"Back in 2006 Labour had a night to forget in the local elections. Their share of the vote across the capital collapsed to below 28% and they lost control of eight boroughs. Despite only seeing their vote share increase by less than 1%, the Conservatives won six more councils to control 14 outright and we had a record eight No Overall Control authorities. Labour lost control of now rock-solid places like Brent, Camden, Hounslow, Islington and Lewisham, as well as Bexley, Croydon, Ealing, H&F and Merton.
The reasons? Well, there are always many, but one common thread from party activists was the massive kick-back to New Labour’s decision to go to war in Iraq. It played badly on the doorstep and we know that many Labour canvassers just didn’t show up in their usual numbers.
So is Partygate comparable in political terms today for the Tories? We will know in just over a fortnight and certainly Keir Starmer hopes it is. If the recent polling is to go by, the answer is yes with some predicting the party losing 800 councillors across the country and seeing Barnet and Wandsworth turn red on 5 May.”
Robert Gordon Clark, LCA Senior Advisor and Partner
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Hustings, where the main candidates go head-to-head in front of a live audience, are one of the more exciting political rituals – and there have been quite a few recently. Jewish community organisations are co-hosting no less than five hustings events in north London, of which three have taken place in Enfield, Barnet and Camden. The event at Enfield’s Cockfosters and Southgate Synagogue saw a heckler (later identified as a local anti-LTN protestor) directing abuse at local Labour Council Leader Nesil Caliskan – like all ‘town hall’-type meetings, hustings tend to attract people with a bone to pick. Elsewhere, hustings have also been recently held in Hackney by local newspaper Hackney Citizen and in Southwark by the Carnaval del Pueblo Association. While the available London-wide opinion polling would suggest that planning and development issues rank relatively low as issues in this election, the concerns aired at these events indicate that built environment matters remain very salient indeed. Further hustings are scheduled to be held in places including Brent, Greenwich and again Southwark (all three later today); in Richmond (21 April); as well as in Croydon, Lambeth, and Westminster (all on 23 April); and two more facilitated by the London Jewish Forum, in Haringey and again in Barnet (both on 26 April).
...AND OTHER ELECTIONS NEWS
Local party manifestos are now coming out thick and fast, including ones from the Barnet Conservatives, the Kingston Liberal Democrats, Hackney Labour, Lewisham Labour, Southwark Labour, as well as Conservatives and Labour in Wandsworth.
Besides the parties, other campaigning and advocacy groups have also released their own manifestos for local authorities in London and further afield, including including Age UK, Create Streets, Guide Dogs, London Child Poverty Alliance, UK Hospitality, and UK Theatre and Society of London Theatre (SOLT).
The chair of the Enfield Southgate Conservative Association has been suspended after a picture emerged of him dressed up in full Nazi military uniform at a ‘fancy dress party’ in the 1980s – Jewish News broke the story, which eventually made it into the likes of the Daily Mail.
Waltham Forest Labour has reportedly ‘given away a possible council seat’, after it expelled one of its own candidates in the relatively ‘safe’ Grove Green. The local press has meanwhile featured several independent candidates standing in Waltham Forest – all of whom seem to be running on explicitly anti-development platforms (see here, here and here).
Private Eye’s latest edition reported strange goings-on in the selections processes run by Hounslow Labour and separately by Lutfur Rahman’s Aspire party in Tower Hamlets – the fortnightly runs an almost exclusively print edition, so you’ll have to pick up a copy for all the sordid detail, or subscribe to read future instalments of their devilish Rotten Boroughs column here.
Hackney’s incumbent Labour Mayor Phil Glanville (Lab) has been interviewed by the Hackney Gazette as he runs for re-election, while the Conservative challenger in Croydon's mayoral election Jason Perry has also been interviewed, by MyLondon.
MyLondon meanwhile reports that Ealing candidates remain ‘split over controversial low-traffic zones’ – it says Peter Mason, current Labour leader of the council is of the view that his party has (in the website’s words) ‘learnt its lesson after failing to consult residents on LTNs before their introduction nearly two years ago’.
