"Just as blossom on branches and snowdrops on the ground tell us that Spring has sprung, Culture War choruses and Broken Windows ballads tell us that we are entering election season.
As sure as overpriced eggs are overpriced eggs, one month out from local election we have a new Anti-Social Behaviour Action Plan and an interesting, if somewhat shrill, list of pledges and promises on immigration, policing and child safety. There is granular detail on these points, nitrous oxide will be banned, the Law Commission will review the Landlord and Tenant Act of 1954.
All of this electioneering is an interesting contrast to some of the bigger picture policy items that have been begging for that kind of detail-orientated thinking for years. For example, see our first story below on the Levelling Up Agenda. Or a bit further down on the ‘Powering Up Britain’ Strategy."
Jenna Goldberg, LCA Partner & Managing Director, Insight and LDN Editor
Of course, as LDN readers you are never starved of detail, read on for everything you need to know about the week just gone.
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BROKEN, YOU SAY?
The Levelling Up Secretary has acknowledged, explicitly and implicitly, that swathes of policy under his purview are… not really working. In the foreword to a new essay collection by Bright Blue, Michael Gove has openly admitted that ‘the current housing model - from supply to standards and the mortgage market - is broken.’ That would be the housing model overseen by his own party, in government for the past 13 years (during which time we have had 16 Housing Ministers). Separately, Gove has indirectly acknowledged that Right to Buy, a totemic Conservative policy, has contributed to a net loss of social homes. Or at least it seems to us that this is implicit in his announcement of a relaxation of restrictions on how local authorities can use revenue from the sale of council housing… so that they can replace sold homes fast enough. Separately, in what looks like a signal that Gove is still tinkering with his own legislative magnum opus, it has emerged that his department has quietly tabled yet more amendments to the sprawling Levelling Up & Regeneration Bill as it crawls through the Lords. The LURB has been variously described by peers as a ‘Christmas Tree’, a ‘mish mash,’ ‘three bills in one’ and ‘unwieldy.’ Meanwhile, the Department for Levelling Up, Housing and Communities’ (DLUHC) own statistics for planning applications in England confirm that housebuilding is on a downwards trajectory.
Continued uncertainty over the planning policy landscape and a clear slowdown in housing delivery are particularly concerning for London, a city where high housing costs and homelessness rates regularly feature in newspaper headlines. It should, however, be said that London Councils have welcomed reforms to Right to Buy, with Cllr Darren Rodwell describing them as a ‘shot in the arm’, and which they have long campaigned for.
OF RISK AND OPPORTUNITY
As many LDN readers will know, LCA is closely involved in the Opportunity London campaign to invite sustainable investment to the capital – indeed that was the headline message on the London stand at MIPIM. The latest good news on that front is that data from the City of London Corporation has shown that London remains as the most popular destination for foreign direct investment. However the picture is, as ever, mixed. While analysis from CBRE has shown that investment in central London’s office sector started to recover in the first quarter of the year compared to the end of 2022, separate JLL analysis has focused on the fact that investment levels have dropped by 63% compared to the same period last year. Meanwhile, it seems that London’s businesses are struggling to fill their offices in comparison to its international rivals due to the popularity of working from home, with Savills finding that Paris (66%) and Madrid (65%) have the highest occupancy rates, whereas the City of London (48%) and the West End (50%), have the lowest rates, alongside Warsaw (46%). Meanwhile, a report from the City of London Corporation has found that other cities including Frankfurt and Paris are growing at a faster pace than London, though it remains tied with New York City as the most competitive stock market.
LONDON PLANNING ROUNDUP
- Camden Council’s Planning Committee has voted to approve LCA client Landsec’s proposals for the O2 Centre Masterplan including 1,800 new homes. See the Our Week section below for more.
- Westminster’s planning committee has approved a hybrid (part detailed and part outline) application for the borough’s own Church Street estate regeneration plans, which include the re-provision of all existing council homes plus 1,120 new homes (50% affordable) as well as transport, public realm and other improvements. The borough has also appointed DDS Group as its demolition contractor for the scheme.
- Brent Council has submitted smaller-scale plans for the first phase of the St Raphael Estate regeneration scheme. Having worked up both a more ambitious 2,065-home redevelopment option and a more modest 195-home infill scheme, the Council has opted for the latter as the more affordable option.
- British Land has submitted plans to Enfield Council for a ‘near 400,000-square-foot multilevel logistics development’ at the Heritage House site – representing a significant intensification of the site’s current logistics use.
- Naval Row Freehold Limited’s plans for 169 new homes (36% affordable) in tower blocks up to 30 storeys high in Tower Hamlets have been recommended for approval and will be considered by the strategic development committee later today.
- Former Chief Executive of Tower Hamlets Will Tuckley has been appointed as interim Chief Executive at Brighton & Hove City Council.
- Stephen Hubbard, currently chair of Workspace Group, has been appointed to the advisory team of AustralianSuper.
- The Construction Leadership Council has announced the appointment of representatives from Travis Perkins, Lower Thames Crossing, TfL and Berkeley Group to lead on the delivery of its four long-term priorities: Building Safety; People and Skills; Net Zero and Biodiversity; and Next Generation Delivery.
