London Communications Agency turned 23 this month. Our Chief Executive Jonny Popper opens today’s edition, reflecting on how those years have flown by – and on how the agency is positioning itself for the next 23 years of success.
“LCA was established back on 1 August 1999 – a time when the GLA didn’t yet exist, social media was in its infancy and the worlds of development and planning were far less complex than today. It was a period of heady excitement – a brave new world of regional government for London, which unleashed a proper focus on encouraging regeneration and ensuring that such development better benefited local communities.
We began our corporate life as just two people – co-founder, now Senior Advisor Robert Gordon Clark and myself – in a wonderful ground floor office in Paddington. Three Mayors (best not to count the number of Housing Ministers), one recession and one global health pandemic later, we start our 24th year of business as a very different company – a diverse, full service agency of over sixty people trusted by the largest names and brands in the sector, from British Land, Landsec, Related Argent and Quintain, to Westfield, Sky Studios, major Housing Associations and the NHS.
We now have expertise spanning social and traditional media promotion, London and national public affairs, engaging local communities and key stakeholders, generating insight through research, as well as print and digital design, to help create value for our clients. Which is just as well really, as this expertise and experience has never been more important given that we enter our new financial year with a cost of living crisis, tough economic times ahead and not even knowing who the Prime Minister is going to be, let alone the cabinet positions and changes to national planning policy.
But despite all that (and wondering how the hell it’s been 23 years) we feel confident and excited for the future. We love the work we do and the clients we work for. We remain the best in class agency, with the most skilled team we have ever had. And our ethical approach to business, transparency, how we look after our people and how we contribute positively to the wider community has never been more important.
Thank you to all those who have helped LCA along the way and I look forward to the challenges ahead.”
LCA co-founder, Partner & Chief Executive Jonny Popper
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TfL IN LIMBO
TfL was today meant to decide whether or not it accepts the Government’s latest financial settlement - but as of writing, the deadline has elapsed with no decision made. To rewind a bit, on 22 July, the Department for Transport (DfT) wrote to Transport for London (TfL) with a long-awaited funding settlement to replace its current succession of short-term funding packages. Few details about what was included are known, though Transport Secretary Grant Shapps did say that it includes ‘£3.6bn worth of projects’ and also described it as the Government’s ‘final offer’. The Transport Commissioner and Mayor have been reluctant to reveal any details about the offer’s contents while they considered them, but did last week tell TfL's board that the £3.6bn sum ‘is not all new money’ and does not cover the three years requested. The current emergency funding deal, which was set to expire on 28 July, was extended to today to give TfL time to ’scrutinise’ the Government's offer for a longer term settlement. An update by TfL this afternoon says only that its officials are still in “active discussion with the Government to ensure that the draft funding proposal that they have made is fair and deliverable and can prevent the managed decline of the capital's transport network”. It ends with a rather vague “we hope these discussions can be concluded successfully soon.” And so, we wait.
TfL was meanwhile also facing another deadline, after the RMT union said that they wanted assurances on jobs, pensions and working conditions by 2 August or a Tube strike planned for 19 August would go ahead. Yesterday it was confirmed that the 24-hour strike will go ahead on both the Overground and Underground after TfL, according to the union, ‘refused to share details’ of the proposal received from Government.
Last Friday, London celebrated the 10th anniversary of the 2012 Olympics – well, some of us did at any rate. As we have previously noted, critics at home and abroad have pointed to evidence that many aspects of the ‘Olympic legacy’ have fallen short of ambitions set out in the 00s and 10s. Other analyses, including recent pieces by the BBC’s Dan Roan, On London’s Dave Hill (who’s also written a book about it) and the Economist, arguably offer a more balanced view of what the legacy has produced. Indeed, we would point to evidence collected by City Hall and Hackney Town Hall, as well as by LCA clients Lee Valley Regional Park Authority and London Sport, which proves that the Olympics have – whether directly or indirectly – led to huge investment in East London’s infrastructure, housing, and local economy, as well as more opportunities than ever to get involved in sport or physical activity. As an agency that backed London’s Olympic bid (does anyone remember a certain PR stunt involving a convoy of Land Rovers?) and has worked in and around the Olympic Park for 20-odd years, we are fully prepared to agree that not everything panned out exactly as planned. But what has been achieved is nothing less than extraordinary – and that’s worth celebrating.
