“Change never stops, especially in a city as large and multi-faceted as London.
On the people front several well-known and well-respected leaders have announced they are stepping down – including John Barradell, the City of London’s long standing Town Clerk, Andrew Travers, Lambeth Council’s CEO and Kate Davies, the CEO of Notting Hill Genesis Housing Trust. This follows something of a trend at senior level across London’s local government landscape, possibly a worrying trend at that.
On the political front we’ve obviously just come through a period of intense change and now, as new administrations are bedding in, we are starting to see what the future might hold; in Westminster for example, the new Labour-led planning committee has made it clear that it means business on getting affordable housing delivered.
On the media front the big change is the end of the print edition of Time Out – truly the end of a 54 year era – but perhaps more worrying is the ongoing demise of London’s local papers, many of which will see yet further cuts and now a merger into a wider South-east structure.
Sadly though, there’s no change when it comes to the games being played over the funding and future of TfL – yet another last minute deal is awaited this week – and to Michael Gove’s appetite for intervening on planning applications, which appears to be growing week by week.”
LCA Founder and Senior Advisor, Robert Gordon Clark
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GRIDLOCK CITY (CONT'D)
Swathes of the capital have more or less ground to a halt this week, with strike action and labour shortages affecting local, regional and even international transport. Figures by retail analysts Springboard show footfall in central London down 27% compared to the previous week as people stayed away and TfL has reported a record number of Santander rental bike hires too. Further train strikes are set for Thursday and Saturday, with disruption also expected on Friday. Meanwhile, flights are being cancelled and delayed at several airports, Heathrow’s baggage handling system is in disarray (though here it is labour shortages that are throwing a spanner in the works) and EasyJet crew have now announced that they are set to go on strike in July. Rising inflation – just today reported at 9% - is only stoking further industrial disquiet, with Royal Mail staff now among those set to be balloted. Amidst this all of this, TfL and Government are again locked in last-minute negotiations on the very future of London’s transport – with TfL’s current funding deal with Government set to expire on Friday. There is so far no indication of an agreement and it seems increasingly likely that there will either once again be a last-minute deal, or a short extension to the current deal.
ALL EYES ON WCC
Westminster City Council was ‘painted red’ this May, but a month-and-a-half on the change seems to be more Glorious Revolution than French Revolution. A recent piece by the Council’s new Labour Leader Cllr Adam Hug reflecting on his first month in office, is illustrative of a rather gentle transition – opening not with tackling inequality, but with fond recollections of the Platinum Jubilee. That’s not to say that the council hasn’t been flexing its muscles – witness its campaign against ‘American sweet shops’ and public call on the Government to expand the ‘Flood Re’ flood reinsurance scheme. On the planning front, Westminster's first post-election planning committee meeting has given us some pointers on the new administration’s priorities.
The committee approved Grosvenor Investments’ redesign of the Grade II-listed Grosvenor Square, British Land’s redevelopment of the West One Shopping Centre and plans for the extension of private members’ club George. However, Native Land’s Kilmuir House scheme was narrowly refused, against officers’ recommendation, on the grounds of low affordable housing provision. Native Land’s plans centred on 60 flats (of which four, or less than 10%, would be available at London Affordable Rent) plus flexible workspace. Cabinet Member for Planning & Economic Development Geoff Barraclough subsequently declared on Twitter that he was ‘very pleased’ – and in response to sceptical reactions, insisted that Westminster ‘is open for business but we're not compromising on affordable housing.’
GOVE INTERVENES (AGAIN)
While we’re in Westminster, the Levelling Up Secretary has struck again, calling in yet another major London scheme. Having already issued a holding order in April, Michael Gove has now called in Marks & Spencer’s proposals for the redevelopment of its Marble Arch branch. While the plans were approved by both Westminster City Council and the Mayor of London, Gove feels he should have the final call. In response, the retailer has taken the unusual step of publicly accusing Gove of ‘political grandstanding’. This is actually a key planning battle, hinging on whether demolition would contravene planning policy due to the amount of embodied carbon it would release (as opposed to a less radical intervention, like refurbishment). It may, therefore, create a significant precedent for major regeneration schemes across the country. Gove’s verdict is still pending on two other called-in schemes, Edith Summerskill House (in H&F) and Syon Lane (Hounslow) and this is not Gove’s only intervention in London of late. It has separately emerged that he has written to the North London Waste Authority (NLWA), asking for details about how they are ‘managing and delivering’ their Edmonton incinerator scheme – despite the fact that it is already at a very advanced stage, with Gove himself reportedly admitting that there is a ‘high bar and evidential basis’ for his department to intervene.
