As LDN’s regular readers know, LCA tends to let the stories speak for themselves, rarely if ever making too much of ourselves in this must-read weekly news bulletin. But this week, we have news that is simply too exciting to bury.
We are really delighted to announce that Paddy Hennessy, Sadiq Khan’s former Director of Communications, will be starting with us in a full time Senior Advisor role from 31 August.
Paddy is a strategic hire, following a strong performance over the last 18 months with no staff cuts or furlough and growth in key sectors including social and digital, corporate communications and graphic design.
You can read more about Paddy here but with his background in journalism and politics he is going to bring enormous value to us and our clients and we can’t wait for him to start!
Meanwhile, below we’ve got the splashback from the recent flooding, the backlash from levelling up and the payback for leaseholders affected by cladding and fire safety issues.
And finally, the latest blog from our Chairman, Robert Gordon Clark and our friend, Professor Tony Travers of the LSE, is now online. It examines the sheer scale of change at the top of London’s boroughs in recent years and what this may mean for next May’s local elections.
As ever we hope you enjoy this edition and if you don't already, follow us on Twitter and Instagram and feel free to visit our website for more information on LCA’s team, services, and clients.
Oh and a technical note: If you like hearing from us, make sure to add firstname.lastname@example.org to your contacts or ‘safe sender’ list – this will help ensure our news bulletin lands in your inbox.
A second set of flash floods in as many weeks has put the issue at the top of the agenda for the Mayor, water companies and others in charge of keeping the city dry and moving. This past Sunday again saw unseasonal rain overwhelm drains and sewers and in turn infrastructure and private property across multiple locations, from Hackney and Newham at one end of the city to Wandsworth and Sutton at the other. Three hospitals run by the Barts NHS Trust in East London were affected, of which Whipps Cross was hit the worst. Tube and rail stations from Covent Garden to Pudding Mill Lane were also forced to close. Then came the soul-searching, with the Mayor convening a meeting ‘to ensure everything possible is being done to prevent and reduce the impact of flooding in the capital.’ But as pointed out by the mainstream media and trade press alike, the flood risks faced by the city should not be a surprise to anyone – and as observed by local MPs in some of the worst-hit areas, the Government has not exactly showered local authorities with the resources needed to mitigate these risks. Clearly, London needs more of the foresight – and political will – that brought us the Thames Barrier and will bring us (in the fullness of time) the new Tideway Tunnel. But for now, if you find yourself waterlogged and looking for the high ground in, let’s say… the West End, your best bet might be the much-maligned Marble Arch Mound, which opened to the public this week.
CITY HALL PLANNING AND HOUSING
- Yesterday the Mayor refused (against officers’ recommendations) planning permission for Reselton’s proposals for 1,250 homes, retail and commercial space and a new school on the former Stag Brewery site in Mortlake, Richmond. The plans were called-in by Deputy Mayor Jules Pipe in May 2020 after they were approved by the local authority. At yesterday’s public hearing, the Mayor said that he was ‘particularly concerned’ about the 30% affordable housing offer. This is just the second planning application that the Mayor has refused after calling it in, having given the green light to a total of 20 in his first term (generally after amendments to the plans).
- Meanwhile, Hillingdon Council has been granted permission by the High Court for a judicial review of another Mayoral decision, which had granted planning permission for Inland Homes’ redevelopment of the former Master Brewer site. The plans, which were rejected by the Council before being called-in by the Mayor, are for over 500 homes (35% of which would be affordable) in buildings of up to 12 storeys.
- PoliticsHome has reported that the Mayor has ordered a full review of properties advertised on his Homes for Londoners portal. A number of the properties have reportedly been removed from the portal after they were found to be located in buildings with fire safety issues, including unsafe cladding.
OTHER LONDON PLANNING NEWS
Ealing Council has granted permission for the first phase of the redevelopment of the High Lane Estate in Hanwell. Rydon Construction Ltd is set to demolish the estate’s current 250 homes and replace them with 505 new homes (45% affordable). This first phase will see 150 homes delivered, 60% of which will be affordable. A ballot of the existing residents of the estate took place in 2018 and 90% of participants voted in favour of the estate’s regeneration.
Southwark Council has approved proposals by Edge to demolish a former Home Office building and replace it with a new 27-storey commercial development including ‘pocket park’ gym and café.
Redbridge Council has granted permission for Montreaux’s proposals for 627-homes (29.5% of which will be affordable) and a new primary school in the place of a former supermarket and probation centre.
Meanwhile, Hadley Group and Clarion Housing have also been given the greenlight in Redbridge for their plans to build 560 homes in Goodmayes (35% affordable).
RETURN OF THE BLAIRITES?
