“30 years ago this autumn London First was launched, following the – some would say surprising - re-election of John Major’s Conservative government. The people behind the launch, most notably the founding Chairman, the late Allen Sheppard and the first CEO, Stephen O’Brien believed very strongly that London was being ignored by government and around 50 businesses agreed and put down some money – £5,000 a pop – to create the organisation. Squashed into small offices in in the roof of Grand Met’s HQ in the west end, the first logo resembled something from Lech Walesa’s Solidarnosc movement of the 1980s (see below how it's evolved since then).
Jump forward to yesterday and, after a couple of logo changes, London First finally re-branded to BusinessLDN. ‘Finally’ because the name ‘London First’, whilst appropriate in 1992, has undoubtedly had its time. Today it is not about putting London first, but about London’s role in the country as a whole. Yet whilst the identity has changed, the broad vision hasn’t, although it has been subtly tweaked to now read ‘At BusinessLDN, our mission is to make London the best city in the world in which to do business, working with and for the whole UK.’
It will be fascinating to see how BusinessLDN, currently backed by around 200 organisations, moves forward. The never-ending saga of TfL’s funding, low levels of confidence in the Met Police, London’s uncertain status post Brexit and Covid, tensions between the Mayor and government, and the latter’s focus on levelling up are all big issues that individually and collectively threaten London’s world city status. It’s a big job.”
Robert Gordon Clark, LCA Senior Advisor and Partner
London First (now BusinessLDN's) logo through the ages (1992-2022)
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RACE TO THE BOTTOM?
The Conservatives’ leadership contest is in full swing – so where are we, where are we headed and what does it mean for London? An initial list of 11 candidates was whittled down to eight yesterday and further cut to six today. The process foresees several ballots of Tory MPs to eliminate all but two candidates, followed by a vote of the party’s members, such that a new Prime Minister can be installed on 5 September. For the moment, Rishi Sunak, Penny Mordaunt and Liz Truss are leading the race, but this a convoluted, dirty and unpredictable campaign. So where does London come in? Sadly, it doesn’t, at least not right now. Most candidates’ policy pledges (see a handy tracker here) comprise a heady mix of tax and spending cuts with a culture war chaser and little reference to the particular challenges faced by London. Indeed, why would there be? For starters, none of the candidates are MPs elected by Londoners. Furthermore, the ‘electorate’ of this leadership contest consists of 358 Tory MPs (of whom only 21, or 6%, were elected in London) and in the final round somewhere between 160,000 and 200,000 party members (in 2020, we estimated that about 15,000, or between 7% and 9%, were in London). Ultimately, as explained by Centre for London’s Nick Bowes, it’s the day after that matters, as an opportunity to ‘reset’ toxic relations between City Hall and No 10.
TFL ON HOLD
The Evening Standard’s Ross Lydall said earlier today that Transport for London(TfL) looks likely to get little more than yet another financial ‘sticking plaster’ and we now know he was right. This afternoon it was announced that TfL’s current funding agreement with Government is to be extended, yet again by a couple of weeks, to 28 July. In a written statement to Parliament, Transport Secretary Grant Shapps said that the extension is ‘necessary due to the unsatisfactory progress made by TfL on meeting agreed deadlines, including relating to pensions’. Nothing to do with the mess at Whitehall of course… In any event, finances aren’t the only issue for TfL, with Transport Commissioner Andy Byford saying that he is ‘concerned about the exodus of talent’ from the organisation following the announcement that Deputy Commissioner Gareth Powell is to resign in September (TfL also lost CEO Simon Kilonback and Customer Director Vernon Everitt earlier this year, amongst others). In some more positive news, TfL has this month made a number of exciting announcements. Not only have Night Tube services on the Northern line now resumed, but the new Barking Riverside station will open this weekend. In other good news, passengers who are customers of Three, EE, Vodafone and Virgin Media O2 will all soon have access to high-speed mobile coverage on the Tube. Five central London stations are set to get coverage in the next six months, while it will go live on parts of the Tube by summer 2023.
Separately, the recent ‘Uber files’ revelations have laid bare Uber’s rather aggressive lobbying tactics. Back in 2019, TfL had found the private hire company ‘to be not fit and proper’ to operate in the capital and only reinstated it’s operating license after gruelling court hearings, negotiations and enforcement action. At the time, some accused London’s transport authority of smothering an innovative company in red tape, but in hindsight, it looks rather like TfL was simply doing its job.
MET UNDER NEW MANAGEMENT
In the glare of Whitehall’s implosion, it was easy to miss the appointment of Sir Mark Rowley as the new Commissioner of the Metropolitan Police. Upon the announcement, Rowley said that he wants to ‘lead the renewal of policing by consent which has been so heavily dented in recent years’ and pledged that the Met would ‘work with London’s diverse communities’. Rowley is a former head of the Met Police’s counter-terrorism unit and was knighted after leading the response to the Manchester Arena, Westminster Bridge and London Bridge terrorist attacks. He was also previously Chief Constable of Surrey Police, before taking on his first role in the Met as Assistant Commissioner for Specialist Crime and Operations. He takes on the role of Commissioner at a difficult time for the Met. Previous Commissioner Dame Cressida Dick resigned after a number of controversies, with the force having been placed into special measures by HM Inspectorate of Constabulary last month. You’d like to think that the only way is up from here.