LONDON PLANNING LATEST
- Native Land and TfL have announced that they are appealing to the Planning Inspectorate against the local refusal of their proposals to redevelop the area surrounding South Kensington Tube station. Despite officers’ recommendations for approval, Kensington & Chelsea councillors voted against plans for 50 new homes (35% affordable), retail and workspace, as well as improvements to the station itself including step-free access, due to concerns about the height and scale of the proposed development.
- Croydon Council’s development company Brick by Brick has withdrawn 23 planning applications which would have delivered 470 new homes. The Council decided to shut down the company in 2021 amidst the local authority’s financial issues which saw it issue a Section 114 notice, effectively declaring bankruptcy.
- Haringey’s planning subcommittee has approved controversial plans for the demolition of the former Cranwood House care home and the delivery of 41 new homes on the site, 32 of which will be available for council rent.
- EG has published an interview with Shravan Joshi, the new Chairman of the City’s Planning and Transportation Committee.
- The Chief Executive of the City of London Corporation and Town Clerk, John Barradell, has announced he is retiring from the role after ten years. He will step down at the end of the year but remain part of the Corporation as a consultant for a further two years.
- Outgoing Lambeth LBC chief executive Andrew Travers will be joining Inner Circle Consulting in September after five years at the London borough. Travers will be replaced by current Deputy Chief Executive and Strategic Director for Resident Services at Lambeth Council, Bayo Dosunmu.
- The National Housing Federation – the umbrella body representing housing associations – has appointed Maggie Galliers has its new Chair. She will replace current Chair Baroness Diana Warwick of Undercliffe in September.
- The Chief Executive of Notting Hill Genesis, Kate Davies, has announced she is stepping down after 18 years at the organisation. Davies will continue in her role until her replacement is found.
- RHP has announced Chief Executive David Done will leave his role at the end of March 2023 after 22 years of service leading the association.
- Sheron Carter has been appointed Chief Executive at Hexagon Housing Association. The former Chief Executive at Habinteg takes over from Tom McCormack who stepped down after 22 years as Chief Executive.
- Legal and General has hired Vanisha Thakrar as Head of Housing Investment, Thakrar was previously a Director at Harrison Street Real Estate Capital.
- Tower Hamlets councillor and Vice-Chair of Labour Housing, Rachel Blake, is on the longlist to be the Labour Parliamentary Candidate for Cities of London and Westminster.
- Matt Vickers, Conservative MP for Stockton South, will be discharged from the House of Commons Levelling Up, Housing and Communities Committee. Sara Britcliffe, Conservative MP for Hyndburn, will be added to the Committee.
- The Labour Party has now suspended Haringey councillor Joy Wallace over a tweet questioning the home secretary's Asian heritage.
The Government is pushing forward with proposals and legislation that will fundamentally change the rules for renters and landlords – both private and social. The long-awaited ‘A Fairer Private Rented Sector’ white paper outlines numerous policies that will go on to form the Renters Reform Bill. These include replacing Section 21 ‘no fault eviction’ notices, extending the decent homes living standard to the private sector and creating a new Ombudsman to settle disputes between tenants and landlords without intervention from the courts. The Government also seeks to support ‘responsible landlords’ through strengthening the grounds of possession where there is good reason. The paper has been broadly welcomed by Shelter, National Residential Landlords Association (NRLA) and the British Property Federation (BPF) – the latter two with the caveat that the Bill’s provisions must not unfairly penalise landlords and unnecessarily deter investors. London Councils has also welcomed the white paper, with Executive Member for Regeneration, Housing & Planning Cllr Darren Rodwell saying the reforms will ‘undoubtedly be good news for London’s two million private renters’. Meanwhile, the second reading of the Social Housing Regulation Bill is set to start in the Lords on 27 June – Housing Minister Eddie Hughes has recently written in Inside Housing outlining the Government’s hopes for the Bill.
