REGENERATION IS STILL A THING
With the local elections less than two months away, the capital’s party-political landscape is becoming more interesting by the day.
In Newham, the culmination of a long and disputed selection process has seen Sir Robin Wales pass on the baton to Councillor Rokhsana Fiaz OBE as the Labour party’s Mayoral candidate. And in Barnet, a controversial selection process has triggered the resignation of a Tory councillor and whittled the party’s majority-of-one down to… none, leading the marginal borough into No Overall Control. These developments and more feature in this edition’s election coverage.
We also take a look at some major news from London’s property sector, which indicates that while increasingly politicised, estate regeneration and large-scale housing developments are still rumbling through the pipeline. The Government’s announcement that the Housing Infrastructure Fund’s (HIF) competitive bidding process is poised to advance to the next phase is also encouraging in this regard. But with the pre-election period officially beginning in less than a week – on or around 26 March – Councils will enter a sensitive phase where strict rules pertaining to the use of public resources are likely to prompt a slowdown in councils’ property-related work.
As always, we’d love to hear your feedback, so do feel free to get in touch with our research team at firstname.lastname@example.org – and do follow us on Twitter @LDNComms if you don’t already!
REGENERATION IN LAMBETH AND MERTON
Two major housing association-led estate regeneration schemes have been approved in London in as many weeks, both by Labour councils. Merton Council’s planning committee approved Clarion’s £1.2bn plans for the regeneration of the Eastfields, Ravensbury and Mitcham estates, which will see the demolition of 1,171 existing homes to be replaced with 2,550 new ones. 33% of the new homes are earmarked as affordable (and there will no net loss). Meanwhile, Lambeth approved Metropolitan’s £1.6bn plans to demolish 864 homes on the Clapham Park Estate and replace them with 2,532 new builds, of which 1,168 (46%) will be affordable. This will double the estate’s total number of homes to 4,080, 53% of which will be affordable. It appears that even in the face of some public criticism over the principle of estate regeneration, impacts on existing residents and complications inevitably faced by projects of such a scale, some councils are in no hurry to backtrack from projects that can regenerate older housing stock, provide new homes, and generate improvements for the wider built environment.
SAINSBURY’S GETS GREEN LIGHT IN REDBRIDGE
Another project receiving an approval in the past week was Sainsbury’s 683-home mixed-use scheme in Redbridge, despite objections from the Mayor. The scheme only provides 27 affordable homes (4% of the total) but despite early resistance from the Labour-led council, the project was eventually approved by Conservative Housing Secretary Sajid Javid. The local and national authorities appear to have agreed that the relatively low affordable housing offer is justified by the developer’s viability assessment. The developer, however, has also accepted a review mechanism which could raise the level of affordable housing if future sales are better than initially projected – which reportedly led to the borough also dropping its opposition to the scheme. Plans also comprise a new supermarket and commercial space, as well as 452 parking spaces. Javid is cited by the press as noting that the project amounts to no less than 60% of the borough’s annual housing target and represents ‘a high quality of design.’ For its own part, City Hall has stood by its opposition to the scheme, with a spokesperson for Sadiq saying it is ‘simply unacceptable’ and a ‘huge missed opportunity’ to provide more affordable housing.
HOUSING INFRASTRUCTURE FUND SHORTLIST
The Ministry of Housing, Communities & Local Government has confirmed the national shortlist for the much-heralded National Infrastructure Fund (HIF), being overseen by Homes England. The list covers 44 local authorities, including the GLA, that will benefit from £4.1bn of funding, and are through to the next stage where they need to submit detailed business plans before final funding allocations are confirmed in September 2018. In London the bids were all overseen by the GLA and LCA understands that both the OPDC for Old Oak Common and Enfield Council for Meridian Water have been successful in moving on to the next stage – both projects LCA is acting for.
DEVOLVE POWERS TO ENSURE CITY THRIVES
Weeks after Waltham Forest and Brent were selected as London’s Boroughs of Culture for 2019 and 2020, the King’s Commission on London, set up in 2016 by the Policy Institute at King’s College London, has released its final report calling for the Mayor of London’s powers to be extended further to ensure the capital remains a leading global city. The Commission, co‐chaired by Labour’s Lord Adonis and Professor Tony Travers of the LSE, focused on two vital issues for London – Healthcare (and especially in primary care) and skills (with a focus on apprenticeships and further education). The report, London 2030 and beyond, makes a number of recommendations including reintroducing deprivation funding to improve healthcare in deprived areas and for an Apprenticeship Levy Council to be set up to advise companies on how to spend their levy. Newly-commissioned research into London’s economic future is also captured in the report, highlighting four possible scenarios for the city’s economy in 2030, dependent on the effects of Brexit and the Government’s approach towards London and whether the capital is able to continue to be both internationally open with the resources it needs to thrive.
