FROM PAGEANTRY TO POLITICS
Shifting from a period of national mourning and reflection to haggling over policy feels like a rasping gear-change, but here we are.
Undeniably, Monday demonstrated that there is no canvas like London for impeccable pomp and pageantry. Yet, from early Tuesday morning it all gave way to travel chaos and the usual rough-and-tumble of politics and of course, that’s likely how it’ll stay.
Thursday will likely see another rates rise and on Friday, the Chancellor’s fiscal statement (aka “mini-budget”) will give us the first tangible sign of the new administration’s intentions.
Speed is of the essence. The slow, drawn-out process of picking a new Conservative Party leader has taken up precious parliamentary time. That was followed by the unexpected – even if unavoidable – interruption caused by the period of national mourning.
But the economy hasn’t been waiting, trade unions are resuming industrial action across sectors and the new Government has yet to begin resolving its huge to do list. Besides various levers for jumpstarting the economy, that in-tray includes a pile of half-finished legislation, not least of which is the Levelling Up and Regeneration Bill.
And so, it’s back to business – for Whitehall, for Westminster and of course, for the LDN editorial team.
We hope you enjoy this edition and if you don't already, do follow us on Twitter and Instagram and feel free to visit our website for more information on LCA’s team, services, and clients.
Oh and a technical note: If you like hearing from us, make sure to add email@example.com to your contacts or ‘safe sender’ list – this will help ensure our news bulletin lands in your inbox.
A NEW ERA (CONT'D)
The leadup to the Queen’s State Funeral generated many scare stories about London’s ability to cope with the challenge. In the event, it did – even if not everything went according to plan. There was disruption at Paddington station throughout Monday, with rail services from that station only resuming normally on Tuesday morning, but most other key rail hubs and the TfL network as a whole performed rather well. There were also reports declaring ‘chaos’ when parts of the now (in)famous Queue met a bit of bottleneck here and there, but, a few notorious queue-jumping incidents aside, the long line of mourners mostly snaked through the city with little drama. Some concerns have also, rightfully, been raised about arrests of anti-monarchist protesters, but this was the ‘biggest security operation the UK has ever seen’. Indeed, taking a step back, it seems to us that the capital managed to pull off a spectacular State Funeral with few hitches, considering the scale of the event. At least 250,000 people are estimated to have queued to see the Queen’s coffin between Thursday and Sunday, whilst many thousands flocked to Westminster on Monday for the funeral (with 2,000 attending the ceremony itself, within Westminster Abbey). It is also estimated that mor than 4 billion viewers watched in worldwide (roughly matching predictions). Whilst questions have been raised about the figure for global viewers, if accurate it would likely make it the most-watched live TV event in history and one featured across global broadcast, online and print media – all on the backdrop of London’s unique, iconic cityscape.
LONDON PLANNING ROUNDUP
- Redbridge Council is set to revise its Local Plan, having adopted its current plan in 2018. The borough has fallen well short of the Government’s three-year 2,900-home target. The council is hoping to adopt its new Plan in late 2025.
- Also in Redbridge, the Council has selected its preferred developer for a joint venture, which will deliver 860 new homes and 4,600 sq m of commercial space in Ilford – though the identity of the mystery developer has not yet been disclosed.
- The Save Brick Lane campaign group has lost its High Court bid for a judicial review against plans for the redevelopment of the Old Truman Brewery.
- Similarly, the Court of Appeal has refused to allow the Friends of Mais House residents’ group to appeal the High Court’s dismissal of their challenge of Lewisham Council’s decision to grant planning permission for the delivery of over 100 homes on the Sydenham Hill Estate.
- Greenwich councillors have narrowly approved plans by Meyer Homes for the delivery of 712 homes in Woolwich, 23% of which will be affordable.
- Barking & Dagenham Council has granted planning permission for the redevelopment of a car park site to deliver 337 new homes and a primary school. The scheme will include 38 homes at London Affordable Rent.
