“At a recent State of the Market event for the NLA, Darren Rodwell, the Leader of Barking and Dagenham, quipped that ‘we can’t wait on any government to give London what it needs’. It strikes me today that the same is true of the housing and wider built environment sector. There’s no point in waiting for Government – six housing ministers in a year should be clear proof of that – while the Government’s core policy platform, Levelling Up, has apparently now been knee-capped with tight spending rules imposed on its home department.
Darren was talking specifically about the need for private sector investment into the capital – plugging the Opportunity London initiative to invite just that – and again, the same is true for the wider sector. Real solutions to address the housing crisis, the climate crisis and everything in between will have to come from somewhere else. The private sector, local and regional government need to find a work around together.
Beyond the reshuffle, this edition brings news of the Liverpool Street station redevelopment, the green offices of the future and some bad news for the people of Croydon.”
LCA Managing Director, Insight and LDN Editor Jenna Goldberg
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The Prime Minister’s Cabinet reshuffle has resulted in yet another new Housing Minister and may have put the whole Levelling Up agenda on the backburner. Yesterday, Downing Street announced that the Department for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy would be split to form three new departments: the Department for Energy Security and Net Zero; the Department for Business and Trade; and the Department for Science, Innovation and Technology. These will be headed up by Grant Shapps, Kemi Badenoch and Michelle Donelan respectively. Meanwhile, Lucy Frazer KC will lead the Department for Culture, Media and Sport, leaving her current role as Minister for Housing to Rachel Maclean. Maclean will therefore be the sixth person to hold the housing post in just the last year alone. There were no further changes at DLUHC, with Michael Gove having reportedly turned down the opportunity to head up Science, Innovation and Technology. However, this morning it was reported that Gove’s hands are being somewhat tied, as the Treasury has banned DLUHC from making capital spending decisions amid concerns that the Department is not delivering value for money…
Meanwhile, MP for Chelsea and Fulham Greg Hands has been appointed as Conservative Party Chairman, meaning that he will be in charge of the Party’s electoral machine, and as a London MP, he could lead the fight against Sadiq Khan until a mayoral candidate is chosen.
SOCIAL HOUSING LATEST
The latest figures on damp and mould in social housing in the UK make for worrying reading. An investigation into the issue by the Regulator of Social Housing (RSH), launched in the aftermath of the inquest into the death of two-year old Awaab Ishak, has found that 8,000 homes have the most serious category one hazards – as assessed by the Housing Health and Safety Rating System (HHSRS) – which implies a serious and immediate threat to health. The findings show that councils reported proportionately more category one hazards than housing associations, though the RSH did highlight that some providers submitted “poor” responses and others had no data on damp and mould at all. Meanwhile, the Housing Ombudsman expressed disappointment in the sector as its own report, following on from the October 2021 Spotlight Report, found that just 35% of landlords have a specific damp and mould policy. The Ombudsman also said there was a 77% increase in the number of enquiries and complaints concerning damp, mould and leaks from 2020-21 to 2021-22. Activist Kwajo Tweneboa relayed this sentiment, telling the London Assembly’s Housing Committee that the number of problems in the sector ‘only seem to be getting bigger’. Meanwhile, London’s Deputy Mayor for Housing Tom Copley has said that London housing associations face the “very real risk” of being denied access to Sadiq Khan’s grant schemes if homes they manage fall into disrepair.
COST OF LIVING
As the cost-of-living crisis continues to affect Londoners, recent polling has found that almost half feel that the Mayor is simply not doing enough to help. Indeed, while well-intentioned, Khan’s recent appearance with Martin Lewis may have backfired when the MoneySavingExpert himself said that the timing of the planned expansion of the Ultra-Low Emission Zone (ULEZ) was ‘pretty tough’ as it will disproportionately affect poorer people. The Mayor seems determined to implement his plans despite these concerns, having in recent days called on the boroughs to drop their opposition, while some of the Home Counties are also threatening to thwart the plans. Most Londoners will also face higher council tax bills, with the majority of boroughs planning rises. Spare a thought for residents of Croydon in particular, whose council tax will be going up by a whopping 15% after being given special approval by the Government. This big increase is part of the Council’s plans to improve its finances following its declaration of bankruptcy for the third time in two years at the end of 2022.
LONDON PLANNING ROUNDUP
- The Law Commission of England and Wales has announced that it will begin a review of the legislation governing ‘outdated’ compulsory purchase to ‘ensure laws are fit or future development projects’.
