“It feels odd in mid-August to say that none of us really know what this winter will hold, but we are a society in brace position. Come 5 September we may at least have a pilot, as to whether they know how to fly a plane, well I refer you to our story below on the latest from the less-than-edifying Tory leadership race.
Meanwhile, all eyes are on the predicted economic turbulence and we lead this edition with forlorn forecasts and rising rates. There are at least some signs of London’s resilience including a thriving knowledge economy as well as the bright young minds it attracts – we have four of LCA's brilliant grads featured proudly in Our Week.
Finally there’s a collection of stories below that, if nothing else, showcase the chaotic housing and planning system in this country, a specialist subject of LCA’s of course. Potential political leaders pledging to get homes built but also scrapping targets, politicians from within the same party campaigning vociferously against new homes and a local planning committee that apparently hasn’t met for 10 months despite missing its own target every year of the last 16.”
Jenna Goldberg, Partner and Managing Director, Insight
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Last week’s Bank of England rate hike and related economic forecasts are, to put it mildly, causing concern across the board – but what does it mean for London? To recap, the BofE increased interest rates from 1.25% to 1.75%, predicting also that by the fourth quarter of 2022, the UK economy will go into recession and inflation will hit 13% - with economic contraction and high inflation persisting until the end of 2023. The Bank is not alone in forecasting a recession, though other recent forecasts have been slightly less pessimistic and forecasts for London specifically, by City Hall (issued in June) and Oxford Economics (earlier this month) have predicted low growth rather than contraction for our regional economy. Either scenario foretells a bumpy ride, especially for Londoners on low incomes. Taking into account housing costs, one estimate has 27% of Londoners already living in poverty. The Mayor’s team has warned that rising living costs signal an ‘absolute catastrophe’ for many households and Sadiq Khan has reiterated his call for rent control powers. Homelessness is now on the rise, whilst even homeowners face a potential ‘mortgage timebomb’. Burgeoning industrial action (more on which below) and other forms of civil disobedience are glaring symptoms of squeezed incomes and a worried society.
Many of us will be keeping an especially close eye on the capital’s cooling housing market as a key indicator (and one especially sensitive to inflation and interest rates), though we’d agree with the Evening Standard’s Jonathan Pryn that fears of an imminent ‘property crash’ are unfounded. Indeed, we are seeing some sectors and places performing pretty well, e.g. the ‘prime London’ rental sector and West End offices. Further data and analysis on the wider economy’s monthly performance are due this Friday.
DEAL OR NO DEAL
Meanwhile, Transport for London’s funding puzzle remains unsolved – and as of writing, the transport authority’s finances are still in limbo. An emergency meeting of the Board last night was held behind closed doors but the papers published suggest that TfL has ‘made revisions’ to the Government’s funding proposal (received at the end of July), but has yet to hear back from the Department from Transport. Little is known about the Government’s offer and the conditions attached, but speaking to BBC London last week, the Transport Secretary reiterated that TfL should embrace ‘modernisation’ including driverless trains. Related to its financial woes, industrial action represents another major headache for the transport authority. A strike staged by RMT union members on the Underground on 19 August will now coincide with a strike by 1,600 bus drivers employed by RATP London United. In other transport news, Go-Ahead Group, which operates rail and bus services, is set to be taken over by a consortium of Kinetic (an Australian bus company) and Globalvia (a Spanish transport infrastructure company). Go-Ahead London is the largest bus operator in London, providing almost a quarter of buses in the capital.
REDBRIDGE PLANNING IN LIMBO?
According to local media, Redbridge Council’s planning committee has not met in 10 months, despite several applications outstanding. The last full planning committee was held in October 2021. The next (and to date, the last) session held was this July, but that session did not consider any applications and excluded the public. A spokesperson for the Council has reportedly suggested that local elections in May meant developers avoided submitting plans that might be controversial – but the situation in Redbridge is not reflected in other boroughs. For his part, Conservative opposition group leader Cllr Paul Canal has accused Labour of cancelling public meetings to ‘deny scrutiny’, pointing to the Council’s approval of a shipping container Kiosk Café without a public meeting despite more than 100 objectors. A Council decision that in effects restricts residents’ abilities to read objections on the planning portal certainly seems to add weight to the scrutiny argument. The lack of meetings does not bode well for the borough’s housing targets, as Redbridge has failed to meet its housing delivery target for 16 years in a row, and has completed just 96 of 600 homes pledged as part of its affordable housing programme. Submitted and pending applications to date would total another 103 homes if consented plus there’s now a major new application from Sainsbury’s for more than 800 homes in Ilford (see below) – you’d think that might motivate the committee to get together.
LONDON PLANNING ROUNDUP
Modular developer Tide Construction has received planning permission from the GLA for a 48-storey student housing tower in Canary Wharf. The development will provide 1,068 student rooms and was approved by Tower Hamlets Council in April.
The GLA has upheld Southwark Council’s approval for proposals to demolish and reconstruct the Michael Rutter Centre, Mapother House and Professorial Building to deliver 187 homes (50% affordable).
Westminster City Council has approved Diageo’s proposals for a £73m Guinness microbrewery at Old Brewer’s Yard in Covent Garden.
Westminster City Council has also granted O&H permission for plans to demolish and redevelop vacant office space on Grafton Street in Mayfair into a mixed-use scheme that will include office space, retail units, housing and a hotel.
Schroders Real Estate Investment Manager, alongside development manager Stanhope, has launched a public consultation on proposals for a £600m, 60-storey building at 55 Bishopsgate in the Square Mile.