- Plans for the demolition of an office block next to London Bridge have been approved by Southwark Council. Developer CIT will deliver a new commercial-led building on the site.
- Merton Council is set to make a decision on plans for 107 new homes on the on a former sports ground, 44 of which would be affordable, after the plans were submitted to the local authority for a third time. The last application for the site was rejected by the Council amidst opposition from local residents. The most recent application includes additional sporting facilities.
- Homelessness charity St Mungo’s and developer Stories have been granted planning permission by Westminster City Council for the delivery of a 20-storey build-to-rent building and a nine-storey facility for homeless people. The residential building will provide 98 homes, 14 of which will be affordable.
Having suspended planned strikes during the national period of mourning, trade unions are rekindling plans for industrial action – with many walkouts affecting London. In transport, members of the Aslef and RMT unions will strike on 1 and 5 October and are expected to bring the rail network and London Overground to an ‘effective standstill’. The rail strikes are likely to disrupt travel to and from the London Marathon, the Arsenal vs Tottenham derby and… the Conservative Party Conference. Also, nearly 2,000 bus drivers employed by Arriva in north London could stage an 'indefinite' walk-out from 4 October if they are not offered a pay increase in line with inflation, potentially disrupting at least 40 bus routes. Elsewhere, refuse workers in Newham have begun their two week strike until 3 October after 99% of members voted to take action in response to a ‘measly’ pay offer, the last of several recent strikes by bin workers across London and the South East. The built environment industry is clearly not immune to industrial action either, as staff at Atomik Architecture are being balloted over whether to strike for better pay and working conditions, with the UVW-SAW union saying they would be the first ever group of private sector architects to go on strike in the UK. Meanwhile, a coalition of trade unions has launched legal action against the government over change to the Conduct Regulations 2003 that would allowing agency workers to replace striking staff.
Separately, after postponing their ‘Festival of Resistance’, Extinction Rebellion has announced a ‘Weekend of Resistance’ for 14-16 October, promising to start the weekend with ‘mass action… targeting the Government’.
- Maxine Holdsworth is set to take over as Chief Executive as Kensington and Chelsea in October, replacing the legendary Barry Quirk who is retiring after a 30-year career in London local government.
- Online estate agency Purplebricks has appointed Adrian Gill and Gareth Helm to its board.
- Croydon Council’s Executive Director of Localities Hazel Simmonds has resigned.
- The sacking of Tom Scholar, Permanent Secretary to the Treasury, has been followed by a high profile recruitment drive for his replacement, whilst also fostering fears of a ‘civil service purge’.
Friday’s much-anticipated ‘fiscal statement’ promises to put some flesh on the bones of the government’s economic policy. Chancellor Kwasi Kwarteng is widely expected (more here) to scrap, cut or freeze a range of personal and business taxes, from National Insurance, to Corporation Tax, Green Levies and stamp duty, all with the aim of rapidly kickstarting growth. This will be the first real taste of Truss and Kwarteng’s promised return to true blue fiscal conservatism – well, sort of, considering their tax cuts will be paid for by borrowing rather than spending cuts. The effectiveness of their mooted tax cuts has meanwhile been questioned and eyebrows raised by Kwarteng’s decision to dodge an Office of Budget Responsibility (OBR) assessment of their economic impact. High street businesses in London and elsewhere will, nevertheless, hope some relief may come in the form of a possible rates freeze. In fact, if the Chancellor chooses this path, it is will be a huge boon to Central London, which accounts for a fifth of the total business rates in the country despite its relatively small geographic size and population. Outside of Friday’s mini-budget, the Government has just today outlined its plans to help cut energy bills for households, businesses and public sector organisations. Also, on Thursday the City and property industry will be keeping a close eye on the Bank of England, which may proceed with a further rates rise – possibly of 0.5% or higher – in an attempt to keep inflation at bay.
