“And then there were two, as former Chancellor Rishi Sunak and Foreign Secretary Liz Truss were selected by Conservative MPs to go forward to a ballot of members, which will be completed on 5 September.
This final MPs' vote coincided with the current PM’s last PMQs. He received a round of applause as he left the House, but only from his own benches (and Theresa May notably did not join in). His exit followed the hottest day in the history of our country and a massive call on London’s fire brigade – which had its busiest day since the second world war. Whilst he banged the drum for his achievements, the leader of the opposition was fed all his lines from the two TV debates between the candidates sparring to be the new leader of the Tory party. The “blue on blue” attacks have clearly done the government no favours - whoever wins the leadership election - and having watched both debates from start to finish I found them pretty unimpressive.
Frankly we could all do with a break and that applies to LDN as much as anyone. So no edition next week, but we will be back for Wednesday 3 August as LCA starts its 24th year of business.”
Robert Gordon Clark, LCA Senior Advisor and Partner
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A RESILIENT CITY
Judge not a city on the disasters that befall it, but on how its authorities tackle – and learn – from them. This week we have seen an almighty mobilisation of City Hall, the boroughs, the London Ambulance Service and other public agencies in response to a heatwave. Record-breaking temperatures triggered an unprecedented Level 4 heat health alert and a major incident specifically in relation to the sheer number of fires attended by the London Fire Brigade (LFB) – and that’s on the back of many misfortunes for London over recent years and months. The capital’s resilience structures deployed promptly in response to Covid-19 and we’ve also seen an equally rapid mobilisation to improve preparedness against polio and monkeypox over recent weeks. The LFB’s “busiest day since World War II” this week follows a busy few months, tackling fires affecting everything from tower blocks to warehouses. We are now warned of flash flooding but at least the outlook seems better that last year; London Councils recently published an encouraging update on work done since to improve our readiness, with the Mayor advising the occupiers of vulnerable basement properties to take action.
...AND WHAT IT COSTS
Of course, London’s resilience does not come cheap and cannot be taken for granted. Councils including Waltham Forest, Islington and Tower Hamlets have recently announced cost of living relief packages for vulnerable households, but the boroughs themselves face whirling financial headwinds. We covered the rather grim London-wide picture for local government finance in our 22 June edition, but the problem was more recently highlighted by the admission of the Royal Borough of Kensington & Chelsea (one of London’s historically wealthy boroughs) that ‘the council’s capital programmes, as currently scoped and budgeted, are unlikely to be deliverable in the medium to long term’. Emergency services are also at the end of their tether, with the Fire Brigade Union complaining of ‘beyond ridiculous’ staff shortages and the London Ambulance Service joining peers elsewhere in England in warning that they are at the limit of their operating capacity. Whilst mostly affecting non-emergency services, industrial action over pay is disrupting services from rail, to Royal Mail and bin collections and presumably much else besides. Indeed, proposed under-inflation pay rises (inflation is currently running at over 9%) for doctors, police and teachers risk a wide cross-section of public sector workers also going on strike. And don’t even get us started on TfL’s latest financial worries (more here). Resolving London’s funding conundrum has no single solution, but new taxes may be unavoidable, whilst policy wonks on both the centre left and the centre right argue that further fiscal devolution is also key.
LONDON PLANNING ROUNDUP
The High Court has ruled that there are no grounds on which to overturn Lewisham Council’s decision to grant planning permission for new council homes on the Sydenham Hill estate. The plans, by the City of London Corporation for the demolition of a block of flats and the delivery of 110 new social homes, have been subject to legal action by local residents.
Councillors in Lewisham have granted planning permission for plans by Peabody and Bellway Homes for 220 homes in Deptford, 77 of which would be affordable.
Hounslow Council has granted planning permission for new temporary training facilities for Brentford FC at their Jersey Road grounds, which should be operational by the end of 2022.
Comer Group’s revised plans for the St Andrew the Apostle School at the North London Business Park have been approved by Barnet council’s strategic planning committee.
Just outside London, we also note the recent approval of yet another major new film studio scheme, namely Hudson Pacific Properties and Blackstone’s Sunset Waltham Cross Studios project, which was granted planning consent by Broxbourne councillors.
Mike Jackson has been announced as the new joint CEO of Richmond and Wandsworth councils. His appointment is expected to be approved by both local authorities this week.
Alan Lovell has been appointed as the new Chair of the Environment Agency. He will take up the post on 26 September.
Fiona Ryland has been announced as the new Government Chief People Officer, while Mike Potter will take on the role of Government Chief Digital Officer.