Telford Homes and Sainsbury’s have submitted new plans to build 837 homes (30% affordable) on the site of the Sainsbury’s supermarket in llford to Redbridge Council.
Southwark Council has approved Peachtree Services’ Burgess Business Park redevelopment which will deliver a mixed-use development comprising of 375 homes (35% affordable), public space and commercial floor space.
BusinessLDN (formerly London First) has announced that Paul Drechsler is to stand down as Chair. The search for a new Chair is currently underway.
Muyiwa Oki has been elected as the President of the Royal Institute of British Architects (RIBA) for 2023 to 2025.
Dame Lynne Owens has been appointed as Interim Deputy Commissioner of the Met Police. She will take on the role for six months while recruitment for a permanent appointment is ongoing. Meanwhile, Interim Commissioner Sir Stephen House, Acting Deputy Commissioner Helen Ball and Assistant Commissioner Nick Ephgrave are all set to leave the service.
Head of Development Max Goldman has left Centre for London after four years.
One week down, four more to go and a series of gaffes will leave many thinking that the leadership contest could not end soon enough. The New Statesman published a video showing ex-Chancellor Rishi Sunak’s telling Tory party members in leafy Tunbridge Wells that he has worked to divert funding from ‘deprived urban areas’ to constituencies like theirs. Then there was Sunak’s campaign video promising to shred EU regulations – so cringeworthy it could be a parody. Liz Truss has not fared much better, with Kay Burley subjecting the Foreign Secretary to a list of her numerous U-turns before asking ‘will the real Liz Truss please stand up?’. Meanwhile, Sunak has pledged to subject developers to ‘use it or lose it’ taxes in a bid to stop ‘land banking’ and both candidates have vowed to scrap the manifesto commitment to build 300,000 homes a year. Truss has also written in the Evening Standard, offering assurances that she has no intention to level down London, but little in terms of substantial policy for addressing the capital’s challenges. Elsewhere, Boris Johnson and the leadership candidates have ruled out an emergency budget until the next Prime Minister is in place, whilst grim economic forecasts have prompted speculation that the new Prime Minister may attempt a snap election as early as this November.
LONDON MPs VS DEVELOPMENT
London MPs from both the Labour and Conservative parties have recently been spied campaigning against development in their constituencies. In North London, Conservative MP for Chipping Barnet Theresa Villiers – who routinely objects to large scale developments in her patch – has voiced her opposition to plans for 539 new homes at a planning appeal hearing. The proposals were refused planning permission by Barnet Council earlier this year after it was found that they did not comply with the London Plan. Villiers has criticised the plans due to concerns about ‘urbanisation’ and the impact of the scheme on the local area. The Planning Inspector is expected to deliver their verdict on the scheme by the end of August. In South London, Conservative MP for Wimbledon Stephen Hammond and Labour MP for Putney Fleur Anderson have joined forces to oppose plans by the All England Lawn Tennis Club (AELTC) to expand into the neighbouring Wimbledon Park Golf Club. The MPs are urging Merton and Wandsworth councils to call a ‘special meeting’ to determine the application, which would see a new 8,000-seat show court delivered alongside 38 temporary use courts. The site is classed as Metropolitan Open Land, which has proved controversial with local residents.
LONDON ❤️ INNOVATION
Despite the economic headwinds, London’s knowledge economy seems in fine fettle. News that Meta’s President of Global Affairs Nick Clegg and Head of Instagram Adam Mosseri are relocating from Silicon Valley to London has generated a spate of media coverage, highlighting these and other tech companies’ expanding office footprint in the capital. Even grumpy diatribes alleging that regulation is stifling the growth of the UK’s tech industry tacitly admit that places like King’s Cross have successfully contributed to an environment in which innovative companies can thrive. Beyond tech, recent developments confirm that the capital’s life sciences offering has never been stronger, with (again) King’s Cross the setting for major acquisitions by Kadans Science Partners and Paddington the chosen location for a new life sciences cluster from Imperial College Healthcare NHS Trust.
The London Green Party is generating headlines of late – but not always in ways you’d expect. On the one hand, the party has stepped up its longstanding campaign against the Silvertown Tunnel. Green Party AM (also former party co-leader and Mayoral candidate) Siân Berry, has joined other campaigners in asserting that it’s ‘not too late’ for the Mayor to stop the project, as tunnelling work has not yet begun. The realities of an infrastructure project of this scale are a tad more complicated than that, but Berry’s has successfully generated headlines in both the national and community press. Berry has separately backed a legal challenge by rights campaigners, relating to the Ultra Low Emission Zone (ULEZ). This challenge has nothing to do with air pollution, but specifically opposes a Mayoral decision allowing the Met Police extensive access to cameras monitoring the zone. Berry and others assert that Khan is ‘waving through’ a significant expansion to the police surveillance network (an issue the Government's surveillance commissioner has also raised), without sufficient consultation with Londoners. Separately, Berry has claimed that the Mayor’s Right To Buy Back scheme – which Sadiq Khan has this week hailed as a success – was the Greens’ idea (it may well have been).
We are delighted to announce that here at LCA four of our wonderful colleagues were able to graduate from university this summer. Social & Digital Account Executive Amber Zafar has graduated from City, University of London with a BA in Journalism (with Integrated Professional Training). Our new Admin Assistant Jada Salmon has secured a BA in Fashion Business and Promotion from Birmingham City University. Account Executive Sharni Jhurry has graduated with a BA in Advertising, PR and Branding from Middlesex University. Last but certainly not least, Insight Executive (and LDN contributor) Rahul Shah has secured a BA in Politics and International Relations from the University of Nottingham. Congratulations to all our graduates!
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