“There is certainly a feeling in the air today, as workers strike across the capital, that this Winter of Discontent will turn into a Cruel Summer, a period when industrial action and political unrest will be very much the norm.
We are already there in some ways, as calendar notes for dates well in the future remind us ‘Teams calls only – rail strike day’ or the school newsletter urges us to arrange back up childcare. Is the government counting on this adjustment?
The Department of Levelling Up, Housing and Communities has certainly been more interventionist when it comes to matters of fire and building safety – this week Gove has seemingly reaching a détente with developers. Meanwhile, two very long-running planning sagas have turned a page and the ULEZ, likely to be a key election issue for Sadiq Khan, is attracting more unwelcome attention.”
LCA Managing Director, Insight and LDN Editor Jenna Goldberg
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Today has been the UK’s biggest strike day for a decade, with further disruption likely in the weeks to come. Train drivers, teachers, civil servants, lecturers, bus drivers and security guards all took industrial action today, causing widespread disruption for many, as workers continue to feel the squeeze of the cost of living crisis. The National Education Union has announced that teachers will go on strike again on dates throughout February and March and there are more rail and bus strikes scheduled to take place this Friday. So far this week, firefighters have voted in favour of industrial action, as have ambulance workers and Environment Agency staff while staff at the British Museum are also set to go on strike during the February half term. As for the Tube, at the end of 2022, RMT union members voted for more industrial action, though strike dates are yet to be announced.
BUILDING SAFETY LATEST
Housing Secretary Michael Gove’s latest iteration of a cladding contract has struck a better tone with housebuilders – though it is accompanied by serious consequences for those who refuse to sign it. Developers have six weeks to sign the contract, which will commit them to fire safety remediation works – estimated to total around £2bn – on buildings 11 metres or above in height that they have built or refurbished over the past 30 years. This means that together with the Building Safety Levy, the industry is paying an estimated £5bn to make their buildings safe. Legislation will also introduce a Responsible Actors Scheme (RAS) to block developers who have not signed the contract or who have failed to comply with its terms from carrying out development. While Barratt and Persimmon have announced that they are likely to sign the contract and the Home Builders Federation (HBF) has said that the “contract better reflects the principles of the pledge”, the industry has widely urged the Government to target foreign builders and cladding providers, rather than “repeatedly take the easy option to target UK companies”. The announcement comes after Gove, speaking about the Grenfell Tower fire, admitted that “faulty and ambiguous” Government guidance “allowed unscrupulous people to exploit a broken system in a way that led to tragedy”.
LONDON PLANNING ROUNDUP
- In a majority judgement, the Supreme Court has ruled that the Tate Modern’s viewing gallery poses “constant visual intrusion” to the flats opposite and interferes with the “ordinary use and enjoyment” of them by their inhabitants. The judgement extends the law of privacy to include overlooking, and while the court insists the decision was for this specific case, the precedent could ‘open the floodgates’ to similar disputes. The flat owners will reportedly work with the Tate to “find a practical solution which protects all of their interests”.
- The Prime Minister has announced plans to introduce legislation which will enable a new National Holocaust Memorial in Victoria Tower Gardens next to Parliament. The announcement comes after the High Court overturned planning permission (granted in July 2021 after a public inquiry) due to the London County Council (Improvements) Act 1900 which requires the land to be used as a public park.
- The public inquiry into CO_RE and Mitsubishi Estates’ plans to redevelop the former ITV studios drew to a close on 25 January. A decision by the Secretary of State is expected by the summer.
- Camden Council has approved proposals from Stanhope and Mitsui Fudosan to extend the British Library (more on this in Our Week below).
- Waltham Forest has unanimously approved proposals to demolish and redevelop the Avenue Road Estate in Leytonstone, which currently comprises 241 social rented homes. The scheme, which the Council is carrying out in partnership with Bellway, will deliver 617 homes (including the re-provision of existing homes).
- Ealing Council has approved Real and A2Dominion’s proposals for the final phase of the Green Man Lane residential scheme which will deliver 396 homes (49% affordable).
- Westminster City Council has granted permission for Morgan Capital’s proposed renovation of its seven-storey office building at 25 Hanover Square. The plans include a reconfigured terrace on the seventh floor overlooking the square.
- The City of London Corporation has approved Atenor’s proposals to retrofit and extend Fleet House. The proposals will aim for BREEAM Excellent and create a 77,500 sq. ft office.
- Greenwich Council has approved plans by the University of Greenwich to build an energy centre at its Avery Hill campus.
Lord Morse has been appointed as Interim Chair of the Office for Local Government for 18 months. First announced last year, Michael Gove has said that the Office for Local Government “will produce detailed and precise comparison of delivery across local authorities and mayoral combined authorities”.
Just this afternoon it has been announced that Will Tuckley is to leave his role as Chief Executive of Tower Hamlets Council after seven and a half years.
Amit Shanker has been appointed as Newham Council’s new Chief Digital Officer.
