest within London, after Westminster). The council itself is taking an active role in housebuilding. Council-backed schemes in the works notably include two Build to Rent projects, at Northway/Fairway (in collaboration with Kuropatwa) and Watling Car Park (alongside Linkcity), to deliver at least 450 homes in total (50% affordable). But how will this building bonanza be received locally, considering that both the Labour and Tory London Assembly candidates sought to project ‘tough on developer’ credentials in the leadup to the May election – and that all three of Barnet’s Conservative MPs, Theresa Villiers (Chipping Barnet) and Matthew Offord (Hendon), and Mike Freer (Finchley & Golders Green) are conspicuously campaigning against local development plans (and are all in relatively marginal seats)?
POPULATION WORRIES (CONT'D)
While Census figures are still being pored over by the Office for National Statistics (ONS), various signs of a drop in London’s population continue to generate headlines. Last week, the Evening Standard reported concerns that ‘some London primary schools will be forced to close as there are so few children applying that they will not be able to afford to stay open’. This is because applications are a significant 7% down on last year. It should be noted that these figures were originally published by London Councils in April and were also covered (in greater detail) by the Financial Times in May. Indeed, the FT remains very interested in the question of London’s population and this week covered further ‘hints in the economy and the housing market about what may happen next’ pointing to various (mostly anecdotal) estimates of staff shortages in hospitality and construction as well as a dip in rental prices last year. But as highlighted by OnLondon today, the jury is still out on what's really happening, with ONS’ latest UK population estimates (see London detail here) indicating that London’s population actually grew slightly, by 0.45% or a net 40,000, in the 12 months to 30 June 2020 (well after Brexit was ‘official’ and well into lockdown), at which stage it seems to have passed the 9m mark for the first time in the city’s history.
- Mike Scott, currently CFO at Countryside Properties, has been appointed as Barratt Developments’ new Executive Director and CFO.
- Sharon Llewellyn, Director of JPR Roofing and Flooring, has been appointed Chair of the Construction Industry Training Board’s (CITB) England Nation Council. CITB has also appointed the chairs of its Nation Councils Scotland and Wales and is currently recruiting council members.
- Journalist Joe Talora is moving from Newsquest to the Evening Standard, where he will continue to cover City Hall news as a BBC-funded Local Democracy Reporter.
GREEN RECOVERY ON STEROIDS?
It’s been an exciting week for anyone interested in the UK’s – and London’s – green recovery plans and ambitions for achieving a ‘net zero’ future.
- The Climate Change Committee (CCC), an independent body that advises the UK Government, has released its 2021 Progress Report to Parliament (which consists of two reports, Progress in reducing emissions and Progress in adapting to climate change). It warns that, while the country’s targets are indeed ambitious, its efforts to meet them are lagging.
- Parliament itself is also closely scrutinising efforts by national and local government to hit its targets, with the Housing Communities and Local Government Committee recently holding the first session of its inquiry on local government and the path to net zero, while the Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy Committee has meanwhile launched its own inquiry into Net Zero Governance.
- The Construction Leadership Council (CLC) has published the second iteration of the National Retrofit Strategy, a ‘twenty-year blueprint for how the construction industry can work with Government to retrofit the UK’s 28 million existing homes.’
- Environment Secretary George Eustice has announced proposals aimed at creating and improving protected landscapes across England, including plans to expand and create new Areas of Outstanding Natural Beauty (AONB).
- If reading all of the above feels a bit daunting, worry not, there are other ways to catch up on the latest thinking in this sphere! Video recordings of Centre for London’s Countdown to Net Zero London Conference, held yesterday, can be viewed here. The conference’s expert speakers discussed how design, planning, transport and other key sectors can help ensure London’s coronavirus recovery is aligned with its net zero goals.
COMMERCIAL PROPERTY CRUNCH?
In the midst of a particularly tough period for commercial property, the future of the sector remains cloudy. While landlords will be encouraged by research carried out by JP Morgan showing that more people are expecting to spend more time in shopping centres than they did before the pandemic, there are concerns about the Government’s extension of the business eviction ban to March 2022 - with some commercial landlords threatening to take legal action over the decision. There was also a kerfuffle earlier this month over mooted legislation that would reportedly have made working from home the 'default', with employers having to justify any request for office presence. The CBI and others have expressed alarm at the possible effects on city centres and the Government seems to have backtracked. Meanwhile, Deloitte has taken matters into its own hands and will allow staff to 'to choose when, where and how they work in the future' – that’s 20,000 people across the UK. In London, the Crown Estate – a major commercial landlord – has said that it expects another ‘difficult year’ though CEO Dan Labbad has said that the rollout of the vaccination programme is cause to be ‘cautiously optimistic’.
LONDON GETS JABBED
Meanwhile, concerns persist about the take-up of covid jabs in London. London is currently lagging behind the rest of England, with approximately 83% of over-50s in the capital having had both doses by 20 June, whereas this figure is above 90% in all other parts of England. The Mayor and Vaccines Minister Nadhim Zahawi convened the London Vaccine Summit only last Friday, alongside representatives from the NHS, healthcare, community, faith and businesses groups, to accelerate the rollout and ensure that Londoners receive both doses of vaccine ‘as soon as possible’.
DIGITAL PLANNING PROGRESS
The planning system is, somewhat belatedly, being dragged into the 21st century. Academics at Imperial College and UCL have launched VENTURA, a new £1m Engineering and Physical Sciences Research Council (EPSRC) -funded project centred on trialling a ‘virtual decision room’ solution, through case studies at Greater Manchester and in Enfield, which will focus on helping planners 'explore housing and water system planning options using new virtual and digital engagement methods' beginning with two trials, in Enfield and Manchester. Meanwhile, City Hall has, with the support of PRD, launched a trial of its High Streets Data Service & Partnership, a project focused on collating and enabling access to data offering insight into the city's 600+ High Streets. The service is currently only available to London Boroughs, but City Hall has ambitions to expand this. Only today, Communities Secretary Robert Jenrick has announced two new apps “to help homeowners improve and extend their homes”, which are being trialled in Southwark, Lambeth, and Buckinghamshire. We’re also pleased to see our client VU.CITY in the news this week, responding positively to the government's ambitions for integrating digital tech more widely in local planning, as well as showcasing their work with Commonplace and LLDC to deliver consultation for two key sites, as part of the wider masterplan for Queen Elizabeth Olympic Park.
A WOMEN-LED RECOVERY?
Yesterday LCA hosted our third Women’s event, a zoom breakfast that convened some of the seriously impressive women that we are lucky to count among our clients, friends and associates. Kelly Beaver, MD of Public Affairs at IPSOS Mori, presented to the group, sharing insights on how gender impacts opinions and experiences of cities, before we broke out into groups for some very lively discussion and debate about how women can shape the post-covid recovery. To hear more about future LCA Women’s events please get in touch with Jenna.
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