- Professor Julienne Meyer has been announced as Chair of the Government’s Older People’s Housing Taskforce.
REBOOTING NET ZERO?
Last week the Government launched its new energy strategy, Powering Up Britain. This new approach did not exactly have the most auspicious of beginnings, as it was drawn up after the High Court ruled that the Government’s existing plans were not enough to meet its environmental targets. Sadly, this second take has not exactly been well received. The plans focus on efforts to make the UK less reliant on energy imports by becoming more self-sufficient, which will in turn boost economic growth, reduce the cost of energy for consumers and work towards the goal of achieving net zero by 2050. Also included are steps to improve the energy efficiency of homes through what has been dubbed the ‘Great British Insulation Scheme’, as well as an extension of the Boiler Upgrade Scheme and funding allocated to local authorities for the installation of more electric vehicle charging points. However, academics and environmental groups have called the plans ‘lacklustre’ and accused Ministers of falling short. The British Property Federation said that there needs to be more from Government on the decarbonisation of the built environment, while the UKGBC called the announcement a ‘missed opportunity’ to improve the energy efficiency of buildings.
The government’s big anti-social behaviour announcement contained several measures affecting the built environment. The Prime Minister led the charge, with a speech in Essex, with the Home Secretary and Levelling Up Secretary also acting as spokespeople for their components of the catchily-entitled Anti-Social Behaviour Action Plan. Beyond headline-grabbing pledges to ban nitrous oxide and crack down on graffiti, the plan also included a pledge ‘making it easier for landlords to use the breach of tenancy ground to evict anti-social tenants.’ The Plan document was light on the detail, but as reported in The Times, this entails reducing the notice period for eviction for ‘persistently problematic tenants’ and those falling behind on rent ‘from four to two weeks’ through the forthcoming Renters Reform Bill, expected during this Parliament. The Plan reiterated promises to introduce High Street Rental Auctions and other powers for local councils ‘this autumn, following passage of the Levelling Up and Regeneration Bill.’ It also made a new commitment to setting the Law Commission the task of reviewing part of the Landlord and Tenant Act 1954, ‘because complex commercial leasing rules are holding back high streets.’ And finally, the Plan committed the Government to producing ‘guidance highlighting the links between good design and reducing anti-social behaviour’ – but only ‘once the amended National Planning Policy Framework is published and the Levelling Up and Regeneration Bill is in place.’
LONDON'S MANY ATRRACTIONS
While some of our city’s attractions are struggling in the face of increased costs, others are being introduced onto the scene. Hammersmith’s arts centre Riverside Studios has announced that it is entering administration as a result of high energy bills and the cost of its redevelopment, which saw it reopen just months before the start of the pandemic. Meanwhile, a new roller rink has opened in White City’s Westfield, months after its sister site was opened in New York City. Flipper’s Roller Boogie Palace is based on a venue of the same name that operated in Hollywood in the 1970s and 1980s, with London’s venue open for parties, late-night skating, concerts and DJ nights. Away from the rink, London might be about to get its first ever Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty (AONB) as Farthing Downs in Coulsdon has applied for the title. Located in the London Borough of Croydon, the area, which is owned by the City of London Corporation, is already a Site of Special Scientific Interest (SSSI) as it is home to rare flowers and wildlife including roe deer and pipistrelle bats. By becoming an AONB, the area would be conserved by law and additional resources will be allocated to its management. And only this week, City Hall has confirmed that the flagship London Borough of Culture programme – which helps boroughs promote themselves as attractions in their own right – will return to the capital in 2025 and 2027.
While we get a break from London elections this year, a number of councils in England and Northern Ireland will be holding elections on 4 May. In England, 8,000 seats are up for grabs, across 230 parish, district, county, and unitary councils. The LCA team will be keeping an especially close eye on contests in the Red Wall as a major bellwether for the next General Election, with recent polling indicating that Labour may be looking at a comeback here, as well as the results of specific contests in the wider South East, including in places like Elmbridge and Guildford, which are currently run by fragile coalitions between the Lib Dems and residents’ groups. The main national parties have now all set out their stalls, with the Conservatives betting on potholes, Labour promising to freeze council tax (if it were in Government), the Lib Dems hoping to capitalise on voters’ appetite for change more generally, and the Green Party promoting rent controls. In the leadup to the election, there has been considerable degree of confusion and concern over new ID requirements for voting. The results should begin to emerge in full on 5 May.
LANDSEC’S £1BN RESIDENTIAL MASTERPLAN APPROVED
LCA’s long-standing client Landsec has received planning approval from Camden for its first residential-led mixed-use neighbourhood. The O2 Centre Masterplan, which is the largest application in the borough to be approved since the regeneration of Kings Cross, will deliver 1,800 new and affordable homes, a wider choice of shops and restaurants, a health centre, community centre, workspace, and a nursery – all surrounded by two new green public parks, a town square and new pedestrian and cycle routes connecting West Hampstead and Finchley Road. It also secures some impressive financial contributions for the borough – with £43.5 million in CIL and an additional £10 million to help unlock step free access at West Hampstead station, something which has been a local priority for many years. This decision follows four years of consultation led by LCA – with over 2,600 responses helping to shape the final masterplan. A truly transformative project and huge milestone for Landsec which we have been very pleased to help support.
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