“The Tokyo Olympics are providing some great sporting moments for Team GB and despite the lack of crowds, they bring back many happy memories of the London 2012 Games. Plans are afoot to celebrate the 10th anniversary and the incredible legacy of that extraordinary event next year.
Meanwhile, this month we mark another, somewhat less auspicious anniversary. It has been decade since the London riots took place between 6 and 11 August 2011.
As with all social unrest the causes of it are multi-faceted, often complex and deep seated, but usually sparked by a critical event, in this case the shooting of Mark Duggan by a police officer in Tottenham. I vividly recall walking through my home town, Ealing, to witness the aftermath of the riots there, which included the death of a pensioner, killed by a 16 year old teenager.
In a year in which 22 teenagers have already been stabbed to death on our streets, this is a sobering reminder of the work required to create a safe, cohesive, inclusive and resilient city and the consequences of neglecting these issues.
Many of our triumphant Olympians have spoken eloquently about how money directed into grassroots sport and outreach put them on a constructive, and ultimately inspiring path, creating a virtuous circle wherein the investment creates role models to inspire the next generation. Money directed into sport, leisure and youth engagement is money invested in the future health and happiness of the city as a whole, a lesson that is easy to forget after 10 years of austerity and the cost (in all ways) of the pandemic.
Thankfully, there are plenty of organisations working hard to help us remember and by the looks of two reports out this week, London is still fairing very well on the world’s stage, winning the enviable titles of ‘best place to study’ and ‘world city of choice’. Pass the gold medals please.”
Robert Gordon Clark, LCA Chairman
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The Government has again intervened in the simmering street war over Low Traffic Neighbourhoods (LTNs). OnLondon and other media have extensively covered how these became so controversial across England and parts of London and how, in the face of protests, legal action and vandalism, some local authorities (of all political stripes) have withdrawn Government-funded schemes implemented rapidly over the course of 2020 and 2021. But now, those councils have been told by Whitehall to think again. A letter by Transport Minister Chris Heaton-Harris openly threatens authorities ‘which have prematurely removed or weakened such schemes’ with ‘a reduced level of funding.’ His intervention was also backed by the Prime Minister himself, while Andrew Gilligan, Boris Johnson’s Special Advisor on Transport (and former Cycling Commissioner in City Hall) has Tweeted that ‘we have halted funding, pending discussions’ for a number of councils that have removed schemes – specifying in a separate post that in London the councils affected are Ealing, Harrow, Hillingdon, K&C, Redbridge, Sutton, and Wandsworth (three Labour, three Tory and one Lib Dem). This is not the first time the Government has told off councils over the rollout of LTNs, but its reprimands increasingly seem a tad one-sided – after all, the Emergency Active Travel Fund (EATF) is designed, overseen and funded by Whitehall.
- The Government has granted planning permission for the new national Holocaust Memorial and Learning Centre, following a public inquiry. Westminster City Council had previously rejected the plans over concerns about its location in Victoria Tower Gardens next to Parliament. The Mayor has welcomed the news, having been a member of the jury which selected the winning design team, Adjaye Associates and Ron Arad Architects, in 2017. Construction on the memorial is expected to start later this year.
- Following a successful judicial review bid by local campaigners, Lambeth Council has quashed its own planning consent for a scheme forming a relatively small part of the redevelopment of Cressingham Gardens Estate. While the now-quashed permission for the demolition of 12 homes and the delivery of a new 20-home building might seem like small fry, it represents yet another stumbling block for a long-running and major project for the borough. Lambeth says that it remains ‘committed’ to the delivery of the new homes and that it will put an updated plan before the Planning Applications Committee.
- Greenwich Council has granted permission for London South East Colleges and L&Q to deliver a new college and almost 300 homes in Plumstead. Half the homes will be affordable and construction is expected to begin in early 2022.
- Harrow councillors have refused to grant planning permission for Transport for London’s plans for 277 new affordable homes on the car park of Stanmore Tube station. Councillors voiced their concern about the height and scale of the development as well as the loss of the parking spaces.
- Slightly further afield, Clarion has been granted planning permission for the delivery of 235 homes in Ebbsfleet Garden City in Kent, 25% of which will be affordable – this permission closely follows consent for a separate 568-home (35% affordable) scheme in Redbridge.
LEVELLING UP... LONDON?!