FOSTERING THE CREATIVE ECONOMY
The capital’s creative entrepreneurs and professionals will be pleased to hear that Sadiq has shortlisted 11 boroughs* to submit their bids to become one of three new Creative Enterprise Zones (CEZ). A £50k grant has been awarded by the GLA to help develop each plan (Hackney and Tower Hamlets have teamed up for a joint bid). Part of wider efforts to protect workspace and foster economic development in the capital, the CEZ initiative is modelled on the Enterprise Zones system, which has boosted efforts to develop 5m sq ft of commercial space, hundreds of homes and thousands of jobs at the Royal Docks business district over the past five years. But this new scheme focuses more specifically on helping artists and creative businesses secure affordable workspace and infrastructure, access training and business support services, benefit from business rate relief policies and tap into the latent potential of local communities. The three winners of the competitive process will be announced later this year. Haringey Council has meanwhile been trialling the approach in its own CEZ pilot project in Tottenham.
*The 11 boroughs are: Barking and Dagenham, Bexley, Camden, Croydon, Harrow, Hounslow, Lambeth, Lewisham, Southwark, Tower Hamlets and Hackney.
TACKLING HOMELESSNESS USING MODULAR HOUSING
According to a report by Inside Housing, 16 London local authorities are collaborating to tackle homelessness through the rollout of modular housing units. The initiative will be spearheaded by Tower Hamlets, which has taken on the responsibility of establishing a not-for-profit housing company to procure and own the new factory-built homes for councils across London, to let as emergency housing for homeless families. According to a report submitted to Tower Hamlet’s Cabinet, which convened yesterday evening, the modular homes will be installed on ‘meanwhile’ sites and moved to other sites as necessary, offering a ‘cheaper and better quality alternative’ to Bed & Breakfasts and other temporary accommodation local authorities currently employ. The initiative will benefit from an £11m GLA Innovation Fund grant and £20,000 in ‘seed funding’ from London Councils’ Capital Ambition programme. The plans could provide a critical, cost-effective tool for cash-strapped boroughs as statutes of the 2017 Homelessness Reduction Act come into effect this April, requiring councils to intervene at an earlier stage in order to prevent homelessness.
Less than two months ago the Labour party was thrown into a fresh crisis, following the resignation of Ian McNicol, the Party’s General Secretary. Jennie Formby, an official for Unite, was immediately identified as the Leader’s Office favourite for the role and despite a brief challenge from Momentum founder Jon Lansman, was confirmed in the role yesterday evening. It has not all been plain sailing for Formby, with resignations from senior figures in Labour HQ in anticipation of her appointment – six this Monday alone, according to the Independent. These roles, including Labour’s Head of Governance and Legal and the London Regional Director, may well now be filled by Corbyn supporters as the surge of Labour left wingers continues.
With the London Stadium’s financial difficulties and Champion Hill’s redevelopment pains, one could be forgiven for thinking London is a rather difficult place for the development and running of major sports and leisure facilities. And indeed, as a densely-populated metropolitan centre with an intricate planning landscape, the capital presents a formidable challenge in this regard. But Chelsea FC and AFC Wimbledon seem to be overcoming these issues in south west London. Chelsea FC finally appears to have agreed a financial settlement with a local family challenging the construction of its new £1bn, 60,000-seat stadium at Stamford Bridge over the blocking of sunlight. The club still hopes that it will be able to start playing in the stadium by the 2023-24 season. Meanwhile, AFC Wimbledon’s more modest plans appear to be sprinting ahead. The demolition of Wimbledon Greyhound Stadium is now underway, putting the Football League One team on-track to begin the site’s redevelopment as soon as this autumn and, hopefully, allowing them to move in to their new 10,000-seat home in time for the 2019-20 season. And further to the West, LCA client Brentford FC’s new Community Stadium is also bounding ahead – more in Our Week below.
Stewart Murray, Head of the Development Group at GL Hearn, is reportedly leaving the company for a return to the public sector, having been appointed Strategic Director of Economic Growth by the London Borough of Waltham Forest in February (pending Cabinet’s approval). Murray has over three decades’ experience in planning, through senior posts at four other London boroughs, as well as the GLA. Meanwhile we understand that Sarah Considine is stepping down from GLA’s Regeneration Team where, as a Senior Project Officer, she had taken on significant responsibilities at a time of rapid change for the regional authority. It has also been announced that Claire Pritchard is to be the new Chair of the London Food Board, a team of experts who lead the GLA’s efforts to support the entire food supply chain. Pritchard is CEO of social enterprise Greenwich Cooperative Development Agency, as well as a Trustee of Borough Market.
DOWN IN THE SECOND ROUND
After a 23-year run of leading Newham Council, Britain’s longest-serving Mayor Sir Robin Wales has been deselected by his own party and will no longer be Labour’s candidate for the local elections in May. Sir Robin was replaced with Momentum-backed rival Cllr Rokhsana Fiaz OBE, who has vowed to bring back radical politics in the East London borough. This has been the culmination of a 17-month internal selection process and two trigger ballot votes, the first declaring Sir Robin Labour’s automatic Mayoral candidate and the second unanimously deciding for an open selection. The ultimate vote took place on 16 March and Fiaz garnered 861 votes to Sir Robin’s 503 , despite the fact that the ballot was only open to Labour members who joined the party before Corbyn’s ascent to power in 2016.
