THE CITY THAT NEVER SLEEPS
The Mayor has finally launched his Cultural Strategy, which sets out his vision for maintaining London’s leading position as a cultural hub. And that's just the half of it this week!
Elsewhere, estate regeneration is front and centre again with Green Party Assembly Member Sian Berry firing criticism at Sadiq for ‘dodging’ his own new ballot rules and we also look at public safety improvements one year on from the Westminster terror attacks.
Meanwhile the pre-election period has begun and with 3 May inching ever closer, things are really heating up in our regular London Elections section.
And in LCA’s week, we are supporting the release of a new air quality study commissioned by the Northbank Business Improvement District.
As always, we’d love to hear your feedback, so do feel free to get in touch with our research team at email@example.com – and do follow us on Twitter @LDNComms if you don’t already!
CULTURE STRATEGY FOR THE CAPITAL
Sadiq finally launched his draft Culture Strategy at the Battersea Arts Centre last Friday. ‘Culture for All Londoners’ lays out Sadiq’s vision for London as a global capital of culture with an emphasis on ‘access to culture’. The strategy pledges political and financial support to a number of grant programmes, performance events and related projects including £70m to create a new site at West Smithfield for the Museum of London (announced in January 2016), a project that LCA is proud to have supported for over two years. It is notable that the Strategy explicitly addresses the connection between culture and the built environment, with the aim of incorporating culture into the Mayor’s wider ‘Good Growth’ agenda. It reiterates Sadiq’s promise to protect London’s pubs and music venues and especially affordable creative workspace. The Strategy calls for the integration of ‘creative infrastructure’ in all major masterplanning and regeneration projects. It also revives the Mayor’s pledge to establish a Creative Land Trust to ‘acquire property which can be rented out’ to ‘creative practitioners’ at affordable rents. Little has been said by the Mayor about this last initiative for over a year and back in October 2016, Sadiq had suggested that the Trust’s purpose was to ‘enable access to finance and soft loans to secure ownership for permanent creative workspace’. This could represent yet another sign that Sadiq is embracing ever more interventionist approaches to safeguard creative workspaces. The public consultation on the strategy is open until 19 June 2018.
LIGHTS, MUSIC, CONSTRUCTION!
The launch of Sadiq’s cultural strategy coincides with several developments that aim to boost London’s creative industries and buff up iconic patches of its built landscape. The London Borough of Barking & Dagenham has selected a partnership between Pacifica Ventures and Media Content Capital (MCC) to collaborate with its own development company, Be First, as ‘preferred builder and operator’ for the development of the ambitious new ‘Made in Dagenham’ film studios and media complex. Meanwhile, Camden Council has appointed Lendlease to manage the refurbishment of the old Town Hall building in King’s Cross. The project is intended to renovate the listed building and improve council facilities whilst releasing unused space for use as commercial ventures, thus providing the council with much-needed revenue. Finally, Islington Council’s plans to give the Old Street roundabout a facelift have progressed to the next stage, as four proposals – by Dar, Gpad London, Nicholas Hare Architects and EPR Architects - have been shortlisted from an initial longlist of 39. However, it appears these will only ‘inform’ the council’s upcoming formal tender process.
THE ESTATE OF THINGS
Green Assembly Member Sian Berry has criticised the Mayor’s sincerity in pledging ballots for residents on strategic regeneration schemes receiving funding from City Hall. Last Thursday, Sadiq confirmed to Berry that he won't be signing any new funding contracts until the current consultation – into how ballots can be encouraged through GLA funding – ends. However it was revealed in an FOI response by City Hall the following day that the Mayor signed off 34 estate regeneration schemes after consultation had ended on his draft Good Practice Guide to Estate Regeneration (14 March 2017). Berry suggests in her blog that in doing so Khan was 'dodging new ballot rules' that he had set out. Crunching the numbers, Berry also notes that 16 of the schemes were signed off within two months of the Mayor’s promise being announced (2 February) – suggesting this would be at a point where the policy would have been well understood – including major schemes such as Cressingham Gardens in Lambeth among others. With estate regeneration arguably the capital’s most politically sensitive issue at present, it is not unsurprising that the Mayor has tried to keep his promises to support partners and unlock additional housing on the one hand, but offer a legally binding vote to affected residents on the other. However, Sadiq’s attempts to square the circle on this occasion have been laid bare – and reflect the difficulty the Mayor has in trying to please everyone in the capital.