In a somewhat refreshing move in an age of ‘levelling up’, Canary Wharf has been shortlisted as a potential location for the HQ of the new Advanced Research and Invention Agency (ARIA). The agency will reportedly invest in ‘high-risk, high-reward’ projects and is modelled on the US’ Defence Advanced Research Projects Agency (ARPA). The Times has reported that in a letter to Tower Hamlets councillors, Minister for Science, Research and Innovation Amanda Solloway said that the location had been shortlisted due to its ‘diversity, science pedigree and graduate talent pool’ – though it remains unknown which other locations have also been shortlisted and how the selection process will proceed from hereon. In another boost for the life sciences in London, Derwent has been granted planning permission for a mixed-use scheme in Camden providing 190,000 sq ft of workspace for life sciences research, as well as retail and commercial space in an eight-storey building.
MOTHER OF ALL MERGERS?
Peabody and Catalyst have announced advanced-stage proposals that could see the two major housing associations merge to become one of the largest in London – and the country. With a joint portfolio of 104,000 homes, their union would form the second-largest association after Clarion, which owns 125,000. After an upcoming consultation with residents and assuming final approval by their respective boards, the proposals would see Catalyst joining Peabody as a subsidiary as early as spring of 2022. Catalyst Chief Executive Ian McDermott would lead the new organisation, while current Peabody chair Lord Kerslake would be its Chair, with Catalyst Chair Raji Rajagopal designated Vice-Chair. This is the latest in a string of mergers over the years, that have seen a number of London-based housing associations combine. More may well be in the making – though talks between Sanctuary and Southern Housing Group earlier this year eventually fizzled out. The merger between Peabody and Catalyst does however seem more likely to succeed, though it has revived the age-old question of whether the G15 group of London’s biggest housing associations needs a bit of rebrand: accounting for previous mergers between members, a Peabody-Catalyst marriage would make ‘G11’ rather more accurate.
Amanda Pritchard has been confirmed as the new Head of NHS England. Her appointment comes after Lord Stevens of Birmingham stepped down after seven years in the job. Pritchard was previously Lord Stevens’ deputy.
Three of Heathrow’s eight-person executive committee have quit the organisation as the airport tries to recover from the pandemic. Carol Hui (Chief of Staff), Andrew Macmillan (Chief Strategy Officer) and Chris Garton (Chief Solutions Officer) have all left their posts, with three Heathrow insiders reportedly expected to replace them on the executive committee.
Muniya Barua has officially become Director of Policy and Strategy at London First, having held the role on an interim basis since April 2021 when her processor, John Dickie, stepped up to be Chief Executive.
There have been a number of changes to the Senior Leadership team at Great Portland Estates. Dan Nicholson will take over portfolio and development management having spent the last 10 years at Tishman Speyer. Meanwhile, Mark Anderson will join as non-exec director. Anderson is currently property director at Whitbread and previously managed Sainsbury’s property estate.
Places for People’s Alexandra Notay has joined the board of the Geospatial Commission replacing Dame Kate Barker, whose term ended on 30 June 2021.
UK Green Building Council (UKGBC) has announced the appointment of Simon McWhirter as its new Director of Communications, Policy & Places.
The Financial Times’ recent exposé about the Conservative Party’s donors may or may not harm the party’s electoral chances – but it certainly doesn’t bode well for property. An editorial and in-depth feature piece by the newspaper have suggested that the Party’s Co-Chairman, Ben Elliot, has orchestrated a cash-for-access scheme which has helped fill the Conservatives’ coffers while giving major donors the opportunity to regularly meet with the Prime Minister and Chancellor. Putting aside what this might mean about the health of Britain’s democracy more generally, the FT’s reporting will also make uncomfortable reading for the built environment sector. It highlights evidence that property sector donations to the party now account for a quarter of the whole, up from ‘the previous high of 12% of party income enjoyed under Johnson’s predecessor’. The newspaper further argues that these property companies, ‘would be major beneficiaries of Johnson’s promise to rip up England’s highly restrictive planning laws to allow more housebuilding.’ That last point is debatable but it will undeniably reinforce negative perceptions of the sector, particularly on the back of one or two other damaging stories over the course of the past year.
