'Oh the schadenfreude of a reshuffle, there really should be a (more) specific German word for it, roughly translatable to ‘a fleeting feeling of misplaced glee tempered by the ennui of knowing not much will really change’. Or will it? The axing of Jenrick presumably means to provide a scapegoat for the backtracking on the Planning Bill – see below – leaving the way clear for the Government to try out a couple of other ‘radical’ ideas to reform the system. Michael Gove is next to pick up the poison chalice - that’s six Housing Secs in 11 years for those keeping count.
Meanwhile, poor Gav’s had a shocker of a time recently but will at least now have the headspace to get his Rashfords right. I presume he had been practicing with his Raducanu flashcards too, hopefully not too much time wasted there.
Enough of that though. Regular LDN readers will remember my nostalgia upon learning that Topshop would be leaving its Oxford Circus flagship last year, the end of an era and potentially of my youth. Reading about IKEA’s entrance to the scene this week buoys me with hope, not only that I will be able to get my hands on a flÜrg at a moment’s notice but that change can be good, and fun and interesting. For more along those lines see our stories below about the positive vibes emanating from central London and the pedestrianisation of the Strand. More of this please London!'
LCA Board Director and LDN Editor, Jenna Goldberg
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At the time of writing, the Prime Minister is in the process of reshuffling his Cabinet. The most relevant news for LDN readers is that Robert Jenrick, Communities Secretary since July 2019, has been sacked and has been replaced by Michael Gove, who will be the sixth person to take on the role since May 2010. Jenrick, one of only a handful of individuals to have been sacked from the Cabinet today, said that it had been a ‘huge privilege’ to serve as Secretary of State. Jenrick had long been tipped to be removed from Cabinet, following scandals including the Westferry Printworks saga and his apparent disregard for COVID restrictions in April 2020. It will be interesting to see how Gove will handle the Mayor of London and high profile planning applications in the capital. Jenrick had a strained relationship with London, having heavily criticised the Mayor’s London Plan and having called-in a total of six residential planning applications in London, including a Transport for London scheme. It is so far unclear what Gove’s appointment to the role will mean for London, but that he is also set to take on ‘cross-government responsibility for levelling up’ may not be good news for the capital.
PLANNING BILL BACKTRACK
It was reported over the weekend that the Government is set to water down parts of the upcoming Planning Bill, expected to be published sometime this autumn. Backlash from Conservative MPs, as well as the Government’s surprise by-election defeat in Chesham & Amersham, has prompted the Government to scrap the proposed mandatory housebuilding targets for local authorities as well as abandon the suggested zonal system, in which land would have been designated for growth, protection or renewal, as included in the August 2020 Planning for the Future white paper. The Telegraph has now reported that the Planning Bill will include a new policy giving local people the ability to vote on development proposals in their area. The idea, known as ‘street votes’, was first put forward by Policy Exchange and was the subject of a Bill laid in Parliament on Monday, sponsored by Conservative MP John Penrose. The industry (along with the LDN crew) will doubtless have a lot to say about whether this will in fact make things easier once we know a bit more…
EXTINCTION REBELLION LATEST
Extinction Rebellion (XR) has been responsible for widespread disruption throughout London over the summer and this week it was Insulate Britain’s turn. The group, an off-shoot of XR, clashed with drivers on Monday after it set up roadblocks at five locations on the M25 before police forces from across the southeast made over 70 arrests. Their members set up roadblocks at six locations on the M25 again on Wednesday, with some protesters gluing themselves to the road surface and were even blamed for a car crash. The group is calling on the Government to insulate all social housing in Britain by 2025 and says that it will continue to take action until the Government makes a ‘meaningful commitment’ to its cause. Not surprisingly, there has been much debate about whether this action is 'proportionate' and targeted at the real decision makers, and one does wonder what will be planned for COP26 in November.
AN IKEA ON OXFORD STREET?
Most would associate Ikea stores with somewhat less than glamorous out of town locations, but the Swedish furniture brand is set to open a flagship store in Oxford Street. The company is apparently nearing an agreement with Arcadia’s administrators to buy Topshop’s former unit in a deal worth £385m. The deal will see Ikea buy the long leasehold which includes the vacant 100,000 sq ft outlet as well as two other units. It is thought that Arcadia received bids from H&M, Great Portland Estates and Mike Ashley’s Frasers Group too. Ikea’s arrival on Oxford Street could be a much-needed vote of confidence in London’s most famous shopping destination having seen the likes of Debenhams, Next, River Island and Gap close stores on the street during the pandemic.
Ikea will be pleased to hear that the New West End Company is planning several events and initiatives to bring consumers back to the West End. The Business Improvement District is working with the Mayor’s Office, TfL, London & Partners, Westminster City Council and VisitBritain on numerous autumn campaigns. Meanwhile, from 15 September, several Oxford Street retailers will host in-store experiences as part of the Beyond Now Campaign to promote sustainable practices and products.
LONDON PLANNING UPDATE
- Tower Hamlets councillors have granted approval for the redevelopment of part of the Truman Brewery site to deliver a mixed-use scheme including office, retail and gym space. Over 7,000 people objected to the proposals due to concerns about the affordability of the office space and the impact of the scheme on Brick Lane. The Council postponed its decision on the plans in April 2021 as councillors sought further details about the provision of affordable workspace on the development.
