It’s been a bruising few days for the Government, the governing party and indeed for our democratic system. And yet, all is not rotten in the state of Denmark.
Indeed, look at the London Borough of Hounslow, which has been crowned Council of the Year at the Local Government Chronicle Awards and at the many property outfits recognised for their good work at this year’s Estates Gazette awards. Credit is also due to the Mayor of London who, as per the latest planning approvals data, seems to have been pretty successful in eliciting higher levels of affordable housing from referable applications. And kudos to everyone who has contributed to quite literally bringing the Thames back to life.
As ever, LDN seeks to bring you all sorts of news, both good and bad, covering a mix of politics, planning, people news, pitches and planes. But first, some words from our founder Robert on the past few days’ political tempest:
‘I watched much of the House of Commons debate on standards on Monday evening, wondering what difference all this really makes to the electorate’s view of politicians. I was most struck by the speech of Mark Fletcher, the Conservative MP for Bolsover (who succeeded one Dennis Skinner) and a member of the Committee of Standards. Despite his relative inexperience (he was only elected in 2019 and joined the committee in 2020), his speech was genuinely moving and impressive, not least in his criticism of his own party. You can watch it here.
Whether his speech and that of some other disgruntled Tories will make much difference when it comes to the next general election remains to be seen – an election is still some way off, we assume. But as of writing, the last few voting intention polls show the Tories’ lead over Labour eroded to only about 1% (down by three or four percentages points in a week). May this be an indication that there is some cut through?
Polls are of course just polls. But we have not one, but two contested by-elections coming up in Old Bexley & Sidcup (the late James Brokenshire’s seat) on 2 December and the North Shropshire by-election (the seat vacated by Owen Paterson) on 16 December. And whilst the by-election for the Southend West seat of Sir David Amess will be uncontested, we may see a recall in Leicester East for Claudia Webbe and therefore another by-election there too, in the not too distant future.
I just wonder whether this is the start of something significant.’
LCA Senior Advisor, Robert Gordon Clark
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KHAN APPROVES...KHAN HE DELIVER?
During his first tenure as Mayor, Sadiq Khan drew a line in the regulatory sand surrounding affordable housing contributions. It seems to be working. In 2017, long before the adoption of the new London Plan, the Mayor introduced planning guidance effectively requiring all major planning applications to commit to offering at least 35% of any new housing they build at ‘affordable’ tenures (50%, if on publicly-owned land, or if repurposing industrial land). Then-Deputy Mayor for Housing James Murray, now MP for Ealing North, was central to crafting and pushing through this ‘threshold approach’ on the Mayor’s behalf. In the years since, City Hall has occasionally (and cautiously) cited evidence that the policy was ‘working’. It is now quite confident; in a press release notably endorsed by representatives of London boroughs, housing associations and businesses, Sadiq Khan says that data now proves that the average proportion of affordable homes in schemes considered and approved by City Hall has ‘nearly doubled’ – from 22% in 2016 ‘under the previous Mayor’ to 40% in 2020. So far, so good. It now remains to be seen how many of these consented homes have been (or will be) built – which, in an increasingly uncertain market, cannot be taken for granted – on which point the Mayor’s press release says very little.
LONDON PLANNING UPDATE
- Objectors to the plans for a Holocaust Memorial in Victoria Gardens have been granted permission to mount a legal challenge against the proposals. The London Historic Parks and Gardens Trust objects to the plans on the grounds that the open space should be protected, in addition to concerns about increased footfall, security issues and congestion. The hearing, a date for which has not yet been set, is also expected to consider whether the memorial should instead be located at the Imperial War Museum.
- Developer Hill Residential has been unsuccessful in its bid to appeal Barnet Council’s rejection of plans for a residential scheme including for 152 homes (40% affordable). The local authority refused the plans in November 2020 on the basis that the development would lead to a loss of green space, as well as impact the nearby Conservation Area. The planning inspector agreed that the scheme would have ‘a significantly harmful effect’ on the surrounding areas.
