“It’s a packed edition this week as we come out of mourning and into party conference and networking season. Indeed, there’s so much going on that we couldn’t really capture it all here so for a longer read on Labour Party Conference try Paddy’s sketch here and for a pithy analysis of the er, fiscal fiasco and its impact on the built environment see Stef’s rundown for the NLA here.
And on that fiscal fiasco, you probably don’t need us to lay out the significant chaos that has ensured so have largely stuck to our brief to give you the skinny on what it all means for the sector and the capital. Seen through those lenses at least, London seems fairly key to the Government’s vision for growth in a way that certainly wasn’t the case when it was all Red Wall and Levelling Up. But London is no island and its inhabitants have mortgages – big ones – and pensions and yes, energy bills and its investors by-and-large would prefer stability over volatility (and that’s the polite word). In short, when UK Plc suffers London does too and of course vice versa – a dynamic the Government hasn’t appeared to understand for quite some time now.
Another significant shock to the system came with the resignation of Transport Commissioner Andy Byford, who will be leaving TfL next month after only two years. Sources suggest this is a genuine desire to move back to the States, but the Tories have sought to imply it’s as much down to the challenges of working with the current Mayor. Whatever the reasons, sorting out a funding deal for TfL between a government and Mayor at loggerheads and getting the Elizabeth Line done are major achievements, although we wonder why he’s not staying to 6 November when the whole line opens.
And finally on the subject of people, we noted with sadness the death of Neil Mitchenall. He was a leading expert in retail consultancy in London and will be much missed.”
LCA Managing Director, Insight, Jenna Goldberg and Senior Advisor Robert Gordon Clark
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GROWTH IN A RECESSION
There’s no sugar-coating the reaction to Friday’s eagerly awaited fiscal statement. Kwasi Kwarteng’s ambitious Growth Plan was billed as a vision for averting a recession by means of tax breaks and deregulation. Instead, it sent stock markets and the pound into a nosedive even before the Chancellor has finished his speech, a negative trend that has continued in the days since. Whilst promised tax cuts have been cautiously welcomed by most businesses, the suggestion that these will be paid for by borrowing at a time of rising inflation (even as public money is shovelled into capping energy process) have caused unease. Simultaneously, the plan’s various “deregulation” pledges, most of which are so thinly outlined as to be see-through, seem to have impressed few, barring perhaps the Institute of Economic Affairs. Taking the hint, the Treasury issued an update on Monday, promising a Medium-Term Fiscal Plan on 23 November, complete with Office of Budget Responsibility forecasts. The Bank of England initially declined to take any drastic offsetting actions, while offering assurances it is monitoring developments but then today intervened in gilt markets. All of which has done little to settle market volatility and by Tuesday even Moody’s and the International Monetary Fund had choice words for the Chancellor’s grand plans.
THE VIEW FROM LONDON
What does all of this mean for London? The capital’s political leadership greeted the Growth Plan with mixed emotions. The Mayor of London's verdict was damning, the City of London Corporation was pretty positive and London Councils was… silent, though it seems clear enough that the Growth Plan delivers on barely any of the priorities London's boroughs set out before the statement. As for the private sector, BusinessLDN and LCCI have been broadly positive, singling out tax cuts and the promised return of VAT-free shopping for international visitors as positive. The LCCI’s comment is more nuanced and says, among other things, that “it is our hope that today’s announcement is the precursor to the government enacting a long-term, credible economic plan.” Ouch. Centre for London’s reaction is equally mixed, noting that while it seems likely to benefit London more than other regions, the Growth Plan leaves many crucial questions unanswered, as it steered clear of the substantive structural reforms needed to unlock the capital’s potential in the long run. Looking on the bright-side, Alex Jan - Chief Economic Adviser at London Property Alliance (CPA & WPA) and Chair of several central London BIDs – argues that this was, from a certain perspective, a remarkably pro-London budget, giving the capital a stronger footing to agitate for meaningful devolution.
Meanwhile, this has all sent unpleasant ripples through the property market. Many lenders have temporarily halted new mortgages, listed housebuilders have seen shares slide, analysts are predicting house prices could drop by 10-15% over the coming months and some have begun to fear the worst. Clearly, promises to cut Stamp Duty and freeze Corporation Tax have not had the buoyant effect the Government hoped for, at least not yet. As for deregulation, the Growth Plan offered the sector Investment Zones and in a piece for NLA's blog we’ve focused on these elusive oases of low-tax and light-touch regulation. You can read our early analysis here in full, but in brief, our view is that whilst they could stimulate development, proposed plans remain very thin on substance, even considering additional guidance issued on Saturday. In regards to legislation, the fiscal statement triggered a fair bit of unwelcome confusion; in his speech on Friday, Kwasi Kwarteng referenced a new “Planning and Infrastructure Bill”, feeding speculation that the Levelling Up & Regeneration Bill would be scrapped. However, the Government has since clarified that they are “continuing to progress” LURB. Separately, groups including RIBA, UKGBC and a coalition of nature and wildlife groups have warned that a rush to loosen planning rules could compromise efforts to lower emissions and protect biodiversity.
