What we have for you this week is an edition of LDN sandwiched between two reviews of the year. First, a review of the world out there, and then, at the end, a review of the world in here – LCA Towers that is.
“The meaty (should that be plant-based?) filling takes us through the short-term economic jolt that Plan B brings, alongside a longer term look at the capital’s prospects. We’ve also got news of major property deals and major political strife along with our usual planning and people updates.
But first, as this will be our last edition of 2021, we thought we’d check in on the year that is almost behind us – a by no means comprehensive list, of course.
- For Labour, Sadiq Khan’s victory was important but expected while the fortunes and trajectories of the national political parties are somewhat harder to read at the moment…
- By any standards the Met Police has had a challenging year with serious reputational and operational issues to address.
- And it’s been a tough year for TfL too for very different reasons. Their future is, as of writing, stuck in a tunnel.
- The introduction of the ULEZ is a major boon to our lungs and while COP26 may not have been a wholesale success, it has focused minds on one of the major issues of our time.
- Our frontline workers have been our heroes. More than 100 TfL staff have died of COVID and we know those working in our hospitals and public services are putting themselves at risk every day for all of us. Our thanks to them all.
- The pressure on our local authorities has arguably never been greater but they continued to work through a formidable mix of austerity, pandemic and Brexit to continue to deliver crucial services.
- Meanwhile, the delayed Euros were a true sporting highlight, followed by the surprisingly cheerful Tokyo Games and Emma Raducanu’s brilliant US Open victory.
- London proved itself resilient – as the world opened up, our arts and culture sector quickly thrived once again, King’s Cross celebrated its 20th anniversary (with some LCA support of course) and the next generation of regeneration projects kept moving.
- Indeed, most metrics suggest that investment into the capital continues to flow and new sectors – life sciences, logistics, digital and tech – bring new life to London.
- And finally, while it’s easy to forget right now, the autumn was largely an embrace of the ‘new normal’: kids at school, employees and employers alike trialling new flexible working arrangements and town centres relishing the opportunities provided by new commuting patterns – whatever this winter may bring, we will bounce back.
And what of 2022? Much to look forward to amid the uncertainty. Crossrail opening (and hopefully a more certain future for TfL), borough elections, the 10th anniversary of London 2012 and a city, we hope, revitalised and reshaped for the future. We do hope you’ll follow all the twists and turns with us through LDN, thank you for reading in 2021."
Jenna Goldberg, Robert Gordon Clark with Stefanos Koryzis and Emily Clinton
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'PLAN B' FOR LONDON
The announcement of new measures to tackle the alarming spread of the ‘Omicron’ variant went down like a lead balloon in London. With the number of Covid-related hospitalisations in London increasing by 23% in a week, few here disagree with the principle that something needs to be done. However, authorities and businesses alike are concerned that, in the absence of other measures like furlough and grants to account for lost income, the new working from home guidance and vaccine passports could hamper the city’s budding economic recovery. The Mayor, London Councils, London First, and London Chamber of Commerce and Industry have all called on the Government to support employers that will be most impacted, particularly those that depend on commuters, shoppers and tourists to survive. The New West End Company has called the WFH guidance a ‘hammer blow’ for Central London’s retail and leisure businesses, and Plan B’s impact on commuting patterns is already being felt, with Monday morning passenger numbers on the Tube 18% lower than last week.
Bigger picture, the first Global Cities Survey launched by London Property Alliance (LPA) and Centre for London lays out how the city’s recovery remains uneven when compared both to other regions of the country and its international peers. That survey also corroborates a host of other evidence, including GLA Economics’ latest London’s Economic Outlook and the findings of a ‘joint investigation’ by the Evening Standard and The Independent, which all points to unemployment – especially youth unemployment – as a major concern for the city. For some, inevitably, joblessness will lead to homelessness and research by Shelter has found that our region has the highest absolute number (169,931) and rate of (1 in 53) people in England living in temporary accommodation or sleeping on the streets. What’s the Plan B for them?
TfL ON HOLD
Transport for London (TfL) and the Government now have until the 17 December to come to an agreement on further funding for the transport authority. This was announced by TfL on 10 December, just a day before the current funding agreement was set to expire and in his statement, Transport Secretary Grant Shapps said that the Mayor had submitted information on new revenue streams for TfL (the details of which remain under wraps) on 8 December and that ‘further clarification’ was needed by 15 December. The Mayor has meanwhile continued to issue dire warnings about the impact of a lack of funding for TfL and several Labour MPs have warned that a failure to properly fund TfL will have a knock-on effect on a train-manufacturing factory in Yorkshire. Business group London First has also said that the week-long extension to the current TfL funding deal is only justified if it results in a long-term agreement.
The dwindling passenger numbers mentioned above will be a concern for TfL, which still relies heavily on revenue from fares, though perhaps the figures will support its case for more Government support. In perhaps some slightly more positive (though perhaps ill-timed) news, Night Overground services are set to restart on 17 December.