London Councils has issued its latest warning about the financial pressures faced by local authorities, which makes for grim reading. The umbrella body representing the capital’s 32 boroughs and the City of London Corporation has laid bare its calculations for how inflation will affect their already-strained budgets. In a nutshell, even accounting for a £330m uplift in core spending power from the February 2022-23 local government finance settlement, they estimate that rising inflation will apply £400m of additional budget pressure. That’s on top of around £300m for inflation already accounted for in revenue budgets for 2022-23 set in April. Meanwhile, the Local Government Association has also warned that paying the forecasted increase in the National Living Wage (NLW) for the lowest paid council staff alone could cost councils nationally ‘at least’ £400m over the next two years – and unions are threatening strikes over pay rise levels in this sector already. Aside from revenue budgets for services like social care, boroughs are also worried about capital budgets – London Councils says contract costs for some projects have risen by 20-25%, making many ‘unviable’, noting that one unnamed borough expects a £60m increase in costs for its capital programme this year alone.
LONDON MEDIA LATEST
- All eyes are on The Times after it retracted a story about claims that Boris Johnson attempted (when Foreign Secretary) to hire Carrie Johnson (then Symonds) as his Chief of Staff, while they were in a relationship. No 10 has now confirmed that it asked for the retraction, but neither the Prime Minister nor The Times have explained the exact grounds for this unusual about-face – made doubly irregular by the fact that the allegations are not actually new.
- Meanwhile, the BBC is losing yet another senior journalist to media company Global, the owner of LBC radio. Lewis Goodall is to be the third host on Global’s ‘major new podcast’, co-presented by fellow former-BBC presenters Emily Maitlis and Jon Sopel, launching this autumn. The Guardian attributes his exit to a wider ‘exodus to commercial rivals’ on the grounds that they offer ‘more editorial freedom – and more money.’
- Away from the mightier flagships of UK national news media, it really is the end of an era for London’s regional press this week, as Time Out London issues its last print copy after 54 years (we reported on the reasons for this sad, but not unusual, decision in our 13 April edition). So make sure to pick up your copy this week – it’ll be a piece of history!
- Meanwhile, since the latest consolidation of regional newspaper groups first announced (and covered by LDN) back in March it has been confirmed that senior Archant staff are being decimated and that its London titles (including the likes of Ham & High and Ilford Recorder) ‘will become part of Newsquest South East.’ Culture Minister Nadine Dorries may yet throw a spanner in the works, warning that she could intervene to safeguard competition in the regional newspaper market. Most recently, Newsquest has reported healthy profits, but also – ominously – shed 18% of its staff during 2021.
AND THE WINNER IS...
The winners of The Davidson Prize have been announced. Co-Living in the Countryside, a group comprised of Charles Holland Architects, the Quality of Life Foundation, Verity-Jane Keefe, and Joseph Zeal Henry, won thanks to their model for rural co-living. The winner of the People’s Choice Prize was Recipro-City by Heta-Architects which ‘proposes a model for co-living built on a reciprocal framework of positive, life-affirming actions’. Meanwhile, LCA client HB Reavis has had its One Waterloo scheme shortlisted for the Future Place category in The Pineapples. The winner will be announced at an evening awards party, taking place after The Festival of Place on the 6 July.
LCA DESIGN PRESENTS
Our in-house, full-service design studio has delivered all the print and online design assets for the promotion of West End LIVE 2022 – a free musical theatre event that is put on annually in Trafalgar Square by Westminster City Council and the Society of London Theatre. Each show, from MAMMA MIA! to Hamilton, performs a 5 – 10 minute medley of their biggest hits. The event will be taking place this weekend (25 – 26 June) if anyone fancies dropping into the square for a glass of Pimm’s and some free theatre. For more details, visit their website.
VIADUCT GOES GREEN
The National Trust, working with LCA client Twelve Architects & Masterplanners, has started work on planting the Castlefield Viaduct project in Manchester, which is set to open to the public on 3 July. More than 3,000 plants will be added to the Victorian viaduct including county flower, cotton grass and fern species once collected by suffragist and botanist Lydia Becker. Planters have been designed to mirror the curve of the viaduct and their width is the same as the railway tracks that once transported goods to the Great Northern Warehouse. Castlefield Viaduct was originally built by Heenan & Froude and will be free to visit but must be booked in advance.
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