BYE BYE BYFORD
After just over two years at the helm, Transport Commissioner Andy Byford has announced his resignation. Having seen Transport for London (TfL) through an extremely difficult period, Byford has said that he is due to return to the US with his wife. Upon taking the job as Commissioner, Byford said that his main priorities were to oversee the opening of the delayed Elizabeth Line and secure long-term funding for TfL from the Government. Byford achieved the latter just a couple of months ago, after five short-term deals and nine funding extensions. Meanwhile, the central section of the Elizabeth Line entered service in May, marking another success for Byford – and while much work remains to complete the full line, TfL has announced that the new Elizabeth Line station at Bond Street is set to open on 24 October, two weeks before the Line moves to a seven days a week service. Andy Lord, currently TfL’s Chief Operating Officer, is set to take over as Commissioner in an interim capacity in October following Byford’s departure.
In other transport-related news, the Mayor has announced, in response to the cost of living crisis, free travel has been introduced for around 5,000 of the lowest paid transport workers who were not previously eligible for it. This will include cleaning, catering and security staff who are employed by TfL’s suppliers rather than by TfL itself. Separately, the City of London has seen its plans to reduce its speed limit to 15mph blocked by the Department for Transport due to inaccurate speedometers in cars. The Corporation is set to install ‘advisory’ 15mph limits on its streets regardless.
LONDON PLANNING ROUNDUP
- Ealing Council has approved Tide Construction’s proposals for a 32-storey modular residential tower with 462 co-living studios; approved Paragon Asra Housing’s proposals for a 513-home (50% affordable) mixed-use development located in the south of Southall Town; and also approved two other major schemes, including plans for the redevelopment of Ealing Town Hall to provide a new hotel, and proposals to change the use of Cavendish and Century House to provide flexible education/office space
- Greenwich’s planning board has unanimously approved proposals for the development of a new Woolwich Leisure Centre, 482 homes (51 new council homes), commercial space and community space in Woolwich. The application was submitted by the Council and its development partner, The Hill Group.
- Wandsworth’s licensing committee has approved Battersea Power Station Estate Management’s proposals to host a variety of events, including a Christmas ice rink, fashion pop-ups and children’s runs. Battersea Power Station will officially open its doors to the public on Friday 14 October.
- Lewisham Islamic Centre has submitted plans to demolish and redevelop its Catford Mosque The expanded mosque would include a nursery, bookshop, a gym, café, workspace and six flats.
- Notting Hill Home Ownership Ltd (a part of housing association Notting Hill Genesis) has resubmitted amended proposals for 112 homes built across buildings up to five storeys tall in Richmond after a previous iteration was refused in 2020.
Practices and architects alike often feel the impact of economic headwinds before others in the sector and these clearly are challenging times. Major international architecture and design practice Aedas’ London studios – Aedas London and Aedas Interiors London – have entered liquidation. Separately, practices will be closely watching the outcome of a threatened strike ballot at Atomik Architecture. Meanwhile, the Royal Institute of British Architects (RIBA) has announced that its membership fees for 2023 are to increase by 7.5% citing the organisation’s own growing costs – and while many architects and practices will flinch at the added burden, they will surely commiserate. Elsewhere, the Architects Registration Board (ARB) has launched a consultation on proposals that would, from 2024, require all UK architects to comply with its Continuing Professional Development (CPD) scheme and practices to report their CPD activities to the ARB on an annual basis. Separately and in happier news, we’re really pleased to see LCA client Twelve Architects has won the competition to design £37m Central Teaching Laboratory at the University of Sheffield, which will deliver 6,950 sq m of flexible teaching laboratory space.
- UK Chief Executive of HB Reavis Steven Skinner has been appointed to the developer’s Group Executive Management team.
- Chairman of Related Argent David Partridge has been appointed as Chairman of the Board of the Net Zero Carbon Buildings Standard initiative.
- Executive Director of Place at Ealing Council Lucy Taylor has confirmed that she will be leaving the Council at the end of this week, after 15 years.
- Leader of Barking & Dagenham Council Darren Rodwell has officially launched his campaign to be selected as Labour’s candidate for Barking.
- The Director of Culture at Lewisham Borough Council, Liz Dart, left this summer, in the middle of their London Borough of Culture year. The job has been temporarily filled by Gavin Barlow, AD and CEO of The Albany, Deptford.
- Julie Hirigoyen has announced that she is to step down as Chief Executive of the UK Green Building Council.
- Deputy Assistant Met Commissioner Barbara Gray and Matt Twist have been appointed as Assistant Commissioners and are set to join the Met’s Management Board. Professor Lawrence Sherman will also join the Met as the service’s first Chief Scientific Officer. Assistant Commissioner Louisa Rolfe is set to move from Operations to taking responsibility for Frontline Policing.