- A planning inspector has meanwhile overturned a decision by Ealing Council and approved plans for a 22-storey building delivering 144 homes, all of which will be affordable. Ealing had rejected the plans, by Southern Grove and Metropolitan Thames Valley Housing Association, in October 2021 due to the height and scale of the proposed buildings as well as concerns about how genuinely affordable the homes would be to local residents. The planning inspector said that the development ‘would not look out of place’ and that there are ‘tens of thousands’ of households in the borough in need of intermediate tenure affordable housing.
- Historic England has updated its Heritage ‘At Risk’ Register. Four London sites have been ‘saved’ and removed from the register, including Battersea Power Station, though 18 sites in London have been added to the list, such as Streatham Hill Theatre.
A disagreement between Queen’s Park Rangers F.C. and Hammersmith & Fulham Council, which saw the Club threaten to leave the borough, seems to have been defused. A few weeks ago, QPR said that the club would have to leave the borough, claiming that the Council has not supported its plan to move to the Linford Christie Stadium and that dealing with the borough was ‘not easy’ – amid speculation that it could seek to move to nearby Ealing or Brent – though the owners of the Club did also concede that any such move was unlikely to take place in the next decade. In response, the Council said that it would ‘bend over backwards’ to help the Club. QPR then released its own statement, saying that it welcomed the Council’s response and that it is looking forward to meeting Leader of the Council Stephen Cowan ‘at his earliest convenience’. So, H&F may remain the home of three major football clubs, at least for now…
- Chief Executive of Hillingdon Council Fran Beasley has announced that she will retire at the end of the year.
- Grosvenor Britain & Ireland has announced that Alistair Elliot, currently Senior Partner and Chair of the Knight Frank Executive Board, will be joining the company as a Non-Executive Director in April 2022.
- Design South East has announced five new appointments to its Board of Trustees including Town Legal’s Mary Cook and Waltham Forest Council’s Jonathan Martin.
- There have been a number of changes at housing associations: John Synnuck is standing down as Chief Executive of Swan Housing Association, while Chief Exec of Moat Elizabeth Austerberry is also retiring.
- We were very sad to hear that Keith Bradshaw, who was CEO of the Marylebone Cricket Club from 2006-2011 and who we worked with on the floodlights and masterplan projects for Lords, recently died.
If you are looking for a new challenge, our friends at the Thames Festival Trust are looking for a part time Programme Manager for the Totally Thames annual river festival. But you need to apply by 5pm this Friday!
GOVE v BETTS, ROUND 1
On Monday, Michael Gove appeared for the first time before the Housing, Communities and Local Government Select Committee in his capacity as Levelling Up Secretary. While the meeting was overshadowed by… other debates taking place in Parliament that day, media reports have captured a number of key statements (and omissions). Gove notably argued, in strong terms, that developers and construction material producers should be shouldering the weight of cladding remediation, not homeowners. He also suggested that the long-awaited Levelling Up White Paper should be published before Christmas – but would not be drawn on the details of the Government’s still-paused planning reforms. He insisted that the reforms have not be abandoned completely, though he did suggest that housebuilding targets, unpopular with many backbench Conservative MPs, will be scrapped. Separate reports indicate that Gove favours a new housing formula, which would see more homes delivered in the north of England and the Midlands than in the south. In other DLUHC news, it has emerged that the long-promised Rental Reform White Paper has again been delayed and will now not be published until next year. In some more positive news, the Department has announced that 13 local authorities in England, including Southwark and Hackney, have been selected for the Partnerships for People and Place initiative which provides funding and support for ‘locally-led solutions to key challenges that communities face’.