- Harrow Council has prepared a draft supplementary planning document (SPD), titled Building Heights, which would introduce new design principles to which tall and “contextually tall” buildings would be required to adhere.
- Native Land has won an appeal against Westminster City Council’s refusal of its plans to redevelop Kilmuir House in Belgravia and deliver 60 homes (four of which will be affordable).
- Wandsworth Council is considering the extension of the Northern line from Battersea Power Station to Clapham Junction as part of a masterplan for the area.
- As part of yesterday’s mini-reshuffle, DLUHC Permanent Secretary Jeremy Pocklington will be moving to head up the new Department for Energy Security and Net Zero, with Sarah Healy set to replace him at DLUHC.
- Heathrow Airport has announced the departure of Chief Executive John Holland-Kaye, who will leave his role once a successor has been found.
- Stephen Halsey looks set to replace Will Tuckley as interim Chief Executive of Tower Hamlets. He previously held the role of Corporate Director at the Council.
- Reports suggest that London Assembly Member Nick Rogers could stand to be selected as the Conservative candidate for the Mayor of London in 2024.
LIVERPOOL STREET SAGA
Sellar and Network Rail face mounting pressure from heritage campaigners over their £1.5bn proposals for the redevelopment of Liverpool Street station. The proposals include adding one million sq ft of mixed-use space in two blocks, doubling the size of the concourse, creating new public realm and installing new lifts, escalators and ticket barriers. The joint venture launched a public consultation for the plans in November and it seems that opposition from the likes of the Victorian Society, as well as Historic England’s decision to upgrade the site’s listed status, has already seen some design elements amended. Property Week has also reported that the Victorian Society is chairing the reformed Liverpool Street Station Campaign (LISCCA) to further oppose the plans. The LISCCA, which originally prevented the station’s demolition in the 1970s, has launched a petition calling for an abandonment of what it calls its “harmful” and “insensitive” development proposals. The new committee is comprised of Save Britain’s Heritage, The Twentieth Century Society, Historic Buildings & Places, The Georgian Group, Civic Voices, London Historians and The Spitalfields Trust – all groups which have a strong track record of stifling redevelopment projects. The planning application is due to be submitted to the City of London Corporation by the end of March, and if approved, the developers hope to start construction work by mid-2025.
London’s office sector could look much greener in the years to come, as demand for eco-friendly offices grow and new energy-efficiency regulations come into force. Andrew Barclay, grandson of Sir David Barclay, has apparently raised £100m to purchase old office buildings in the capital with a view to converting them into more modern, environmentally-friendly blocks, reflecting growing demand for these types of schemes from tenants. Plus, research has shown that ‘green offices’ achieve higher rents. These improvements will also bring buildings in line with upcoming changes to energy efficiency rules as the Government has announced changes to the Minimum Energy Efficiency Standards (MEES) regulations in the commercial sector. From 1 April this year, landlords will be unable to let out properties that have an EPC rating of F or G. The Government is also reportedly planning to tighten these rules in 2027 and then again in 2030. Planning permission is also being granted for an increasing number of new sustainable buildings. In January, Southwark Council approved plans by Native Land for their Bankside Yards office development, which will target BREEAM Outstanding and NABERS five-star ratings.
In positive news for sports fans, the Mayor of London has suggested that London could bid to host the 2040 Olympic Games. Speaking to MyLondon, Sadiq Khan said that the GLA is ‘exploring’ the possibility of putting forward a bid, saying that London 2040 would be ‘the greenest games ever’, by making use of the capital’s existing facilities. This comes after the Mayor said that he had held talks with the International Olympic Committee in May last year and that work had been done on ‘preliminary plans’. If London were to host another Olympic Games, it would be the first city to host it four times, having previously done so in 1908, 1948 and 2012.
RECHARGED FOR 2023
This week our client Eastern City BID marked the end of their winter RECHARGE campaign with a stakeholder event at The Leadenhall Building. Launched in January, the campaign supported the mental health and wellbeing of workers and visitors to the area, and drove footfall to local businesses struggling during a quieter-than-usual start to the year. Over the past four weeks, more than 20,000 people have flocked to The City to enjoy Evanescent, a giant, 7.5m-high sound and light installation designed by Australian studio Atelier Sisu and delivered by FESTIVAL.ORG. The event also served as the first opportunity for new EC BID CEO Kate Hart to speak directly to key stakeholders and members about her plans to continue driving footfall to the iconic part of the capital as she embarks on her new role. LCA has supported EC BID to secure key media and social media coverage since the campaign launched, including features with BBC London, ITV London, The Guardian and TimeOut.
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