Something is afoot in London, with several boroughs seemingly seeking ways to stymie new Permitted Development Rights (PDR). LDN readers may be aware that the Government’s wider national planning reform agenda includes changes to the use classes regime as well as changes to the PDR regime. Local authorities are still able to use so-called ‘Article 4 directions’ to block the use of certain PDR in particular cases, especially where there are grounds to believe they could threaten the viability of local high streets and town centres – but as reported in a previous edition of LDN, the Government has also tightened the conditions for implementing these blocks. It now appears that London’s regional and local authorities are pressing ahead with new-look Article 4 directions, aided by recently-published City Hall guidance. Indeed, boroughs including Westminster, Kensington & Chelsea, Camden and Southwark are consulting on new directions that would broadly replace existing ones expiring next year. Meanwhile, stakeholders from Parliament’s Housing, Communities and Local Government (HCLG) Committee to the Town and Country Planning Association have continued to warn that the new PDR are problematic, for a number of reasons.
The Government’s promises of reforms to assist people affected by the ‘cladding scandal’ are also running into resistance. In July, it was announced that owners of flats in buildings under 18 metres in height would no longer require EWS1 fire safety forms to sell or remortgage their properties and should be presumed safe by fire safety risk assessors and mortgage lenders. While that news was welcomed by some of the UK’s biggest lenders, including Barclays and HSBC, the agreement has since hit a bump in the road, as the Royal Institution of Chartered Surveyors (RICS) has said that it cannot alter its guidance until the Government officially changes its own fire safety advice. As reported by the Financial Times, without changes to the advice, many buildings will still require EWS1 forms and firms will be unable to accurately value a property without a guarantee that they are safe, meaning that banks will also be unwilling to lend on these. Clive Betts MP, the Chair of the HCLG Committee, has also raised his concerns about the Government’s plans and has reportedly asked Housing Secretary Robert Jenrick to explain the Government’s decision to the Committee when Parliament returns from recess in September.
The Environment and Housing Secretaries, alongside the Environment Agency (EA), have made a splash by announcing several measures for mitigating flood risks across England. The centrepiece of this extensive coverage was an article in The Telegraph, headlined ‘developers will be banned from building on land at risk of flooding.’ But as per the official press release and a relevant Policy Paper, the Government does not seem to be ‘banning’ anything. In fact, it looks like it is actually committing to little more that ‘tightening’ and ‘updating’ existing guidance that already requires local planning authorities to refer applications to the Housing Secretary (in cases where the EA has raised an objection on flood risk grounds). The other big component of the announcement was a pledge to ‘invest £860m in 1,000 flood defence schemes this year.’ This will be the first annual tranche of a newly-published, £5.2bn investment plan for 2021-2027, representing a welcome doubling of the investment for the previous 2015 to 2021 period. But that £5.2bn was actually announced in… March 2020’s budget. All good news, of course, but needlessly convoluted by a whirlpool of spin.
Meanwhile, the aftermath of London’s recent flooding continues to generate analysis and commentary of the risks faced by the capital, with outlets from the Economist to Wired pitching in to paint a rather distressing picture of the situation. But the City of London Corporation has also made waves, by launching its consultation on a new Riverside Strategy, whose provisions include raising flood barriers along the Thames by up to a metre.
FILMS FOR MILES
Politics and policy aside, we’re pleased to see London and the Wider South East continuing to attract investment as the capital of fun. Hollywood’s Sunset Studios has become the latest to announce plans for a new filmmaking hub in Elstree, Hertfordshire, just beyond the Greater London boundary. The £700m investment in the 91-acre site will, its backer say, create ‘more than 4,500 jobs’. As reported by The Guardian it will join Sky, which is building a 13-hectare studio complex, as well as the existing Elstree Studios, with several other studio operations in place or in the pipeline in the wider area. LDN readers will also be aware that new studios are in the works in North and East London – not too far away from Elstree in Enfield’s Meridian Water and in Dagenham.
HOLBA IS GO
On Monday, LCA took over the Heart of London Business Alliance (HOLBA) social media channels. We’re thrilled to work with them and expand our portfolio of social and digital clients. Follow HOLBA on Twitter and LinkedIn to find out what they’re up to; we for one are particularly excited about the Piccadilly Art Takeover – think free art including hanging canvases, zebra crossings, and a 780-metre film, brought to you by some of the UK’s leading artists. HOLBA is the Business Improvement District (BID) representing 500 businesses and 100 property owners in the Piccadilly & St James’s and Leicester Square & Piccadilly Circus areas.
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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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