LEVELLING UP LONDON
The elusive Levelling Up White Paper is keenly awaited in London, which continues to fret over its place (or lack thereof) in the flagship Government agenda. How can it not, when pot after pot of Government funding effectively excludes the capital? On the day our last edition went to print, DLUHC unveiled 477 projects that will receive a share of £200m from the Community Renewal Fund. Analysis by London Councils has found that only six of these were in London, receiving a mere £1.9m (1% of the total). London’s bids also had the lowest success rate (at about 30%). Much of this funding is focused on supporting skills, an area clearly identified by London Chamber of Commerce and Industry (LCCI) and London Councils’ latest business survey as a major issue of concern for employers in the capital. As argued by LSE Professor Tony Travers, seemingly ‘random cash injections’ are not quite the same as a cohesive strategy with measurable indicators of success. It’s therefore refreshing to see London articulating a coherent case for a place of its own within the levelling up agenda – see, for example, a new report by Localis for Local London and tomorrow, an event hosted by OnLondon. If only the Government could give us a bit more of that kind of clarity.
A GOOD YEAR FOR CONSULTANTS?
A number of major professional services companies active in London’s property sector seem to be going from success to success. The latest quarterly results from the likes of CBRE, Cushman & Wakefield, JLL, Knight Frank, and Savills seem to be – per Estates Gazette’s Tim Burke – ‘an upbeat earnings season continued for real estate’s largest agencies’. Of course, the real blockbuster story is that of CBRE completing its purchase of a 60% stake for £960m in Turner & Townsend, a fellow consultancy serving clients in the real estate, infrastructure and natural resources sectors globally. T&T will preserve its ‘existing leadership team, heritage, operational independence and partnership structure, which will hold the remaining 40% ownership interest.’ Beyond the big beasts, a number of more specialist outfits in London are clearly thriving. To cite two, Gerald Eve has revealed some pretty impressive annual results for the year to April 2021, while heritage specialists Peter Stewart Consultancy has expanded and rebranded as The Townscape Consultancy Limited .
It’s been (yet another) mixed week for London’s aviation sector, which is gradually recovering – but facing an uncertain future.
- The Prime Minister quipped, in Parliament, that ‘clean, green aviation’ is currently the Government’s focus and ‘has every chance of arriving a lot earlier than a third runway at Heathrow.’ Ouch. Only today, further reports emerged of queues at the airport after passport e-gates failed for ‘the third time in less than three months’. On the bright side for London’s biggest airport, British Airways and Virgin Atlantic have celebrated the first day since mid-March 2020 that the vast majority of UK nationals have been able to fly to the US with a rare twin take-off on Monday.
- Meanwhile, Gatwick Airport’s expansion plans have seeming failed to impress nearby Tonbridge & Malling Borough Council, which said that they would bring ‘limited material benefit’ to residents in response to an ongoing consultation. The airport’s owners will, however, be relieved about an agreement between British Airways and unions, which paves the way for 17 BA-branded planes to deliver new European short-haul flights.
- Separately, Luton has also seen delays at border control, Stansted suffered a bomb scare that saw Terminal 1 evacuated and London City Airport could become part of ambitious plans to bring Formula 1 racing to London.
- But, coming full circle to the PM’s ‘clean, green aviation’ comments, we were fascinated by plans by Heathrow shareholder Ferrovial, Mott MacDonald and Grimshaw architects to build 25 new ‘vertiports’ across the UK ‘to serve a new generation of electric-powered flying taxis’. Fancy that.
SEARCHING FOR HALE'S HEROES
The LCA team kicked off the week altruistically, having asked residents of Tottenham Hale to anonymously nominate their local hero. Launched by our client Argent Related, the developer behind the Heart of Hale residential scheme, we’re looking to celebrate those members of the local community who go the extra mile. The winning hero and their story will be showcased on the hoardings that surround the Heart of Hale development, with a donation going to one of three local charities. Enfield Independent have been impressed by the story so far, with more to come. If you’re based in the Tottenham Hale area, don’t forget to submit your nomination here.
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