Our first two stories today tell the story of London. A London that leads the world in festivity, fashion, inclusivity, culture and fun but that is burdened, perhaps more so than ever, by discontent, inequality and an uncertain future.
The good news is that, following the local elections, there is a fresh cohort of councillors in place to meet these challenges – we take a look at how they are settling in below . The bad news, this newly stabilised political landscape is a stark contrast to the national scene and we know that when this Prime Minister needs to score points, they often come at London’s expense.
Meanwhile, next week is the 5th anniversary of the terrible tragedy at Grenfell where 72 people died. In those five years this city has changed indelibly, for better and for worse but every Londoner, and everyone who works in and for the capital including our 1,800 councillors, MPs and Government, should carry the scar of that day as they consider the future of the city.
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The Queen’s Platinum Jubilee burnished London’s credentials as the party capital of the world – and there’s no shortage of occasions to keep the festivities going over the summer. The capital played host to the Trooping of the Colour, a Service of Thanksgiving at St Paul’s Cathedral, the Platinum Party at the Palace and the Platinum Jubilee Pageant to mark the Queen’s 70th year as monarch, while street parties and other events took place across the city. Speaking to LBC, the Mayor said that the festivities are thought to have brought over 2.6m domestic and international tourists to London over the weekend, who spent approximately £80m in the West End alone. Looking ahead, it’s heart-warming to see London emerge from the pandemic’s forced hibernation. The London Festival of Architecture is taking place over the course of June, as is London Fashion Week. Meanwhile Pride in London is also returning on 2 July, after a two-year break, with the theme of #AllOurPride and commemorating the 50th anniversary of the original Pride march in the UK. For music fans, ABBA Voyage, the band’s virtual concert residency, has now started at the purpose-built ABBA Arena in the Queen Elizabeth Olympic Park in East London, which will also be hosting celebrations to mark the 10th anniversary and legacy of the 2012 London Olympics. Then, in August, the iconic Notting Hill Carnival will finally return for the first time since 2019. Party on London!
Unfortunately, no amount of pomp and pageantry can paper over the significant challenges faced by the city. London’s ongoing transport troubles in particular will throw a spanner in the works for those hoping to enjoy all the capital has to offer – and for the city’s economic recovery more generally. There was a tube strike last Monday and other upcoming industrial action, including yet another Tube strike that looks likely to go ahead on 21 June in tandem with separate national rail strikes on 21, 23 and 25 June (which in effect means five days of disruption for Londoners). Looking beyond headlines dominated by name-calling and doom-mongering, the issue for TfL is actually about the nuts-and-bolts of how London’s public transport system is sustainably structured, managed and funded. With income from fares still below pre-pandemic levels, unions fear pension and job cuts - and while TfL has offered assurances that no such actions are planned, proposals for sweeping changes to London’s bus network do not bode well. Even more ominously, TfL’s current funding agreement with Government expires on 24 June and the papers published ahead of today’s TfL Board meeting state that there has been ‘limited progress’ in discussions with Government about further funding.
Transport is in many ways just the most obvious sign of a more insidious and sprawling threat. Speaking at the London Government dinner at Mansion House last week, the Mayor warned that ‘strong undercurrent of anti-London sentiment from many politicians’ could ‘exacerbate’ the current cost-of-living crisis, underlining that high levels of deprivation and inequality exist in London just as they do in the rest of the country. For evidence, look no further than Centre for London’s new interactive map, which provides key inequality and poverty statistics for each London borough, and seeks to ensure that the Government ‘recognises and addresses’ the capital’s needs.
5 MAY'S TAILS
About a month on from the local election, all of London’s councils have finally confirmed their new leadership cadre and are getting down to business. All Annual General Meetings (AGMs) have taken place, formally confirming Leaders, Cabinet and Committee memberships, as well as constitutional changes. While most were tick box affairs, some were distinctly dramatic. For example, in Havering, a weakened Tory minority administration was toppled and replaced by a minority administration comprised of Havering Residents’ Association (HRA) councillors, headed up by Cllr Ray Morgon and propped up by votes from the Labour group. In all, 11 of London’s 32 councils now have new leaders or directly elected Mayors, whereas the figure immediately following the 2018 election was eight. Umbrella body London Councils in turn held its own ‘AGM of AGMs’ yesterday, with its Leaders’ Committee re-electing Camden’s returning Leader Georgia Gould (Lab) as its Chair and Barking & Dagenham’s Darren Rodwell (Lab) as Deputy Chair, both for a second term (more on this below). Ten other Leaders and directly Elected Mayors comprise the London Councils’ Leaders Committee’s new line-up of Vice Chairs and Executive Members – who will act as spokespeople for London across key policy areas – though we noticed three conspicuous absentees from the Committee’s ‘family photo’ – a prize is on offer to the first reader who tells us the names of those missing...