Things may feel a bit grim, but steely-eyed investors still see the strength of London’s ‘fundamentals’. Derwent London has agreed to purchase the site of the Moorfields Eye Hospital for more than £200m, after striking a deal with the Moorfields Eye Hospital NHS Foundation Trust. Meanwhile, London Square, backed by Ares Management, has exchanged contracts on the remaining three-acre site of the former Royal Mail delivery office site in Nine Elms for a total for £111m. Looking to the future, Sellar is reportedly in discussions with Network Rail regarding a potential £1.55bn redevelopment of Liverpool Street Station – the definition of prime real estate, if there ever was one. And while TfL has faced difficulties in progressing a number of over-station development plans, it is still sitting on assets with immense potential – and has just launched a search for a joint venture partner to help deliver a £1bn pipeline of commercial property schemes on several sites in West London.
LONDON PLANNING ROUNDUP
- Westminster City Council has launched a consultation on an Article 4 Direction which would enable parts of the borough outside the Central Activities Zone (CAZ) to opt out of Permitted Development Rights (PDR), meaning that any conversions would require normal planning permission. This follows a consultation on an Article 4 Direction for areas within the CAZ.
- RBKC has withdrawn plans for a number of new buildings, delivering 112 new homes for rent (half of which would have been affordable), on the Cheltenham Estate. Local residents opposed the plans due to the impact of the proposed on the buildings on the surrounding area, which includes the famous Trellick Tower.
- RBKC is also reportedly planning a £7.5m refurbishment of South Kensington Tube station to make it step-free from the platform to street. Just last month, its planning committee voted against plans by TfL and Native Land for the delivery of 50 homes and commercial space on the site, in addition to step-free access for the station.
- Havering Council and housing association Notting Hill Genesis have paused their plans for the redevelopment of Rainham and Beam Park, with the Council withdrawing its Compulsory Purchase Order for the site. The continued uncertainty regarding the delivery of a new train station on the development (which we have covered in previous editions) has cast doubt over the entire project.
- LCA understands that Wandsworth councillor and London Assembly Member Leonie Cooper has been ousted as Leader of Wandsworth Council’s opposition Labour Group, following a vote of no confidence – and that she has been replaced by her predecessor, Cllr Simon Hogg.
- In Camden, it has been reported that six Labour councillors have been deselected, meaning that they will not be eligible to stand in next year’s elections, while several others have voluntarily stepped down. Selections for Labour candidates are also underway elsewhere, including in Islington and Barnet.
- It has meanwhile been confirmed that the City of London elections, postponed from 2021, will take place on 24 March 2022.
...AND OTHER PEOPLE NEWS
- Paul Martin – the former joint chief executive of Wandsworth and Richmond councils – will be taking over as the interim CEO of Ealing Council in February, succeeding Paul Najsarek.
- Today is also Chris Naylor’s last day as Chief Executive of Barking & Dagenham Council, before joining Inner Circle Consulting.
- Kingston Council has announced Matthew Essex as their new Executive Director of Place – he will join the Council in March. Essex is currently Redbridge Council’s Corporate Director of Regeneration and Culture.
- Derwent London has promoted its Head of Sustainability John Davies, Head of Asset Management Vasiliki Arvaniti and Head of Property Management Victoria Steventon to its executive committee, with immediate effect.
- Developer Stories has appointed a Board consisting of Geeta Nanda (Chief Executive of Metropolitan Thames Valley Housing and Chair of the G15 group), Tony Giddings (former Partner and Construction Director at Argent), Jon Milward (previously partner at Deloitte Real Estate and now managing director of Milward Associates) and Lisa Scenna (former Managing Director at Morgan Sindall Group and currently a non-exec at Harworth Group and Cromwell Property Group).
- The Earls Court Development Company announced the appointment of Ben Giddens, currently of Argent Related, as Director of Development and Masterplanning.
- Estates Gazette Online has the lowdown on a number of other property people moves, including Sylvain Montcouquiol’s appointment as Chief Resources and Sustainability Officer and member of the management board of Unibail-Rodamco-Westfield, succeeding Astrid Panosyan, who is stepping down.
- Londonwide Assembly Member Shaun Bailey and former Conservative Mayoral candidate has resigned as Chair of the Assembly’s Policing & Crime Committee after it emerged that his campaign held an illegal Christmas bash last December.
NORTH SHROPSHIRE SHOWDOWN
The Lib Dems are reported to be in the running to win tomorrow’s North Shropshire by-election, though that would mean overturning the Conservatives’ 23,000 majority. The by-election was triggered by the resignation of MP Owen Paterson, who was accused of breaking MP’s lobbying rules. Since his resignation, the Conservatives have been plagued by further reports of rule-breaking, in addition to the allegations that parties had been held at Downing Street in November and December 2020 despite COVID rules and the confusion about who paid for the refurbishment of the Prime Minister’s home. Recent polling shows that these scandals have had cut-through: A YouGov poll carried out for The Times has put Labour on 37% and the Conservatives on 33%, while a Survation poll for The Mirror put Labour on 40% and the Conservatives on 34%. Redfield and Wilton’s poll from 13 December has Labour on 37% and the Conservatives on 32%. In another blow to the Prime Minister, last night saw 99 Conservative MPs vote against the Government on the use of COVID passes for entry into large events.