LONDON PLANNING... CONTINUES
The City of London Corporation has approved Evans Randall Investors’ proposals for a £173m 10-storey office block at 3-4 Holborn Circus. According to the City Corporation, a BREEAM pre-assessment suggests the development is on track to achieve a sustainability rating of ‘outstanding’.
The authority has also recommended Ploberger Hotel Group’s proposals to demolish Boundary House at 7-17 Jewry Street, and replace it with a 311-bedroom luxury hotel, for approval.
British Land’s plans to redevelop the Printworks building to deliver 490,000 sq ft of commercial space at their Canada Water scheme, including office, flexible workspace and retail have been approved by Southwark Council’s planning committee.
Vistry Partnerships has submitted plans for 274 affordable homes across four blocks ranging from ten to 16 storeys as part of the second phase of the Meridian Water site, part of a wider regeneration scheme led by Enfield Council.
Hounslow Council has submitted an application to deliver 967 homes (at least 50% affordable) as part of a plan to regenerate the Convent Way Estate. A total of 85% of residents balloted at a previous stage voted in favour of the proposals to regenerate the existing estate in Southall.
Maxine Holdsworth is set to take over as CEO of Kensington & Chelsea Council later in the year, succeeding Barry Quirk.
Former head of CBRE Martin Samworth has been appointed by Dominvs Group as a Non-Executive Director.
CASH FOR CRICK
In a huge vote of confidence for London as a whole and for its life sciences sector in particular, the Francis Crick Institute has secured a sizeable investment. Government agency UK Research and Innovation, in conjunction with Crick founding partners Medical Research Council, Cancer Research UK and Wellcome, have announced £1bn in funding over the next seven years to support and expand the institute's pioneering work in biomedical research. The Crick, which began operating in 2015, is based at the heart of London’s Knowledge Quarter. It houses over 2,000 people and more than 100 research groups on-site and has links to research organisations, public agencies and private companies nationally and worldwide. The investment has been hailed by the Prime Minister, with Boris Johnson saying ‘thanks to £1bn in new funding, the Crick can go further to propel scientific discovery forward, harnessing British ingenuity, supporting new innovative companies to grow, and cementing the UK’s place as a science superpower.’ Hear! Hear!
ROYAL DOCKS LATEST
The Crick is not the only beneficiary of central Government funding this week – an unusual, if very welcome turn of events at a time of ‘levelling up’. Homes England has announced it is awarding £233m to the Silvertown Partnership, to support the construction of 6,000 new homes (50% affordable) and 1.8m sq ft of workspace at Silvertown Quays, in Newham. The funding is more specifically a loan, extended through the Home Building Fund and aimed at improving enabling infrastructure to unlock the site for residential and commercial development. The Silvertown Partnership is a joint venture between LCA client Lendlease and Starwood Capital. Plans for phase one of the scheme, comprising about 1,000 new homes, have already secured detailed planning permission from Newham Council. The Partnership’s 61-acre scheme forms an important component of the wider Royal Docks Enterprise Zone, an area of huge potential overseen by the London Economic Action Partnership (LEAP) and supported by the Mayor of London. Homes England’s funding is especially welcome considering this is a complex, challenging regeneration area, which in the words of Sadiq Khan himself ‘has vexed planners and politicians alike for the last 40 years.’
Indeed, in separate news, it has been reported that the Mayor has this week removed Advanced Business Parks (ABP) from the nearby Royal Albert Dock project. The developer was appointed to lead the site’s regeneration by then Mayor Boris Johnson in 2013, but a decade later, the BBC says only about 10% of this site has been built out and that a large proportion of what commercial space that has been constructed remains vacant.
OLYMPIC LEGACY BUNFIGHT
The East End more generally presents opportunities and challenges in equal measure – as attested by the rising pitch of the long-running debate over the Olympic Legacy. With the ten-year anniversary of the 2012 London games fast approaching (26 July), ever more commentators are weighing in on whether its promised ‘legacy’ of economic and social regeneration has materialised. On the one hand, some pundits allege ‘a massive betrayal’, arguing that the extensive redevelopment of the Olympic Park area and its surroundings has not delivered the affordable housing and economic opportunities needed by local communities. Indeed, many local residents have seen significant upheaval over the past decade. Others however argue that the Games were a boon to locals, especially in terms of employment. Others yet offer timely reminders that brownfield clearance, housing and other development in this area was always going to be a complex, nuanced process – and that it is far from over, meaning it cannot be judged as such. In the words of one famous London storyteller, ‘much has changed and everything is the same’ in this still fast-evolving area of the city. Ultimately, this is a complicated, not always comfortable, yet worthwhile debate and we are sure to hear more arguments, from all sides, over the coming weeks. For a superb account of the project Dave Hill’s book, Olympic Park: When Britain Built Something Big is selling well and available to order here.