New administrations are also beginning to make their mark in policy terms – and we’ve been keeping a close eye on their first steps in the wider built environment. In Barnet, the borough’s new Labour leadership has pledged to revisit the Supplementary Planning Document (SPD) for the major Hendon Hub scheme, which had been put forward by the previous Tory administration. Next door in Haringey, the returning Labour administration has moved forward with its manifesto pledge to ‘insource’ its housing services. Meanwhile, we attended a ‘Meet the Westminster team’ event, where the Council’s new Leader Cllr Adam Hug and key Cabinet members set out their vision for the council. Cabinet Member for Planning and Economic Development Cllr Geoff Barraclough notably reiterated the Labour group’s commitment to ending what they refer to as a ‘cosy relationship’ with property developers, promising greater transparency and clearer separation between the leadership’s planning policy and the planning committee’s decisions. Over the past couple of weeks we’ve also been observing the first post-election planning committee sessions in boroughs from Kingston to Haringey. But other boroughs – particularly those with significantly new line-ups of members, chairs and vice chairs – have yet to hold their first meeting of the new municipal year. Looking ahead, we’ll be watching several such ‘maiden’ planning committee meetings especially closely, notably including Tower Hamlets’ (later today), Camden’s (tomorrow), Barnet and Croydon’s (both on 16 June), Harrow’s (22 June), and Wandsworth’s (only on… 28 June).
LONDON PLANNING ROUNDUP
- On Friday, the Mayor approved CIT’s called-in plans for 8,207 sq m of office space and more than 13,500 sq m for either medical or research and development uses at Vinegar Yard, in a building up to 20 storeys tall. The scheme forms part of the wider SC1 Life Science and Innovation District project, which is supported by King’s Health Partners, Guy’s and St Thomas’ Foundation, as well as Lambeth and Southwark councils – but a previous iteration of CIT’s plans was refused by Southwark’s planning committee in 2020 over concerns about height and overshadowing, before being called in by the Mayor.
- Meanwhile, the public hearing date for another called-in 20-storey office scheme, the Hondo Tower in Lambeth, has been postponed. While originally scheduled for this Friday (10 June), applicant Hondo Enterprises requested and was granted additional time to amend plans to address concerns raised by Historic England and others about the scheme’s height and impact on the surrounding area. The scheme has had a lengthy and adventurous planning process, as it was first approved by Lambeth Council in 2020 and while initially tacitly approved by the Mayor at Stage 2, it was subsequently called in.
- Elsewhere, a Planning Inspector has rejected Southern Housing Group’s bid to overturn the London Legacy Development Corporation’s (LLDC) refusal of proposals for Phase 3 of its Bow River Village scheme in Stratford, Newham. The plans for 435 homes (48% affordable) in three residential towers of up to 26 storeys were refused by the LLDC in 2021 – and the Inspector has largely concurred with their conclusion that the scheme’s height and massing would be harmful to the surrounding area.
- Separately, the 24 May meeting of the LLDC’s Planning Decisions Committee made a brace of major approvals, including Newham Council’s plans for a 23-storey residential tower incorporating 136 homes (94% affordable) and community centre on the Carpenter Estate; Schroders and Spirit Bond’s mixed use 36-storey student accommodation tower in Stratford; and the LLDC’s own plans for a new 41.4m footbridge.
- Ed Watson has been appointed as the Chief Executive of the EC BID, a new Business Improvement District covering the Eastern City cluster area in the City of London. Watson was previously Interim Chief Executive at the Greater Birmingham and Solihull Local Enterprise Partnership.
- Anne Kavanagh has been appointed as the new Chief Executive of build-to-rent developer Telford Homes. Kavanagh, currently Chief Investment Officer and Board Member at Patrizia AG, will join Telford Homes from 25 July.
- Georgina Rizik has been named as the new Executive Director for Life Sciences Advancement at SC1, a new central London life sciences innovation district (read on for more on SC1’s official launch).
- The search for the new Metropolitan Police Commissioner has reportedly been whittled down to a final two candidates: Mark Rowley, a former head of counter-terrorism and Nick Ephgrave, part of the Met’s current leadership.
A JUBILEE PUTSCH?