WALTHAM FOREST APPROVAL
Waltham Forest Council’s decision in December last year to grant outline planning permission for Capital & Regional’s plans to redevelop the Walthamstow Mall shopping centre continues to generate reactions. Hundreds of local campaigners – some of which are affiliated to Momentum and the local Socialist Party – have taken to the streets and even the London Assembly chamber to voice their discontent. The scheme will see 500 new homes built across four tower blocks – one of which will stack up to around 29-storeys – as well as a revamped town square and extension to the Mall. Now, Sadiq has also weighed in, giving the go ahead to the scheme but raising affordable homes provision from 20% to 30% in an effort to appease disenchanted local residents – although the 10% uplift has actually been gleaned by the Mayor in the form of a financial contribution of £7.28m. Local campaigners are now claiming that Sadiq has ‘betrayed the people of Walthamstow’ with one calling the decision ‘outrageous.’ It remains to be seen whether the project will have an impact in the lead up to the May local elections.
This week has seen a series of announcements made to improve public safety in the capital as London marks the Parliament and London Bridge terrorist attacks of one year ago. The Mayor and the Metropolitan Police confirmed that £412m will be invested into tackling counter-terrorism and organised crime through a new dedicated hub in London – £250m of which has been allocated for the purchase of the Empress State Building, in Hammersmith and Fulham, where the hub will be located. The site has been trailed by various media outlets as for sale by Capco and returning to its former owner, the Mayor’s Office for Police and Crime (MOPAC). In other efforts to make London a safer place to live, Justice Secretary David Gauke and the Mayor signed a new Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) working towards the devolution of criminal justice services in the capital. The MoU sets out the initial process for collaborative working and identifies areas for further development leading to implementation from March 2019. Tributes have also begun to mark the four terrorist attacks that struck the capital last year. #LondonUnited will be projected on to the Houses of Parliament, London Bridge, Finsbury Park Mosque and Parsons Green Tube station on the anniversaries of each attack, and the public will be able to sign a digital book of hope at City Hall as a way of paying their respects.
TRAINS, PLANES AND AUTOMOBILES…
There are mishaps to be found across each mode of transport in the capital this week. On the rails, staff at DLR operator KeolisAmey Docklands have gone on strike over a range of issues, including an alleged ‘comprehensive breakdown in industrial relations.’ Up in the air, there has been fresh evidence to suggest that a third runway at Heathrow could even lead to a net economic loss, according to research commissioned by the No Third Runway Coalition. The Transport Select Committee has also asked that further concessions be made on Heathrow’s third runway such as tougher rules on night flights and further assessments on its environmental impact if it is to go ahead. And, for car users, The Telegraph this week listed the 10 slowest local authority areas for average vehicle traffic speeds in London, with the City of London being reporting as the slowest at 7.6mph. Even those who travel via two feet may find themselves a little riled following a three-week extension of the second round of consultation on the pedestrianisation of Oxford Street, after TfL published the wrong email address for people submitting their responses.
It has been announced that Fiona Fletcher-Smith, the GLA’s Executive Director of Development, Enterprise and Environment, will be leaving City Hall to join L&Q. Fletcher-Smith will join as the housing association’s Group Director for Development and Sales and head up the delivery of plans to create 100,000 homes over the next decade.