TORIES LOSE BARNET
The Conservatives lost overall control of Barnet Council last week, as Mill Hill Ward Councillor Sury Khatri resigned from the party, citing dissatisfaction with his deselection by the local party association. Councillors Maureen Braun (Hendon Ward) and Joan Scannell (Edgware Ward) have also been deselected. It remains unclear how and to what extent Khatri’s resignation will affect the Council’s work – especially as the pre-election period begins on or around 26 March – but this plainly represents a major political setback for the party in one of its most marginal boroughs, just weeks before the 3 May local elections. Councillor Khatri has broadcast his displeasure at what he has called a ‘despicable charade’ and has accused the local party of showing him ‘no loyalty’. Similarly, Councillor Scannell has branded the Hendon Conservative Association’s move as ‘anti-Christian, anti-family and misogyny[stic]’ as her reselection interview, which she did not attend, was scheduled for a Sunday (and Mother’s Day, no less). The Labour opposition in Barnet has jumped on the issue with evident glee, attributing it to ‘backstabbing’ and an internal ‘coup’ by the Conservatives’ ‘extreme right.’ Councillor Daniel Thomas, the deputy leader of Barnet Council and chairman of the Hendon Conservative Association, has vigorously denied any foul play. For his part, the Council’s Conservative Leader Richard Cornelius does not appear to have commented publicly on these latest developments. The council’s political balance now stands at 31 Conservatives, 30 Labour, one Liberal Democrat and one Independent.
The Spring Conference season is drawing to a close and we have been trawling through the news for clues as to the parties’ manifestos and campaign strategies as the London poll approaches. The Conservatives’ ‘Spring Forum’ took place here in London on 16-17 March. In her speech, Theresa May had little to say about the local election, but notably called for members to make the case for the party’s stewardship of the public sector and especially the NHS. The forum did include campaign training sessions and the launch of a rebranded youth wing, known as the ‘Young Conservatives’ (which is what it always used to be called). The Labour party does not hold a conference in the Spring, but London Labour’s busy schedule of campaign events recently included a well-attended fundraising dinner at the Museum of London last Friday, hosted by commentator Ayesha Hazarika. And as reported previously in LDN, Liberal Democrat party leader Sir Vince Cable ruffled a few feathers with his speech in Southport, which suggested misplaced nostalgia motivated voters to back Brexit while the party has redoubled its efforts to court the EU citizen vote this May through a social media campaign in 21 languages.
KENSINGTON & CHELSEA CONSERVATIVES
Perhaps one of the most unusual details we have stumbled upon in the build-up to the 2018 Local Elections is the discovery (as reported by The Times on Sunday) that Lloyd North, a prospective Conservative candidate in the Kensington and Chelsea, is a former adult film star known as Warren Lord. Kensington, Chelsea & Fulham Conservatives have said that ‘Lloyd has been open with us about his past from the beginning and has our full support. [He] is an excellent candidate and will make a great councillor.’
BREAKING GROUND IN BRENTFORD
On Monday 19 March, LCA was busy helping our clients, Brentford Football Club and Be Living Ltd, celebrate the start of construction on the new Brentford Community Stadium development at Lionel Road South, with a ground-breaking ceremony. A family of Brentford supporters were chosen to have the honour of putting the first spade into the ground. LCA has been supporting the project for a number of years and the decision notice confirming the updated planning permission was issued by Hounslow Council last month. The project will create a thriving new sporting, residential and leisure quarter, with a state-of-the-art stadium and home for Brentford Football Club at its centre.
LCA’S ELECTION ROADSHOW
LCA’s roadshow of 2018 Local Election presentations is in full swing, offering an overview of the capital’s political landscape, electoral trends and major issues – as well as exploring more specific developments in key boroughs. Over 200 senior delegates have attended six events held during the past two months alone, with several more to come. We even held an impromptu session on the local elections at the MIPIM conference in Cannes, led by our Managing Director Jonny Popper. Our elections insight and analysis has also reached a far wider audience as Board Director Chris Madel, who heads up LCA’s in-house research team, spoke to ITV’s Late Debate about the key battlegrounds of the election, helping set the scene for a discussion between host Simon Harris, Haringey’s Labour Leader Claire Kober, Westminster’s Conservative Leader Nickie Aiken and Sutton’s Liberal Democrat Leader Ruth Dombey.
LCA prides itself on its intelligence-led approach to PR and communications and our dedicated research team monitors London politics, news and issues as it happens. If you would like to know more about LCA or anything in this edition of LDN – London in short please get in touch.
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.
If you would like to know more about anything covered in this or any other edition of LDN or if you would like to know more about LCA please contact Duncan Hepburn on 020 7612 8480 or email@example.com.
We strive for balance and accuracy at all times; however, if you feel we have made a mistake, omission or have misrepresented a story or issue please alert the team by contacting Duncan using the details above.