OF APOLOGIES AND POLLS
Recent reports in both the Telegraph and The Guardian suggest that the Conservatives are very concerned that the Prime Minister’s handling of the ‘partygate’ scandal will hurt the party at the local elections. Indeed, polls undertaken by YouGov and Ipsos Mori after news that he is to be fined, suggest that more than 50% of the public feel Boris should resign – and many voters may be expected to send that message on 5 May. The Prime Minister has sought to put the issue behind him by apologising to Parliament on Tuesday, but Labour is unsurprisingly committed to keeping it in the spotlight, with a vote on whether a Commons committee should investigate whether Boris Johnson misled MPs now due on Thursday. Separately, the Sunday Telegraph has the exclusive on a new poll (more details here) from Electoral Calculus and Find Out Now, who predict a 5% swing from Tories to Labour at the local elections and that the Tories could lose as many as 810 of the 1,965 seats they hold and are up for election across the UK, mostly to Labour, as well as control of both Barnet and Wandsworth among other councils. While this poll was actually taken even before Johnson was fined, other pollsters and experts have expressed scepticism about its findings.
LONDON PLANNING ROUNDUP
The Government has issued an Article 31 holding direction on plans for the demolition of the M&S on Oxford Street. Last week the Mayor of London decided not to change his decision to allow the demolition and construction of a 10-storey building providing office and retail space, despite the emergence of a report arguing that the refurbishment of the building was a better option. This saga is proving fascinating for all those dealing with “truly sustainable development”.
Meanwhile Westminster City Council has approved plans for a very low carbon impact temporary installation of the ‘Spiegeltent’, a theatre tent with a capacity of 480 which will host cabaret, music and comedy performances as part of the Underbelly Festival taking place in Cavendish Square between 6 May and 29 June.
The Court of Appeal has rejected a challenge by a disabled resident in Lambeth who said that the introduction of Low Traffic Neighbourhoods (LTNs) in the borough has made her life more difficult as she relies on a car to travel. In her case against Lambeth Council, her lawyers argued that the local authority ‘overlooked’ its duty to uphold equality included in the Equality Act 2010.
Chelsea FC’s sale is fast nearing completion and it seems that bidders’ plans for the redevelopment of its stadium will be (almost) as important as their cash offer. Chicago Cubs owner, the Ricketts family, have now withdrawn, and the three remaining bidders are groups led by former Liverpool FC and British Airways chairman Sir Martin Broughton; Los Angeles Dodgers co-owner Todd Boehly, now reported to be being advised by one George Osborne; and Boston Celtics co-owner and Bain Capital co-chairman Steve Pagliuca. The Telegraph reports that the groups led by Broughton and Boehly are both exploring plans for what we at LCA would consider to be incredibly challenging given the site’s constraints, namely rebuilding Stamford Bridge stand-by-stand, to avoid Chelsea having to temporarily relocate during construction. The Evening Standard further reports that Boehly’s consortium are in talks with the former project director for current owner Roman Abramovich’s stadium redevelopment plans (abandoned in 2018) and specialist architect Janet Marie Smith. Meanwhile, Pagliuca has promised to ‘renovate or redevelop the stadium’, offering no further details. In anticipation of a planning application, Hammersmith & Fulham Council Leader Stephen Cowan has written to the Premier League and Culture Secretary Nadine Dorries, saying the council would welcome a proposal… assuming it ‘secured exemplar design, was sympathetic to local residents, and fulfilled expectations of fans’. The final decision on the preferred bidder is expected to be made in the coming days though the preferred bidder would then have to pass the Premier League’s Owners’ and Directors’ test.
Chief Executive of the London Legacy Development Corporation Lyn Garner has been appointed as the GLA’s ‘senior professional lead for housing delivery’, providing ‘strategic oversight and system leadership over GLA Group housing delivery’ in parallel with her current role.
Public Practice has announced the next cohort of 25 new built environment professionals who will undertake year-long placements in local authority planning teams.