CEO of Wates Group David Allen is stepping down from his role. Chief Financial Officer Philip Wainwright is taking over as CEO in an interim capacity.
Paul Nowak has been announced as the Trades Union Congress’ next general secretary, taking over from Frances O’Grady when she retires later in the year.
John Martin, the non-executive chair of Countryside Partnerships, has resigned with immediate effect. Senior Independent Director Douglas Hurt has taken over his roles.
Professor Clare Anderson, Lance Batchelor, Sir Stephen Deuchar, Murdoch MacLennan, William Nye and Professor Andrew Thompson have been appointed as Trustees of the Royal Museums Greenwich for four years.
John Stevens has been announced as the new political editor of the Daily Mirror, succeeding Pippa Crerar who is moving back to the Guardian as the political editor.
Canary Wharf Group has appointed former HS2 director and Euston Partnership Managing Director Tom Venner as its Managing Director of Development; CWG has also appointed Michael Pagnotta, formerly previously a Partner and Head of Group Learning at Knight Frank, as their Director of People Engagement.
JLL has promoted Catherine Thomas and Phoebe Geake to become its new Co-Heads of its central London property asset management business.
ON BRICKS AND MORTAR
With the Conservative Party leadership contenders now whittled down to the final two, it’s worth looking at the promises they have made in relation to planning and development. In an interview with The Telegraph, Foreign Secretary Liz Truss said that as Prime Minister she would scrap the Government’s existing housing targets, calling them ‘Stalinist’. Former Chancellor Rishi Sunak, the frontrunner amongst Conservative MPs, has however remained relatively silent on the matter, only saying at a ConservativeHome event that getting planning permission for the number of homes required is currently ’a challenge’ and pointing to brownfield land, urban densification and modular housing as solutions to increasing the housing supply. Overall, the candidates’ positioning on built environment issues is pretty ‘white bread’ for Tory politicians, with the exception of Truss’ point on housing targets being scrapped (which could have far-reaching implications). Now that we know it’s set to be a Truss v Sunak contest for the top job, it is down to the Conservative Party members to decide who will come out on top, with the result to be announced on 5 September. Until then we hope to hear more from them on these issues…
MARSHAM STREET READY
It seems the caretaker ministerial team at the Department for Levelling Up, Housing and Communities (DLUHC) has not let the political situation distract from the job at hand. Since his appointment as Secretary of State, Greg Clark has announced that the Government has sent contracts to major developers, placing a legal obligation on them to remediate dangerous cladding on buildings which they constructed, thus reinforcing his predecessor’s commitment to ‘make industry pay’. On that point, last week the High Court ruled that contractor Mulalley & Co had to pay for the removal of dangerous cladding that it had fitted on four tower blocks in Gosport, on the south coast of England. The claim was brought by landlord Martlet Homes, a subsidiary of Hyde Group, and is believed to be the first time that liability for the remediation of cladding has been established in court – a potentially significant precedent.
Back to DLUHC, the Department has also announced that local authorities are now able to apply for a share of the £180m Brownfield Land Release Fund 2 to deliver housing. Bidding has also now opened for the second round of the Government’s Levelling Up Fund for projects which ‘improve everyday life for people across the UK’. The first round did see some funding allocated to London, with an active travel project in Ealing receiving £7.2m.
Green Party London Assembly Member Sian Berry has said that the estate regeneration ballots policy she campaigned for already ‘needs reform’. The policy, which makes balloting residents a precondition of Mayoral funding for social housing estate regeneration schemes involving demolition, was implemented in 2018 by Sadiq Khan. At the time, most social landlords were sceptical, but four years later ballots have been extensively implemented and significantly, only one is known to have produced a result rejecting redevelopment. Berry’s report tacitly acknowledges this, but argues that her review of 21 ballots across London reveals ‘a number of failings’ in how ballots have been run, arguing practices seen would ‘breach the rules of democratic elections’. Berry’s research covers only about two thirds of the projects balloted. It focuses on the number of homes to be demolished in each scheme and interviews with regeneration plans’ critics. Conversely, it glosses over (and even omits) factors such as the new homes and other benefits delivered by schemes, not to mention the views of supporters. The report nevertheless makes for an informative read, as do Berry’s recommendations.
WELLBEING AT LCA
As the rising heat challenged even those of us with the calmest of demeanours, the LCA team took part in Mental Health Skills for Managers training, learning how to spot when a colleague might be struggling, how to ask them about it and, crucially how to listen and respond. The half day session was led by MHFA England and is part of our journey to becoming a more inclusive employer.
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