Three months since May’s local election, new and returning borough administrations are starting to deliver on their election pledges – but some are having second thoughts...
- In North London, Barnet’s new Labour administration is moving ahead with a pledge to bring all services currently run by contractor Capita back in-house by the end of the current term, though perhaps unsurprisingly the Conservative opposition has warned the drawn-out process chosen is ‘a terrible mistake’.
- Out East, Tower Hamlets’ Mayor Lutfur Rahman has also announced plans to bring leisure services in-house, after delivering on a manifesto promise to launch a review of the borough’s Liveable Street programme.
- And ‘dahn sarf’, Croydon’s new Conservative Mayor Jason Perry’s plans to remove controversial suburban planning guidance (the SPD2) have been formally approved by councillors.
Elsewhere, administrations find themselves in the unenviable position of being accused - whether fairly or not - of the dreaded ‘u-turn’.
- In Wandsworth, the new Labour administration has been unveiling more detail about how it will deliver on pledges spanning everything from housing to the climate agenda, but the Conservative council opposition may have manoeuvred (more here) Labour into tacitly admitting a pre-election pledge to cut council tax may have been… over-optimistic.
- Meanwhile in Ealing, the administration has unveiled plans to scrap its ward forums and replace them with a smaller number of wider-ranging ‘town committees’ – the opposition Liberal Democrats have cried foul, claiming this was a breach of a pre-election pledge. As far as we can see, Labour’s pledges do seem to align with these plans.
LONDON PLANNING ROUNDUP
- Haringey Council has approved Lendlease’s proposals to build up to 2,869 new homes (35% affordable) and deliver commercial, office, retail and community space at its High Road West development.
- The London Legacy Development Corporation has approved Notting Hill Genesis’ plans to build 190 new homes (50% affordable) around Hackney Wick Station.
- Enfield Council has deferred Yen of London Ltd’s proposed 21-storey tower block next to Brimsdown Station after the planning committee were given twelve reasons why the application should be refused, including concerns about the lack of a fire strategy and a lack of details about what type of affordable housing would be provided. The developer said 40% of the homes delivered would be affordable.
- At its most recent planning committee meeting, Ealing Council approved a number of applications including the redevelopment of Gold’s Gym on Uxbridge Road to deliver residential (35% affordable) and commercial uses, the Manhattan Business Park mixed-use development in the Westgate Triangle, and proposals to deliver 95 homes (33 affordable) in a 23-storey residential tower at 13-15 The Green.
- Tower Hamlets' Strategic Development Committee has approved Mount Anvil’s proposals to deliver 202 new homes (94 homes for people on the housing waiting list or shared ownership) across a 31-storey tower and smaller buildings. The Committee also unanimously rejected Charlegrove Properties Ltd’s application to increase the size of their ongoing 49-storey development in the Isle of Dogs to deliver 390 homes (27% affordable) in a 56-storey building.
- Southwark Council has approved two further stages of British Land’s Canada Water masterplan. The two stages, called Zone L and Zone F, will deliver a total of 647 homes (27% affordable) across five buildings.
- Deputy Mayor for Planning Jules Pipe has supported Barking & Dagenham Council’s resolution to approve Peabody Trust and Dagenham Dock Ltd’s proposals for a 3,502 home (47% affordable) redevelopment of a former Ford manufacturing plant at Chequers Lane in Dagenham.
- Kingston Council has approved Viewranks Estates’ proposals for a 200-room co-living development in the town centre.