- Chair of Cushman & Wakefield’s UK business Digby Flower is set to retire at the end of the year.
- Kate Rock has been appointed to the Board of Costain as a Non-Executive Director and Chair Designate. She will take on the role of Chair from 1 December.
- The Landscape Institute has barred its president-elect Brodie McAllister from taking on the role following ‘serious allegations’ made against him. McAllister denies the allegations.
- Retail consultancy Lunson Mitchenall has announced that Neil Mitchenall, one of its founding directors, has passed away after a short battle with cancer.
COUNCIL-LED REGEN LATEST
Major local authority-led regeneration programmes in London have had mixed-fortunes over the past two weeks. In west London, Hillingdon Council has agreed a deal with Higgins Partnerships to demolish and redevelop the Austin Road and Avondale Drive estates in Hayes. There are currently 400 homes on the two estates and a majority of existing residents voted in favour of proposals to deliver 740 new homes on the sites, with the plans approved by Hillingdon’s planning committee in March 2022. Half of the new homes will be affordable, and the remainder will be sold on the open market. Over to north-east London and Redbridge Council has selected Countryside to help deliver the Ilford Western Gateway regeneration programme. The town centre scheme will deliver around 1,000 homes and 30,000 sq ft of community and commercial space. Meanwhile, Enfield Council’s Meridian Water regeneration scheme, being delivered in partnership with Vistry, is facing delays due to rising construction and borrowing costs. Councillors have been notified in a report that the final design work for Meridian Four, which is expected to deliver more than 800 homes within the wider regeneration zone, will be pushed back to the next financial year, as will the contract to deliver street works for the scheme.
TO THE STREETS
With the period of national mourning and the fall-out from Friday’s fiscal fiasco, it has been easy to forget the impending industrial action and protests set to cause disruption in the capital. After commuters were inconvenienced throughout the summer, all the signs are that unions are doubling-down on their demands over pay and conditions. Rail workers are as ever leading the charge (or perhaps better, the stop), with strikes expected to severely impact the retail, hospitality and leisure sectors. Having been postponed out of respect to Her Late Majesty, national rail strikes originally planned for September will now take place on 1, 5 and 8 of October. Some attention has been paid to the timing of this action, which seems to deliberately coincide with the Conservative Party Conference. Entirely aside from industrial action, October is set to be a busy month for protests in the capital. Just Stop Oil’s action this weekend threatens to disrupt the London Marathon although Sadiq Khan has urged organisers to consider the impact on charities. Further protests by Extinction Rebellion commence on 7 October and a notable, albeit likely less disruptive, national demonstration in London by Enough is Enough is planned for 5 October. In addition to other smaller protests, the next few weeks promise to be a troubling time for commuters and businesses.
BARBICAN RENEWAL GO
Earlier this year, the team at LCA helped launch the architectural competition for Barbican Renewal Programme, which will invest in and improve the Barbican Centre building, celebrating its radical vision and design heritage, while responding to the creative opportunities and challenges of the future. With the design team now appointed, we’ve launched an initial public survey to understand people’s current experience of the Barbican Centre, and to hear their ideas for how we could improve the building for the future. We’d love for you to complete the survey and encourage you to share it with anyone who you feel would like to take part.
LETTER FROM LIVERPOOL
As we do every year, LCA is dispatching crack teams and convening clients and politicos at both Labour and Tory conference. Our delegation to the former is trickling back from Liverpool as we write this, bringing with them valuable intelligence and war stories they will no doubt be regaling us with for months. In both Liverpool and Birmingham we are very proud to be supporting Opportunity London and Central District Alliance’s conference efforts. And indeed, a particular highlight so far has been our Opportunity London dinner at Labour Conference, attended by a Who’s Who of London luminaries from across sectors, including Sadiq Khan. For the full story, visit our Senior Advisor Paddy Hennessy’s full missive from Merseyside on our website.
Besides Party Conference, the LCA team has also spent the past couple of days supporting our partners at New London Architecture here in the capital. We’ve been helping out with comms and chairing panel discussions at both yesterday’s new and exclusive Opportunity London Investment Summit at the Royal Academy of Arts, but also at today’s London Real Estate Forum at the Barbican – a major recurring fixture of London’s property calendar. We were thrilled to see so many leaders from across the public and private sectors come together at these events, to exchange ideas, build relationships and forge a way forward in difficult economic times. Just one example of this collaborative working is a new campaign, led by Publica, by a coalition of more than 15 of London’s leading land owners, developers, and Business Improvement Districts to make our streets safer for women and girls. The campaign aims to upskill the sector by finding ways to co-develop innovative solutions across the sector, through a new Knowledge Hub, curated cross-sector meetings and events, as well as coordinating “Action Projects” demonstrating best practice. Find out more about how you can join the campaign here.
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