The slow-burning controversy surrounding plans by the North London Waste Authority for a new incinerator in Edmonton is getting hotter. The Ham & High has an excellent explainer of where things stand and how we got here, but in brief, the NLWA’s seven constituent boroughs – Barnet, Camden, Enfield, Hackney, Haringey, Islington, Waltham Forest – have to date backed plans the redevelopment of an ageing waste incinerator at the Edmonton EcoPark, which forms part of a wider, £1.2bn project, approved by the government in 2017. But in the face of mounting resistance to the plans by campaigners, some local MPs, council opposition groups and others, one council has buckled. Earlier this month, Haringey’s Leader called for a review of the project, citing concerns about its scale and environmental impact, at a critical juncture – with the NLWA board due to vote on whether to award the contract for the works only tomorrow. This is a devilishly complicated issue. Environmental campaigners the All Party Parliamentary Group on Air Quality and the Mayor of London have marshalled a laundry list of reasons why this and other incinerators should be a non-starter. But the NLWA, which faces the unenviable task of handling one quarter of London’s waste and recycling, also makes a compelling argument.
THE AFFORDABLE HOUSING PUZZLE
A Lloyds Banking Group report has once again brought home another conundrum: that of meeting housing demand in a time of great uncertainty – and mounting inflation. Lloyds’ survey of 6,442 people across the UK suggests that two thirds (67%) of the public ‘don’t believe the housing market is currently helping people access affordable and quality homes in their area’ and that nearly half (48%) ‘do not feel new homes are meeting needs of local populations’ (the figure rises to 55% among Londoners and 55% for Southerners). Meanwhile, a seemingly low 26% expressed concern that there is ‘a lack of homes being built’, only 4% expressed concerns about ‘supply disruptions’ and a mere 8% pointed to ‘planning rules’ as a concern – perhaps a reminder that we all operate in some bubble or other. All of which strikes us a potentially uncomfortable food for thought for the Housing Secretary, as he continues to ponder how to repackage and ‘sell’ the Government’s still-pending planning reforms to MPs and the public. For the most hard-nosed housing geeks among our readers, you might also want to check out the latest house price index from Halifax, a Resolution Foundation report on property taxation, analysis by Home Builders’ Federation on Help to Buy and a New Economics Foundation (NEF) report build costs, planning reform on social housing supply.
ARTS AND CULTURE UPDATE
London’s world-famous cultural offerings are also being affected by the spread of the Omicron variant of COVID-19. A number of shows, including The Lion King, have had to cancel or postpone performances after cast members tested positive for COVID, while smaller plays and pantomimes have also been affected by outbreaks. However, it’s not all doom-and-gloom for the theatre sector: Argent Related have announced that ‘Brent Cross Studios’, a new film and TV studio, will be launched by Troubadour Theatres as part of the regeneration of Brent Cross Town.
OUR WEEK / YEAR
It’s a core tenet of our values not to be afraid to say it how it is (really, it’s on our website). So yes, 2021 has been a tough year marked by disruption, illness and loss. But we’ve coped and we’ve grown, as a company and as individuals.
Our team has continued to expand, from 49 in January, to 57 today. New-joiners include former Mayoral advisor Paddy Hennessy and industry stalwart Alastair Gornall – the latter succeeding Robert Gordon Clark as our Chairman. Robert meanwhile has moved into the new role of Senior Advisor.
We’ve made nine promotions this year and our team has been progressing and improving in every conceivable way. Our Diversity Working Group is helping us to become more representative and more inclusive, our LCA Women’s Network is fast-expanding and of course, our work for clients is more varied, interesting, and successful than ever.
We have built on our long-term relationships with clients including King’s Cross, the Lee Valley Regional Park Authority and the Met Police’s property service, while adding some major new names to our roster, from the Earl’s Court Development Company to Hydrock.
We’ve helped British Land, Precis Group, Crosstree and others win planning permission for schemes across London. Assisted Newlon and Mount Anvil with a successful estate regeneration residents’ ballot in Islington and supported Argent Related, HB Reavis, Vu.City, National Gallery, Stride Treglown and others in winning coverage and building their profile. We’ve organised multiple high-profile events, for charitable client Tonic Housing and global architects Broadway Malyan and delivered major consultation and engagement programmes for developers, housing associations, logistics firms, lab specialists and hospital trusts.
We monitored and analysed our seventh London Mayoral election and our team has continued to share insights on this and all other things London, not least through our 200th weekly edition of LDN. And all thatis - quite literally - only part of the story. Thank you to all those who have played their part, whether client, associate, friend or reader. Here’s to another year of success whatever the challenges may be – but first, a well-deserved break!
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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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