“The LDN team is depleted this week, a confluence of a covid wave and holiday season. So it’s a short edition but not an especially sweet one, depending on your tolerance for Boris-based schadenfreude.
A Government on the brink and two major London institutions not far off it at a time when we really need a plan, a strategy, or at least the glimmer of a coherent thought or two from those at the helm.
If we are to take a lesson from this week’s stories it might be that leadership and accountability matters. When there are no clear answers to the questions of who the next Met Commissioner reports to, who holds the Prime Minister to what standards or who ultimately is responsible for London’s economic future, it’s not terribly surprising that there is no obvious way through the mud.”
Jenna Goldberg, LCA Board Director and LDN Editor
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There’s always been a lot of bluff and bluster involved in relations between Whitehall and City Hall – but are things starting to go too far? Both TfL and the Metropolitan Police Service, nominally supervised by the Mayor, now find themselves under one form or another of “special measures”. At least one veteran commentator on London affairs smells a rat, arguing that the Johnson administration is “hellbent on seizing control of the nation’s capital from its devolved authorities and imposing its will on them”. An overstatement? Some London Conservative MPs have recently called for more Whitehall intervention in London’s affairs – with Twin Cities MP Nickie Aiken arguing TfL should be put under even closer Government supervision, and Hendon MP Matthew Offord saying ministers should ‘consider removing responsibility of policing from the Mayor of London’. The Mayor himself has suggested the national and local policing roles of the Metropolitan Police could be split as the national focus distracts the force from its “core function of keeping Londoners safe”. We suspect that most London MPs would be sceptical of any such attempt to diminish London’s Mayoralty – as attested by the recently-published first report of the All Party Parliamentary Group (APPG) for London as a Global City, which takes a strong regional Mayoralty as a given. But toxic relations between a Tory Government and Labour Mayor led to the abolition of the GLA’s predecessor in 1986…
LONDON PLANNING LATEST
- The Department for Levelling Up, Housing and Communities has published its latest planning statistics. Planning Resource has crunched the numbers, finding that Barking & Dagenham had the lowest approval rate of all English planning authorities – with Brent, Croydon, Hillingdon, Enfield and Hounslow also in the bottom 10 – and the City of London the highest.
- Redbridge Council has reportedly failed to meet the government’s housing target “for the sixteenth year in a row”, meaning its planning committee must make planning decisions with a “presumption in favour of sustainable development” and may also need to amend its Local Plan to allocate more land for housing development.
- Meanwhile, planning inspectors have recommended Waltham Forest withdraw its draft Local Plan, suggesting that its housing target, 27,000 homes over 2020-2035, averaging 1,770 homes per year – 40% above the London Plan’s target for the borough – is too high. The inspectors argue that in its current form the draft plan does not provide sufficient evidence that delivering against this target is feasible.
- In the latest episode of a long-running planning saga, Meadow Partners’ plans to redevelop Kingston's tallest building, the Tolworth Tower, have again failed after an appeal from the developer was rejected by a planning inspector. The application foresaw converting the now-vacant 22-storey office building into 261 flats, with two additional blocks of 19 and 15 floors built on the site, offering 238 additional homes (50 of which will be affordable), with an existing hotel, supermarket and car park on the site retained. The Inspector appears to have refused the appeal mainly on the grounds of loss of employment space.
- The Harrow Gospel Hall Trust’s appeal against Harrow Council’s refusal of plans to redevelop a church hall has been dismissed by a planning inspector. The scheme comprised 178 homes (34 affordable, or about 19%) across nine blocks up to seven storeys high. The inspector cited “harm to the character and appearance of the area” and affordable housing levels.
- Dominvs Group has been granted planning consent by Wandsworth Council for two hotels, at 15 and 11 storeys each, with a total of 837 rooms, designed by Squire & Partners. The scheme is in Nine Elms, near the US Embassy and on the site of a former Victorian pleasure garden.
- Greenwich Council’s Planning Board has approved (more here) plans by Helix 3D for the redevelopment of a warehouse currently being used as a church, into a new studio in Thamesmead. It is the second film studio to be approved this year by the council, which green-lit a new "world-leading" virtual production studio in Plumstead in February.
- The Department for Digital, Culture, Media and Sport has declined St Martins Property Group’s request for a “certificate of immunity from listing” for the old City Hall building recently vacated by the Mayor and London Assembly. Campaigners and some Assembly members have been calling for the building to be listed and DCMS’ move may pave the way for restrictions to be placed on whether it can be redeveloped.
- Barking & Dagenham’s Labour Leader Darren Rodwell will stand down in due course to run for election in Dame Margaret Hodge’s Barking Parliamentary seat at the next General Election.
- Danielle Denton has held the South Croydon ward seat for the Local Conservatives, after it was left vacant by Jason Perry’s election as Mayor of Croydon.
- Andy Haldane has been appointed Chair of the Levelling Up Advisory Council. Haldane is also the Chair of the Levelling Up Taskforce.
- Fiona MacGregor is set to step down as Chief Executive of the Regulator of Social Housing in the new year.
- Karen Cooksley has started a new role as Head of Planning at Blake Morgan LLP this week. Cooksley was formally a Partner at W Legal Limited.
- Marcus Fairs, the founder, CEO and editor-in-chief of architecture and design magazine Dezeen, has sadly passed away at the age of 54.
An open revolt in the heart of Government has left the Prime Minister on the brink. Following Johnson’s admission that he had failed to act despite being warned about inappropriate behaviour of Chris Pincher, his former Deputy Chief Whip who resigned last week following new allegations of sexual misconduct, both Chancellor Rishi Sunak and Health Secretary Sajid Javid resigned from their posts last night within the space of ten minutes – which some believe to be a coordinated attack against their former boss. In his resignation letter, Sunak said the high standards in politics were “worth fighting for” and that “we cannot continue like this”. Javid similarly said the British people had to the right to “expect integrity from their Government” and the Conservative Party was “bigger than any one individual”. The Prime Minister was quick to react and has appointed former Education Secretary Nadhim Zahawi as the new Chancellor and former Chief of Staff Brandon Lewis as Health Secretary. Since last night, and at the time of writing, a further 15 Ministers and 12 Parliamentary Private Secretaries have resigned, whilst most Cabinet Ministers have outlined their intentions to stay put for now. The former Health Secretary was heavily critical of his former Cabinet colleagues in his resignation speech to the Commons, insisting they had made an “active decision” to continue supporting the Prime Minister. Despite Johnson vowing to fight on, it is clear he faces considerable pressure to step down – reports suggest Conservative backbenchers may push to change party rules as early as today to force another vote of no confidence (and the Mail turned against him at the weekend, which really does not bode well for the PM).
"40 NEW HOSPITALS"
In what could be another major blow to the beleaguered PM, his 2019 election pledge to build 40 new hospitals by 2030 is to face an investigation by the National Audit Office (NAO). Having already been criticised by the opposition for counting major refurbishment work in its tally, the New Hospitals Programme will be placed under a “value for money” review following the Shadow Health Secretary Wes Streeting’s call for a probe into the delay in allocating funding to NHS trusts. The review will be conducted later this year and could cover increasing costs due to rising inflation and whether the hospitals can be classified as new – the findings will be reported in 2023. Elsewhere, an “extraordinary” row has broken out between two London NHS hospital trusts, with University College London hospital (UCLH) accusing the Great Ormond Street (GOSH) children’s hospital of endangering the safety of seriously ill patients through its £190m site redevelopment scheme. The former has warned construction site traffic will result in its patients being denied time-critical care.
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