Uncertainty surrounding the Government’s planning policy agenda looks set to continue as emergency support for businesses takes centre stage. The Financial Times has reported that the UK Energy Security Bill could be ‘paused or even binned’ to prioritise legislation providing support for businesses struggling with soaring energy prices. Crucially for the built environment industries, the newspaper also cites speculation that parts of that bill could be added to the existing Levelling Up and Regeneration Bill (LURB), which would then be (again) rebranded as a ‘growth bill’. These additions, alongside other possible amendments to introduce ‘opportunity zones’ promised by Liz Truss, might mean further delays for legislation that is already behind schedule. The Public Bill Committee was due to report its scrutiny of the LURB by Tuesday 20 September. Meanwhile, whilst we await formal confirmation on responsibilities for the junior ministers at the Department for Levelling Up, Housing and Communities (DLUHC), new Parliamentary Under Secretary Lee Rowley has himself confirmed he will be taking over outgoing Marcus Jones’ housing and planning brief. Separately, DLUHC has published the latest green belt statistics showing a 1.5% increase in the area of land designated as green belt land in England between March 2021 and March 2022. Elsewhere, DLUHC has confirmed that remediation work has been completed on just 50 buildings under the Building Safety Fund, more than two years after it launched. Levelling Up Secretary Simon Clarke has also, only today, called on insurers to extend more support to leaseholders affected by the cladding crisis.
Westminster City Council (WCC) says it wants to ‘seize’ the property of ‘oligarchs’ – a bold statement of intent. The reality is, however, much more complicated than headlines in The Guardian, React News and elsewhere suggest. The Council has briefed the press on plans, still clearly in-the-making, to use compulsory purchase orders (CPOs) to appropriate homes acquired with ‘dirty money’ or ‘money of dubious origin’. The Council is reportedly ‘mapping properties owned overseas against council tax data to determine whether they are being used for their stated purpose’ and specifically ‘exploring the use of a compulsory purchase order against a property registered in [the] Seychelles, the owner of which has run up significant council tax arrears.’ As made clear in the relevant press coverage, access to ownership and tax data is one technical challenge WCC faces in realising its plans. Another is that CPOs may be ‘compulsory’, but they also involve a ‘purchase’ – which, clearly, is not quite the same as a seizure. CPOs additionally entail meeting a series of criteria, central government approval and of course funding for a given purchase. WCC says it wants to ‘use seized homes to help reduce the waiting list for affordable housing of 4,000 households’ but it remains unclear whether mega-mansions and flats in luxury developments can be easily (or efficiently) repurposed for such use.
We have definitely hit events season and as ever, LCA is right in amongst it. We are partners to two key fixtures of the property calendar, supporting New London Architecture at the London Real Estate Forum (LREF) and linked Opportunity London Investment Summit, both taking place next week. Beyond property and the built environment, the city is also hosting a series of events burnishing its credentials as a capital of culture – and we’ll be there too. London Design Festival is taking place until 25 September. Marking its 20th anniversary, offering over 300 exhibitions, presentations and workshops from a number of designers spanning fashion, interior design and graphic design at venues across London. London Fashion Week also took place from 15-20 September, paying tribute to the Queen in its own unique way. Looking slightly further ahead, the BFI London Film Festival is set to take place from 5 to 16 October. We will also venture beyond the M25 to attend Labour and Conservative Party conferences in Liverpool and Birmingham, supporting several clients and helping to bang the drum for London (more on which anon).
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.
<![if !mso]>Email us
LDN is put together by a dedicated team at London Communications Agency. The content for each edition is developed from news drawn from the last week from every London local paper as well as the regional and national press, from intelligence gathered by monitoring local, regional and national government activity and from the insight and expert knowledge of the entire LCA team.
If you would like to know more about anything covered in this or any other edition of LDN or if you would like to know more about LCA please contact firstname.lastname@example.org.
We strive for balance and accuracy at all times; however, if you feel we have made a mistake, omission or have misrepresented a story or issue please alert the team by contacting the LDN team by using the details above.