The Labour Party’s London region held its conference over the weekend, heralding a major change of personnel in key posts. At the last such conference in March 2019, pro-Corbyn Momentum-backed candidates had snapped up almost all the regional board, or Regional Executive Committee (REC), positions up for election, including those of Chair and Vice-Chair. Fast forward to 2021 and the exact opposite has occurred. As covered in detail by LabourList, OnLondon and the Evening Standard, candidates backed by the ‘centrist’ pro-Starmer “Labour to Win” campaign swept up 18 of 23 positions up for grabs, with only five won by Momentum-backed candidates. UNISON’s Maggi Ferncombe has been elected Chair, with Brent councillor Shama Tatler and Harrow councillor Dean Gilligan elected as vice-chairs. The REC has influence over campaigns, selections and trigger ballots, as well as disciplinary procedures. The conference was also, however, a reminder that London Labour’s internal dynamics are far more complex than a simple ‘right versus left’; while Sadiq Khan will probably be pleased at the REC’s change in leadership, he'll have been dismayed that delegates approved a motion urging him to ‘cancel’ the Silvertown Tunnel project.
- Emma Cariaga, Joint Head of the Canada Water Development & Head of Residential at British Land, has been appointed as Chair of the Government’s Expert Advisory Panel on the Oxford-Cambridge Arc.
- Former CEO of Homes England Nick Walkley is set to join Avison Young as Principal and President UK Strategic Advisory in September.
- The Lib Dems held their Fortune Green seat in Camden at the by-election on 23 July. Nancy Jirira was elected with a majority of 348 votes, replacing long-standing councillor Flick Rea, who announced her decision to retire in June.
- Hammersmith and Fulham Labour councillor Colin Aherne has sadly died, triggering a by-election in the White City and Wormholt ward.
LEVELLING DOWN CONT'D?
There are days when we feel a bit self-conscious banging on about ‘levelling up’ being a threat to London – and then there are days when our fears are, sadly, confirmed. The capital is clearly being penalised by a decision from the Department for Education (via the Office for Students) to remove the ‘London weighting’ for grants to universities and higher education colleges in the capital (a topic we also covered back in February). This is in addition to cuts affecting arts courses, which will also impact many higher education institutions in London. The Government argues that these cuts are no big deal, accounting for ‘less than one per cent’ of affected institutions’ estimated total income and that this ‘reprioritisation of grant funding is designed to align with the needs and priorities of the nation at this time.’ But articles in The Guardian, the Evening Standard and the Financial Times suggest that universities, unions, arts organisations and many London MPs beg to differ. Higher education funding aside, even the London Conservatives are starting to come out of the woodwork to argue that London-bashing will get the Government nowhere – see for example a recent article by the Tory leader of Kensington & Chelsea Council and chair of Central London Forward, Elizabeth Campbell, bluntly arguing that ‘London needs levelling up too’.
TROUBLE IN TORY-LAND?
The Government’s planning reforms meanwhile also continue to cause trouble among the party’s foot soldiers. The Telegraph has reported that Conservative councillors are now gearing up to openly ‘revolt’ against the plans, with Tory opposition councillors in Richmond having supported a motion warning that the reforms would ‘curtail residents’ rights to influence development where they live’ and a similar move is being planned by the Conservative leadership of Medway Council in Kent. These moves to revolt come after Labour’s Shadow Local Government Secretary, Steve Reed, actively called on Conservative rebels to put ‘your money where your mouth is’ and show the Government the ‘strength of feeling’ against the proposals. Meanwhile, a Local Government Association survey indicates that it’s not just Conservatives who might be concerned about key elements of the Government’s still-nebulous planning reforms, which would (as outlined at present) shift the weight of community consultation to the Local Plan-making stage and away from individual schemes. It found that 82% of respondents in a survey of about 1,000 Brits ‘felt it was important to be able to comment on individual plans for all housing developments in their local area’. Whilst not a massive sample, 82% is high.
CROYDON TRAM INQUEST
Almost five-years on from the tragic Croydon tram crash, a jury has found that the deaths of seven passengers were accidental. After an eight-week inquest, followed by nine days of deliberations, the jury’s verdict said a contributing factor was that the tram driver became disorientated, causing a loss of awareness in his surroundings and failure to brake in time. The verdict also acknowledged the tram operator’s failure to adequately account for the risk of high-speed derailment and lack of a ‘just culture’ where drivers felt able to report health and safety concerns. The verdict has left the victims’ families understandably upset and they have said they will now write to the attorney general and apply to the high court for a judicial review of the coroner’s decision not to admit numerous witnesses from Trams Operation Ltd (TOL), the operating company. Since the crash TOL owner First Group has said it has introduced safety measures including improved speed monitoring, in-cab safety devices, better rosters and more training on the risk of fatigue. Separate to the coroner’s inquest, TfL and TOL “began” to admit liability for the purpose of settling some civil claims brought forward by victims and their families in 2017 and a relevant BBC report from last week suggested that it has now “paid compensation to the families”.
LCA’s PR and social media experts had pencilled in a little time away from client work today to promote our exciting announcement about Paddy Hennessy, Sadiq Khan’s former Director of Communications, joining the LCA team. However, with Paddy’s clearly excellent reputation they didn’t have to work very hard and we have been thrilled to see the good wishes roll in following his own ‘personal news’ on Twitter!
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 email@example.com.
We strive for balance and accuracy at all times; however, if you feel we have made a mistake, omission or have misrepresented a story or issue please alert the team by contacting Duncan using the details above.