NETWORK RAIL PROPERTY
We were interested to read that Goldman Sachs and the Wellcome Trust have confirmed the submission of a joint bid, worth a reported £1.2bn, to acquire Network Rail's commercial property arm. Network Rail had announced its intention to divest itself of its commercial property arm and a portfolio of 5,500 properties across England and Wales last November, including a number of railway arches in London. The announcement had generated some concerns by existing leaseholders – though the company has offered assurances that its current contracts are safe. But the sale is evidently sparking significant interest from investors and the bid represents a vote of confidence in an unusual niche of the capital’s property market. Indeed, it is quite exciting that both a major US investment bank and a medical charity with deep roots in London see real potential in the creative use of such spaces.
SELLING ST GEORGE
Vacant hospital land has been sold to a national housebuilder for more than £40m, securing a reported record reinvestment for the NHS. NHS Property Services sold the surplus former St George’s Hospital site, in Hornchurch, Essex, to Bellway after securing outline permission for 290 new homes, including 15% affordable housing. The transaction is the largest single capital receipt for a surplus site achieved by NHS Property Services, with the proceeds all to be fully reinvested in the NHS estate. A portion of the site has been retained for a potential new health facility. NHS Property Services has achieved almost £300m in receipts since its inception in 2013.
DAYLIGHT & SUNLIGHT
The Planning Inspectorate has made a pivotal decision on a major London scheme, supporting a more contextual approach to the assessment of the impact of daylight and sunlight in high density developments. It had been cited as a key reason for refusal on a residential-led scheme in Tower Hamlets but specialist advisor GIA presented a new approach at appeal, which included using VU.CITY – the highly accurate digital model of London – to demonstrate that the impact was acceptable. The decision is of significant relevance across London and not only challenges the current ‘one size fits all’ approach of the BRE but means that guidelines should be assessed in a fresh way. In his decision letter, the Inspector agreed “that blanket application of the BRE guide optimum standards, which are best achieved in relatively low-rise well-spaced layouts, is not appropriate in this instance”.
VIABILITY FOCUS ON FOREIGN INVESTMENT
The housing crisis, long-standing concerns over the sources of foreign investment and latterly, strained relations with Russia, are putting the wider British property industry under ever-increasing scrutiny. The government last week unveiled its response to a consultation on a proposed register of beneficial owners of overseas companies and other legal entities that own UK property. In this response, the government committed to publishing a relevant draft Bill this summer, with the aim of it becoming operational by 2021. It also promised to introduce sanctions - including fines and even prison sentences - to enforce the relevant rules. Meanwhile, Manchester City Council approved a motion during its 21 March session, in which commits it to publishing viability assessments submitted by developers to justify the level of affordable housing included in their planning applications. Closer to home, Sadiq has already called for accelerating the rollout of the foreign owners’ register, while the Manchester City Council motion explicitly notes similar moves previously made by Labour-led London Boroughs in Greenwich and Lambeth (Southwark, Islington and Hounslow have also adopted comparable policies). Notwithstanding the desirability or effectiveness of such initiatives, they are gaining significant political currency and increasingly becoming the norm in London and nationally. It is telling that the local election manifestos of Labour opposition groups in both Westminster and Kensington & Chelsea commit, respectively, to ‘making as many documents as legally possible open to the public’ and ‘an open-book approach to financial viabilities.’
LABOUR’S JEWISH VOTE
In spite of confidence running high ahead of the local elections reflected by a strong campaign launch last week in Trafford, the Labour Party may yet be electorally damaged by the continued accusations of the presence and tolerance of anti-Semitism within the Party, and the perceived lack of any real action by Jeremy Corbyn. Looking to London, securing the support of Jewish voters partly concentrated in the North West of the capital could be crucial in deciding council control in marginal boroughs of Tory-held Barnet, and even Labour-held Harrow. Haringey’s cabinet member for regeneration Councillor Joe Goldberg and planning committee chair Councillor Natan Doron have both spoken to the Jewish Chronicle of it being ‘impossible’ to be a Jewish Labour councillor and about the levels of anti-Semitism they have received from Labour members in the Borough. Both of course have been de-selected as part of a much reported ‘purge’ of moderate Cllrs. Corbyn has now written to the Chair of the Jewish Leadership Council and the President of the Board of Deputies of British Jews vowing to fight anti-Semitism as their ally, but it remains to be seen if this will ease the concerns of the substantial Jewish community in London and how they vote at the ballot box.