SPOTLIGHT ON SADIQ
Last Thursday, Sadiq Khan was a guest on Steven Bartlett’s Diary of a CEO podcast where the two discussed Khan’s childhood, career to date and motivations. While he carefully avoided questions on his regrets as Mayor, he did acknowledge the safety concerns for women and girls in the capital and highlighted his hardest moments in office. If a profile-raising exercise on one of the UK’s most popular podcasts was not enough to signal that his re-election campaign is well underway, Khan’s speech at the London Labour Conference certainly did the job. In the address, Khan claimed the “Tories are polluting our politics, they’re polluting our rivers and they’re polluting our reputation across the world”. He went on to criticise the requirement for photo ID at the 2024 Mayoral election, insisting it was a Conservative effort to marginalise certain groups of voters. Then, appearing in front of the Levelling Up, Housing and Communities Select Committee, Khan branded the Government’s levelling up policy as “an unmitigated disaster” and one that adds “little value to London communities”. He emphasised that London was losing out on levelling up funding and inequality in the capital is just as bad as the rest of the country, if not worse. A very busy week indeed, and we haven’t touched on the ULEZ yet…
The Mayor has once again come under criticism over his plans for the expansion of London’s Ultra-Low Emission Zone (ULEZ), although this time it is ‘friendly fire’ from Labour local authorities. A number have expressed concerns about the plans, arguing that there should have been a longer lead-in time for the expansion and an improved scrappage scheme for Londoners with non-compliant vehicles. In response, the GLA has said that the expansion of the ULEZ will not be delayed, while on Monday a new £110m scrappage scheme was launched.
WHERE DOES IT END?
Meanwhile, the Chancellor has said that HS2 will terminate at Euston following reports that existing plans would be altered so that the line would instead end at the future Old Oak Common station in West London. Jeremy Hunt made the comments following reports, first published by The Sun, that HS2 bosses were considering making major changes to the plans in a bid to reduce costs. The bill now stands at over £100bn, up from the £33bn that was originally forecast. The proposals have already undergone significant change, with the proposed eastern leg connecting East Midlands Parkway (outside Nottingham) to Leeds scrapped in 2021 to reduce costs.
THAMES VISION 2050
The Port of London Authority (PLA) has begun a master planning exercise to capture the growth opportunities along the Thames - already home to the UK’s largest port and busiest inland waterway –and provide clarity in decision-making processes. Last year, a river development framework (Thames Vision 2050) was launched to set out future priorities for the river around three themes: Trading Thames, Destination Thames and Natural Thames. Through the newly announced master planning process, the PLA hopes to identify opportunities for trade, travel, sport and nature along the Thames, and “pick out the existing operations and potential options for development around trading and destination activities, and further improvements to the natural environment” across the 22 boroughs and councils that the river covers. In the initial phase of development, the PLA expects to work with Bexley, Newham and councils in the Thames Gateway. Masterplan development will be advanced at local level over the next 18 months and a river wide consultation will take place once the overall masterplan has been developed.
LGBT+ HISTORY MONTH
Today marks the beginning of LGBT+ History Month, which this year has the theme #BehindTheLens, celebrating the contributions of LGBT+ people to cinema and film. There’s plenty going on across the capital. South London’s Cinema Museum is hosting five evenings of films, the curator of King’s Cross’ Queer Britain museum is holding a talk on the first year of the museum, and Royal Museums Greenwich and the Museum of London are holding a number of events throughout the month. For those of our readers who work in the built environment, we recommend that you mark the month by taking a look at the London Property Alliance’s Diversifying Real Estate Guidebook: Sexuality.
LCA clients G.Network were on the front foot at the Labour Party’s London Regional Conference last weekend with CEO Kevin Murphy meeting Keir Starmer (pictured). With Labour, clear favourites to form the next government, looking to boost links with business, G.Network sponsored a roundtable at the conference, which was led by former business secretary Lord (Peter) Mandelson and featured contributions from shadow culture (and digital) secretary Lucy Powell, Hackney South MP Meg Hillier, Westminster Council leader Adam Hug and Barking & Dagenham Council leader Darren Rodwell. Kevin, flanked by G.Network chairman Sean Williams, delivered a well-received presentation: ‘Ultrafast Broadband - The key driver behind growth, equality and opportunity.’
ITV London’s Tuesday night news bulletin featured a live interview with Kate Hart, newly appointed CEO of LCA client Eastern City Business Improvement District (EC BID), inside the seven-metre-high giant bubbles of the Evanescent installation at the Leadenhall Building. Kate told reporter Sally Williams that the giant bubbles, created by Sydney-based design studio Atelier Sisu, were there to bring some ‘joy and light’ into the gloomy days of January and February – and to ‘pull back’ workers and attract new visitors to the City at a time when many staff are opting for a hybrid working week with time split between home and office.
BRITISH LIBRARY GO AHEAD
LCA is delighted to have helped secure planning permission from Camden Council for the extension of the British Library earlier this week. The proposals, put forward by SMBL (a partnership between Stanhope Plc and Mitsui Fudosan) and the British Library will extend one of the foremost cultural institutions in London, providing new and exciting exhibition and event spaces, while also delivering infrastructure for Crossrail 2. These will be delivered at no cost to the public through commercial office spaces for Knowledge Quarter businesses. Works are due to start next year ahead of an anticipated opening in 2029/30.
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