Meanwhile, last week’s rash of resignations means some departments are led by scratch-built ministerial teams – the Department for Levelling Up, Housing and Communities is one of them. Secretary of State Michael Gove was sacked, whilst junior ministers Stuart Andrew MP, Duncan Baker MP, Neil O’Brien MP, Kemi Badenoch MP and Lord Stephen Greenhalgh resigned, leaving only Eddie Hughes MP and Lord Richard Harrington as the last men standing. The Prime Minister has appointed Greg Clark MP to take over as Secretary of State (a role he has held before), Marcus Jones MP as Housing Minister, Paul Scully MP as a second Minister of State (portfolio unknown, though he also remains Minister for London), and Lia Nici MP as Parliamentary Under Secretary of State (exact brief also unclear). The replacement of Lord Greenhalgh as Minister for Building Safety and Fire remains unknown as of writing, possibly due to his resignation on Friday, after new appointments had been made. The sheer influx of new names and faces, at a time of intense legislative and policymaking activity, has certainly stoked fears and uncertainty in the built environment sector. However, Clark is an old hand, with extensive experience in related briefs and perhaps most importantly, this is now a transitional cabinet, liable to limit itself to trundling forward on ‘autopilot’.
NET ZERO(ING IN)
Meanwhile, it’s clearly been left to industry to lead the way on net zero – and the built environment sector is certainly rising to the challenge. In its response to the Government’s consultation on the reform of capital allowances, the British Property Federation (BPF) has made a number of suggestions about how the decarbonisation of the industry can be accelerated. The BPF is calling on the Government to increase tax relief on the capital spent on project which support the Government’s aim to reach net zero by 2050, including those which replace ‘environmentally inefficient plant and machinery’, projects which ‘sustainably retrofit or repurpose existing buildings’ and those which would contribute to the regeneration of the high streets. The BPF has also urged the Government to introduce a new tax credit system like that which is applied to spending on Research & Development. Separately, 17 firms including Canary Wharf Group, Laing O’Rourke and Mace have signed up to the ConcreteZero initiative, meaning that they will use 30% low emission concrete by 2030 and 50% by 2050. The initiative was launched by Climate Group, with the World Green Building Council and the World Business Council for Sustainable Development. As part of ConcreteZero, signatories will measure and report the carbon emissions in the concrete they use.
Whilst all eyes are on national politics, this past Thursday delivered a couple of interesting council by-election results in London. In Camden, the Hampstead Town ward by-election was won (more here) by the Liberal Democrats' Linda Chung with a comfortable majority, gaining the seat from Labour. The by-election was called after Labour councillor Adrian Cohen stood down, saying he could not balance the commitment with his full time job. Cohen himself had been elected only in May, in a surprise result for a ward seen as a safe Tory spot. The Tories for their part were so keen to win back the seat that they allegedly published a leaflet triumphantly claiming to have ousted Boris Johnson, telling voters that “you spoke and we listened”. Meanwhile, in Hackney, the De Beauvoir ward by-election saw Labour's Joe Walker withstand (more here) an insurgent effort by the Green Party. The by-election was called after first-time councillor Tom Dewey stepped down due to unspecified personal reasons. Whilst Labour won a sizeable majority in May, only 27 votes separated them from the Greens this time, further confirming that the party is mounting a not-insignificant challenge to Labour in Hackney. Meanwhile, political analyst Lewis Baston has published further analysis of the 2022 Local Elections, looking at some of the less-obvious underlying trends and their possible electoral implications.
WE KNOW LONDON
We like to say that “We Know London” and the extensive work of our Politics, Engagement & Planning team over recent months is proof enough, as we’ve been supporting development schemes right across the capital. Between May and July alone, we’ve been consulting in 11 different Boroughs for no less than 16 projects. Our team have been preparing for, organising and managing more than 80 in-person and online events, exhibitions and meetings, engaging and getting feedback from over 3,300 people. Our diligent in-house Design Studio is meanwhile a vital part of all this work, working with our consultation experts to devise a range of print and digital materials.
LCA SELLS IN
Following last week’s announcement that Boris will step down as PM, we are pleased to have helped our client, digital-twin platform VU.CITY’s CEO Jamie Holmes, place a reactive comment in EG highlighting the importance of the next PM delivering on the government’s Levelling Up promises. Separately, LCA helped secure two comments for our long-standing architectural client Broadway Malyan in the Architects’ Journal and EG, from Director of Urbanism Danny Crump and Head of Housing & New Neighbourhoods Jeff Nottage respectively, exploring the setbacks to Levelling Up and housing targets caused by the government upheaval.
LCA prides itself on its intelligence-led approach to PR and communications and our dedicated insight 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.
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