Despite leading a caretaker ministerial team, Housing Secretary Greg Clark has been busy of late.
- Clark has written to four boroughs, first Westminster City Council and then Kensington & Chelsea, Richmond and Wandsworth, to tell them he will to reduce the scope of their proposed Article 4 directions. These directions are intended to limit the use of office-to-residential Permitted Development Rights (PDR), with councils of all political colours concerned about their impact on the availability of commercial space and the quality of housing. The councils’ responses vary, but overall their disappointment is fairly clear.
- Meanwhile, on the building safety front, the Home Builders Federation (HBF) has warned the Government that contracts issued by DLUHC that commit developers to fixing certain unsafe buildings will go unsigned given that they go ‘well beyond’ what was discussed earlier in the year and that the mid-August deadline is ‘unrealistic’. Ministers have previously said that a failure to commit to building safety pledges could see developers ‘frozen out’ of the planning system and Government housing funding.
- Separately, Homes England’s annual report has shown that it has missed its annual targets for housing completions and starts by 15% and 21% respectively, as well as its target for unlocking housing capacity. The agency has pointed to a number of factors to explain these gaps, including smaller sites coming forward for development, supply chain issues with materials, labour shortages and increased costs – pressures facing most if not all public and private sector builders up and down the country.
Howard Dawber has stepped down from his role as Managing Director of Strategy at Canary Wharf Group to become CEO of new consultancy, City Strategy.
Cadogan has appointed Giles Semper as its new Head of Place. Semper was previously the Executive Director at Southampton’s Business Improvement District.
Landsec has appointed Miles Roberts to its board, to work on its sustainability strategy. Roberts is group Chief Executive of DS Smith.
Robert Chevis, formerly of Londonewcastle, has been appointed as Development Director at Mitheridge Capital Management and will lead on the firm’s real estate projects.
Shaun Dawson, Chief Executive of Lee Valley Regional Park Authority, is celebrating 25 years in the role – rather appropriately in the same month as the 10th anniversary of London 2012. Shaun was instrumental through the bid, design and of course in delivering the sporting legacy of the Games – you can read more about LVRPA’s role here.
Former Leader of Greenwich Council, Cllr Danny Thorpe, has joined Clarion Housing Group as Head of Public Affairs.
The Chief Executive of the Planning Inspectorate, Sarah Richards, has resigned from her post and will leave the organisation in early autumn.
The Chairman of London Chamber of Commerce and Industry, Roddy Caxton Spencer, has sadly died.
The founder of the East End Enquirer, Mark Baynes, has sadly passed away at the age of 61.
LOW POWER LONDON?
A notice by City Hall on the electricity grid’s capacity in West London has sent a shock through the sector. The Financial Times had the scoop, alarmingly suggesting that the capacity issues amounted to a ‘new homes ban’ in three boroughs. A week later (and with the GLA’s ‘Infrastructure Coordination note’ now in hand) we can confirm that while this is a serious issue, it’s neither an imminent catastrophe, nor for that matter an unavoidable one. To get one crucial thing straight, there is no ‘ban’ in place from a planning perspective. Energy companies are, however, clear that the proliferation of energy-guzzling data centres along the M4 have led to the grid in Ealing, Hillingdon and Hounslow (plus several councils just outside London) facing significant strain. This means that unless something is done, large-scale (i.e. requiring 1MVA or more) new developments in certain areas ‘will have to wait several years to receive new electricity connections.’ Smaller schemes, e.g. of less than 25 homes, are less at risk. Clearly, this issue could stall build-out, impact viability and affect investment interest. But it’s early days. The GLA, local authorities and industry are on a war footing, working together to assess the scale of the problem, and to work out a solution – which, given the will and the right resources, should be feasible.