TORIES TALK TOUGH
As their respective local election campaigns gather pace, the parties have begun to reveal their bugbears of choice. For Labour, it is unsurprisingly ‘Tory austerity.’ For the Liberal Democrats, it is of course Brexit. As for the Conservatives, Transport Secretary Chris Grayling and others have been busy stuffing hay into the faithful old scarecrow of ‘real socialism.’ The Tories in London have additionally fixated on another nuisance, only slightly more relevant to the borough councils at stake: The Mayor of London. Former Tory Culture Minister Ed Vaizey MP made headlines last week when he said he would ‘obviously thump Sadiq in an election’ if he chose to stand against him. But Vaizey, who also praised the Mayor’s record and reportedly said he would ‘continue Sadiq’s work,’ was far kinder than many of his partisan friends. Former chief of staff to Theresa May Nick Timothy accused Sadiq of ‘political cowardice’ in a recent Telegraph column. And the Conservatives have been accused of ‘dog-whistle politics’ in Havering, where a flyer distributed by local Tories warned that a Labour win would result in the council ‘resembling boroughs like Hackney, Newham, Camden and Barking, rather than traditional parts of Essex’ and could lead to the ‘cherished union jack flag being taken down’ in Romford town centre. With so many Conservatives apparently focusing on Sadiq and the next Mayoral election in 2020, one wonders whether some are already resigned to defeat this May.
LIB DEMS TROUBLED
While the Liberal Democrats have quietly set their sights on gaining Kingston or even Richmond on a good night, a party insider has suggested that members of Sir Vince Cable’s team are approaching ‘breaking point’, posing ominous questions for how the party will fare in London on 3 May. The party recorded its lowest voteshare since its formation at last year’s General Election and some feel there is a possibility this could translate locally into the party losing Sutton, its only London council. According to The Times, one source has said ‘There will be absolute consternation if we lose Sutton’, adding ‘if [Cable] can’t win in south London, where can he win?’ If this view is widely held, and the ailing party machine cannot rally, Cable’s number could be up no matter the party’s fortunes in London come May.
UK-born Polish property developer and aristocrat Prince John Zylinski has announced plans to field 100 candidates under the banner of a new party called Polish Pride in boroughs with a large Polish population, such as Ealing, Barnet and Merton. Zylinski is no stranger to British politics, as he previously ran in the 2016 London Mayoral Elections (winning 13,202 votes and coming in 11th) and memorably challenged Nigel Farage to a duel after he took offence at the UKIP leader’s comments about immigration. Unsurprisingly, the party’s main campaigning issue will be Brexit. But Zylinski asserts his is not just a party for Poles, but for all voters ‘who back our call for respect for all minorities’ and especially those who wish to see European citizens retain their rights after Britain leaves the EU. The new party would appear unlikely to get far under its own power, though it is not inconceivable that it could win seats in some wards. And it will be interesting to see whether Polish Pride blunts the edge of those mainstream parties angling to secure a share of the 187,000 Poles estimated (as of June 2017) to be resident in London.
NORTHBANK IN AIR QUALITY BID
LCA is proud to support the release of a new air quality study commissioned by the Northbank Business Improvement District (BID), which explains how simple changes to one’s daily commute could significantly reduce exposure to air pollution by up to 90%. The study, which was funded by the Mayor of London’s Air Quality Fund and conducted by King’s College London, follows the personal commutes of professionals in and around the Northbank area in central London and identifies small adjustments to their journeys (such as switching from Underground to Overground, cycling, walking through parks or down quieter streets etc.) which reduce the exposure to polluted air by between 25% and 90%.
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