The Met Police is on the search for a new Commissioner, following Cressida Dick’s departure.
And Andy Donald, former CEO of the London Borough of Redbridge and currently interim CEO at the London Borough of Haringey has reported that he has been offered and accepted the job full time. We wish him well!
The Department for Levelling Up, Housing and Communities (DLUHC) is bullish about its building safety and planning reform efforts but much still hangs in the balance. Last week we covered DLUHC’s announcement of an ‘agreement with major developers to fund building safety repairs.’ A week on, it is clear that many developers are still dragging their feet. Secretary of State Michael Gove has again resorted to threatening non-compliant firms, saying that he will seek to block them from securing planning permission and advise prospective homebuyers not to purchase homes built by them. Meanwhile, Gove is still struggling to get manufacturers of construction materials to also chip in. The Chief Executive of the Construction Products Association (CPA) insists that aside from developers and manufacturers, the Government should also ask contractors and architects to contribute to the costs of remediating building safety defects. Speaking of contributions, the Sunday Telegraph has reported that Gove is pressing forward with separate plans (first floated in the now mostly-scrapped 2020 planning white paper) to replace the Section 106 system – through which a large proportion of affordable homes are secured – with a new ‘infrastructure levy’ feeding into, wait for it…. a centralised fund, to be distributed to councils. But details are still thin and expected to emerge no sooner that the Queen’s Speech in May.
London’s built environment sector is showing ever more signs that it is embracing a greener future. Canary Wharf Group has announced a new collaboration with the Eden Project, to ‘create a model of how biodiversity can thrive in urban environments’. This long-term partnership – notably endorsed by the Mayor – aims, as its ‘first project’, to create a lush new ‘green spine through the centre of the Canary Wharf estate’. Of course, ‘shifting the dial’ towards net zero and other key targets will require a lot more skilled labour, making the newly-launched Skills for a Sustainable Skyline Taskforce a timely initiative. The taskforce aims to ‘define and address skills gaps around the construction, retrofit and maintenance of low carbon commercial buildings in Central London boroughs’ and will be chaired by City Corporation member Chris Hayward (widely tipped to be elected the City’s new Policy Chair on 5 May), with City Property Association (CPA) Chief Executive Charles Begley as Deputy Chair. Big initiatives aside, even the smallest of green shoots can make a difference; like the fact that architecture educators Matt+Fiona have been selected by the organisers of next year’s Treehouses at Kew to work with local schoolchildren to design the fourth structure for the Royal Botanic Gardens’ celebration of architecture and arboriculture.
LONDON IS OPEN
The coincidence of Easter, Passover, Ramadan and Vaisakhi is a once in a generation occurrence and has this year provided the perfect opportunity for Sadiq Khan, the first Muslim Mayor of a major European city, to promote London as an open, welcoming and diverse city. The Mayor has been out and about reiterating his message that ‘more connects us than divides us’ and that ours ‘is truly a city for everyone’. He promoted the Passion of Jesus portrayal and Vaisakhi celebrations in Trafalgar Square over the bank holiday weekend, and gathered with the All Party Parliamentary Group of British Muslims and the Association of Muslim Police to break their Ramadan fasts (iftar). Earlier in the month, the Mayor also took part in the first ever interfaith iftar at the Tower of London and the first major in-person interfaith iftar since the pandemic. The celebrations do not end there, as the Mayor has confirmed Trafalgar Square will once again be host to another cultural event, when St George’s Day celebrations are held there this Sunday.
LCA SELLS IN
Our crack corporate comms teams have bagged a brace of trade media pieces for their clients over the past week. For any of our readers wondering what it takes for their business to become a certified B Corp, have a read of this advice piece secured by LCA in Building Design for Pierre Wassenaar, Chair of architecture firm Stride Treglown, which was one of the first UK firms to join the movement. We also helped place an article by Broadway Malyan Practice Principal Ed Baker, on the future of healthcare design, in the April edition of the ABC&D Magazine.
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