The Prime Minister has narrowly survived a vote of no confidence in his leadership by Tory backbenchers, so what’s next? While Boris Johnson and his supporters have called it a ‘decisive’ and ‘convincing’ vote of confidence, others are not so sure. Indeed, while 211 Tory MPs did vote in his favour, a not-insignificant 148 voted against, a margin similar to (and in some cases even less than) the votes won by Prime Ministers who went on to resign within months. Nonetheless, Johnson remains defiant, urging his Cabinet to ‘draw a line’ under questions about his leadership and promising a return to ‘fundamental’ Tory policies. Clearly keen to hit ‘reset’, the PM is reportedly considering a potentially imminent Cabinet reshuffle, as well as a ‘blitz’ of policy announcements. The latter are said to include new tax cuts, an extension of Right to Buy to housing association tenants and building more modular homes – none of which is all that new, though this may herald a substantial acceleration of their implementation. There are many challenges and pitfalls ahead for Johnson, including widespread scepticism about the efficacy of such policymaking-on-the-fly; further evidence from Parliament that the Government’s ‘Levelling Up’ agenda remains rather thin; calls by the opposition for a second motion of no confidence in the Commons; and reports that rebel MPs are now plotting to stymie Government legislation. To wit, the Prime Minister is in no way out of the woods – but with Teflon Boris, who knows?
The Government has made what is arguably one of its most important building safety interventions since the Grenfell Tower fire – a tragedy that occurred five years ago this coming Tuesday. The Department for Levelling Up, Housing and Communities (DLUHC) has announced that the cladding used on Grenfell Tower has now been banned outright for all buildings. This is, actually, only one of several changes to Approved Document B of Building Regulation’s guidance (see further technical details here), which also include additional requirements for safety features on new tall buildings, as well as the extension of a ban on the use of combustible materials for the external walls of residential, healthcare and education structures of over 18 metres in height, which will also cover new hospitality buildings. As per analyses by trade media including Inside Housing, Architects’ Journal and Construction News, these changes – which come into effect in England on 1 December – are not retroactive and apply only to new and in-construction buildings. That said, the changes have been broadly welcomed as an overdue strengthening of the fire safety regime.
SC1 IS GO
This week saw the launch of London’s newest innovation district, the SC1 life science district in south central London. SC1’s mission, to reimagine innovation and health equity, is a laudable one and we are excited to see the developments underway bring it to life. This includes Royal Street and Snowsfields Quarter, both on land owned by our client Guy’s & St Thomas’ Foundation and being brought to fruition by joint ventures of Stanhope / Baupost and Reef Group / Oxford Properties respectively. The launch event, held at County Hall, was a buzzy affair with speakers including George Freeman MP, Minister for Science, Research & Innovation, Dame Kate Bingham and Joanne Henderson, Executive Director, Head of Life Sciences, CBRE.
BIRTHDAY HONOURS LIST
As is our tradition, we’ve scoured the Queen’s Birthday Honours’ list for prominent Londoners, political leaders and representatives of the sectors we are most active in – and we list some of the highlights below.
- Stephen Timms, the long-standing Labour MP for East Ham and Chair of the Work and Pensions Committee, has been awarded a much-deserved Knighthood for political and public service.
- Janet Coyle, Managing Director of Business at London & Partners, was awarded a CBE for services to the economy.
- Katherine Davies, Chief Executive Officer at housing association Notting Hill Genesis, also received a CBE, for services to housing.
- Jonathon Manns, former Executive Director at Rockwell, has received an MBE for services to ‘planning, real estate and to built environments’ – and several other prominent figures in the wider field of architecture and the built environment have also received honours.
- Navin Shah, former Labour London Assembly Member for Brent and Harrow, was awarded a CBE for political and public service.
- Abdul Hai, former Camden Labour councillor received an OBE for services to ‘young people and to the community in Camden’, while at least two sitting London Councillors also received an award, with Harrow Conservative Councillor Ameet Jogia receiving an MBE for political and public service and Merton Labour Councillor Linda Kirby receiving an MBE for services ‘to the community in South London’.
- We were also pleased to hear that Rozina Ahmed, Principal Policy Officer in the Mayor of London’s Office, was awarded an MBE for services to ‘equality, diversity and inclusion in education, culture and port’, while colleague David Adam Eastwood, the Rough Sleeping Lead at Greater London Authority, received an MBE for services to homeless people.
Our roadshow of presentations on the outcome of the local election and what it means for London continues. On Monday, our editor (also, in her spare time, LCA Partner and Managing Director, Insight) Jenna Goldberg teamed up with LSE’s Professor Tony Travers to analyse the election’s results for an audience of senior staff at London Councils. Earlier today, Jenna also delivered a talk on the election’s particular implications for development in the capital, at a webinar hosted by the British Property Federation and chaired by their Director of Policy Ian Fletcher. Looking ahead, Jenna and our Senior Insight Manager Stefanos Koryzis will be joining an all-star cast of top local government officials in a session hosted by Future of London next Wednesday (15 June), which will unpick how the election results might impact the planning, housing, regeneration and infrastructure sectors more generally – you can register to attend the event here.
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