- Barnet Council also approved a fairly controversial scheme this week. Plans by developer Montreaux for over 1,000 homes (35% affordable) and 1,200 sq m of commercial and community floorspace in Cricklewood were given the green light despite opposition from local residents. 2,000 people signed a petition against the plans, based on the proposed development’s height and impact on local infrastructure and heritage.
- Redbridge Council has unanimously granted approval for almost 240 build to rent homes in buildings ranging from 13 to 25 storeys in height. 32% of the homes in the Telford Homes development will be affordable.
- Countryside has been given the green light to start on phase two of the redevelopment of Waltham Forest’s Town Hall Campus. This second phase will include the delivery of 433 homes, 50% of which will be affordable, as well as a new civic building, commercial space, a nursery, gardens and play facilities.
- In South London, proposals have been submitted by the All England Lawn Tennis Club for a new 8,000 seat tennis stadium on the site of the Wimbledon Park Gold Club. The plans also include leisure space and new parkland.
- Four of the Royal Institution of Chartered Surveyors’ (RICS) senior team have resigned following the publication of an independent report into ‘a financial and corporate governance crisis’ at the organisation.
- The Home Secretary has confirmed that Dame Cressida Dick will continue her role as Met Commissioner for a further two years until at least 2024.
- Simon Baugh has been named the Chief Executive of the Government Communications Service. Baugh is currently Director of Communications for the Home Office.
- Marsha de Cordova, Labour MP for Battersea, has resigned from her role as Shadow Women and Equalities Secretary. Her replacement is expected to be named shortly.
- Rosa Regina has been appointed by New London Architecture (NLA) as a Director of the London Festival of Architecture (LFA).
ELECTIONS BILL LATEST
The Government has today confirmed that it will introduce, in the upcoming Elections Bill, the First Past the Post voting system to elections for England’s council and ‘metro’ mayors, as well as Police and Crime Commissioners. Set to come into effect from 2023, First Past the Post will replace the current Supplementary Vote system which is said to have resulted in ‘hundreds of thousands void, wasted or blank votes’ in this year's London Mayoral elections. In May, Sadiq Khan beat out Conservative candidate Shaun Bailey in the first round with a margin of 5%, extending this to almost 10% after second preference votes were counted. As a result of the changes, the removal of a second preference vote may bring the Tories closer to clinching victory at the next London Mayoral election, set for 2024.
RETURN TO CENTRAL LONDON
With hybrid-working arrangements in place, more Londoners fully vaccinated and pupils back in school, the return to the capital seems to be heating up. Just over a week ago, London Underground saw more than 2m journeys made on the Tube in a single day, the highest number of passengers since the start of the pandemic. While Tube ridership is still just over half of pre-pandemic levels, the return of the office commuter has seemingly increased confidence in a quick recovery for London’s commercial property market. London Property Alliance has revealed that many of their members are reporting office occupation rates in the City and West End of up to between 40% and 60% in recent days, while property agent CBRE has reported that the amount of central London office space pre-let has reached its highest monthly figure since the first lockdown. Employers certainly seem encouraged; Facebook is set to significantly expand its presence in the capital by occupying the entirety of British Land’s new office block at 1 Triton Square, NW1, while Barclays have reached a deal with ISG for the £100m revamp of its global headquarters at Canary Wharf.
TO PEDESTRIANISE, OR NOT TO...
Two London boroughs have set about reviewing their Low Traffic Neighbourhoods (LTNs) following opposition from local residents. Tower Hamlets Council has said that its ‘Liveable Streets’ programme is ‘being reviewed’ to ‘reflect’ on the impact the measures have had on some residents. In Lambeth, the Council has launched a consultation on the future of two LTNs in the borough. Meanwhile in Westminster, work has begun on the pedestrianisation of part of The Strand. The plans, which are being delivered by the Council alongside a number of partners including the Northbank Business Improvement District, will see a new public space for pedestrians created in front of Somerset House and King’s College London. The improvements are due to be completed at the end of 2022. Westminster City Council’s plans for the temporary partial pedestrianisation of Oxford Street have meanwhile been abandoned, though the local authority has said that it will now consult on permanent schemes for the area.
DO IT LONDON
Do It London, a campaign from the London HIV Prevention Programme, which brings together London’s local authorities and which is supported by London Councils, has launched a new HIV prevention campaign. Designed to remind Londoners that ‘HIV is preventable, that an HIV diagnosis is treatable, and that treatment acts as prevention’, information on the ‘four sure’ ways to prevent HIV will be posted across the Transport for London network over the next few months. While HIV diagnoses in London have decreased significantly since 2015, approximately 37,000 Londoners live with the virus, with a further 2,100 Londoners estimated to be living with an undiagnosed infection. For more information, visit the Do It London website.
COUNTDOWN TO COP26
LCA is delighted to be working with architecture client Stride Treglown to promote their Climate Action Relay initiative – a series of free, ‘green’ events around the UK, which seek to inspire local people and businesses to do their bit for the environment. The relay kicked off with a beach clean at Firestone Bay and Perranporth beach last week (check out this lovely local press coverage) and will finish in Glasgow in early November, coinciding with the UN Climate Change Conference COP26. Join in at https://climateactionrelay.com/
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