TORY LEADERSHIP LATEST
With just over five weeks left until the new Prime Minister is announced, Liz Truss and Rishi Sunak’s campaigns to win over the Tory membership are in full swing. Last week, the two candidates went head-to-head in debates on broadcast by the BBC and Talk TV. They have since begun a circuit of 12 hustings across the country, starting in Leeds this past Sunday and Exeter on Tuesday. So far, Truss’ performance and policy platform have seemingly won her a sizeable margin of support amongst Tory members with the latest YouGov poll giving her a hefty 38-point lead over Sunak – though a Techne poll of party members conducted two weeks ago placed Sunak just five-points behind Truss and a Savanta ComRes poll of Tory councillors puts the two almost neck and neck. Nonetheless, it is clear that Truss’ campaign has picked up momentum and she has recently received endorsements from Defence Secretary Ben Wallace and former leadership rivals Penny Mordaunt and Tom Tugendhat. In a bid to revitalise his campaign, Sunak has pledged the biggest income tax cut in 30 years, attracting ‘flip-flops and U-turns’ accusations after the ex-Chancellor called Truss’ plans for tax cuts ‘immoral’. For her part, Truss was forced to hastily backtrack on her proposals for adjusting public sector pay by region as a cost-saving effort. On planning and development, Truss has now vowed to remove (some) planning restrictions and regulation to boost housebuilding, whilst Sunak has pledged to (wait for it) block housebuilding on the green belt, prioritising development on brownfield land instead.
Looking ahead, Tory party members will have to wait to cast their votes after the Party has delayed the mailout of ballots following warnings by GCHQ of cyber fraud.
One may think that the Tories’ bitter infighting, after 12 years in power, would be a boon for Labour. Think again. A week ago, one poll gave Labour a 13-point lead, but a more recent one puts them one measly point ahead. More reliable aggregations of polls indicate this trend is less dramatic, but the Opposition is clearly in choppy waters. Some speculate that with Boris Johnson on his way out, the Tories are shedding his toxicity amongst some voters, but considering the furore over Johnson’s resignations honour list, that can’t be the only factor. Our guess is that Labour’s own infighting and wider identity crisis are more to blame. The party’s ambivalent position on industrial action has exposed Keir Starmer to criticism from unions, the party’s left and even his own frontbench. Similarly, backtracking on previous pledges to seek the nationalisation of key industries has led to confusion. Starmer polls decently against his opponent(s), but surveys also indicate voters still don’t know what he stands for – and as per one commentator, Labour can’t just ‘rely on the Tories ‘to self-destruct'’. Beyond Starmer himself and the party’s policy pledges, Labour needs to assemble an ‘electable’ set of candidates for the next General Election and has recently announced a number of selections in key marginal London seats – including Tory-held Hendon, Chingford and the Twin Cities.
As a side-note, it is worth noting Labour’s chilly response to speculation that former party leader Jeremy Corbyn is being encouraged to run for London Mayor as an independent in 2024 – a scenario that will surely be treated as very unwelcome indeed by one Sadiq Khan. A left-wing challenger might not be an real contender for the job itself, but with Mayoral elections now shifting to the traditional first past the post system, it could well erode Labour’s vote, giving the Conservatives better chances of winning…
LCA ON LBC
On his latest punditry turn on Nick Ferrari’s LBC Breakfast Show, LCA Senior Advisor Paddy Hennessy gave his take on the Tory leadership race, predicting to Nick’s 1.3 million listeners that Liz Truss’ latest debate performance would widen her already clear lead, with the ‘Telegraph-reading constituency’ (which we guess he ought to know about as a former Sunday Telegraph political editor). It doesn’t begin and end with Telegraph readers for Truss – as we reported above, multiple subsequent polls have confirmed her polling advantage over Rishi Sunak among Conservative members more generally is consistently wide and seemingly growing. Paddy can also be heard on Times Radio, while LCA’s Partner and Managing Director of Insight Jenna Goldberg is a regular contributor on the capital’s political scene to BBC London Radio and ITV London among other media outlets.
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