"It’s a relatively quiet week, what with it being half term, Parliament and City Hall on a break and borough AGMs, in London at least, going through relatively smoothly. Meanwhile train strikes today and on to the weekend again impact on us all and on London especially. One feels for all the City and United fans trying to get to Wembley on Saturday (at least kick off is at 3pm) and the Irish and England fans at Lords tomorrow and through to the weekend for the first Test match of the summer. How much longer will the strikes last? Who knows.
But politics does continue, and the Conservatives face an interesting selection challenge now that we know of at least nine men and women keen to be their candidate for Mayor of London next year. Well worth reading On London’s Dave Hill for a super analysis here. And for those who continue to track our current Mayor, tune into Lewis Goodall’s chat with Sadiq Khan on the Newsagents (LBC) podcast from last Friday. Very revealing indeed.
Meanwhile read on for NHS news, the launch of the London Festival of Architecture, woes in Woking and more."
Robert Gordon Clark, Partner and Senior Advisor
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40+ "NEW" HOSPITALS... SOMEDAY
The Government’s New Hospital Programme (NHP) is facing several setbacks following an announcement by the Health Secretary. Speaking in the Commons, Steve Barclay said that eight of the 40 ‘new hospitals’ that the Government had originally pledged to deliver by 2030 would be delayed to prioritise work on five hospitals which have been identified as being at particular risk due to the use of reinforced autoclaved aerated concrete (RAAC) in their structures. The Government has pledged to eradicate RAAC across the NHS estate due to safety concerns and as a result, work on hospitals including St Mary’s, Charing Cross and Hammersmith hospitals has been pushed back to after 2030. Professor Tim Orchard, Chair of the Imperial College NHS Trust, told the Evening Standard that waiting until 2030 before refurbishment works began “would be hugely damaging for the health and healthcare of hundreds of thousands of people.” The Government has also come under criticism for only allocating £20bn for work on the 40 ‘new’ hospitals, when the Government originally estimated that the NHP would cost £35bn. Speaking on Sunday with Laura Kuenssberg, Barclay admitted after long speculation that the NHP did not only include the delivery of brand new hospitals, but also refurbishments and the construction of new wings of hospitals.
LONDON PLANNING ROUNDUP
Bexley Council has adopted its new Local Plan including the expectation that it will deliver 757 homes per year over 16 years, an increase on the London Plan target of 685 homes. The Plan also identifies two new opportunity areas, Thamesmead and Abbey Wood and Bexley Riverside.
Camden Council is seeking a development partner for the regeneration of Camley Street and Cedar Way, expanding the Kings Cross Knowledge Quarter. The site’s masterplan includes proposals for 350 new homes, including 135 council houses and 200,000 sq ft of commercial space.
A 20-year masterplan to deliver 1,300 new homes and construct a ‘market square’ at Church End has been approved by Brent Council. Public realm improvements to encourage active travel, a new secondary school and improved connectivity to Dollis Hill and Neasden London Underground Stations are also included in the regeneration plans.
Inland Homes have secured planning permission from Hounslow Council to deliver a 1,525-home scheme at the Cavalry Barracks, 35% of which will be affordable. One of London’s largest remaining brownfield sites, the project will be built on 36.7 acres of land, with 10.6 acres of this retained for open space and 30,000 sq ft earmarked for commercial development.
Developer Kajima has secured planning permission to refurbish and extend Orwell House in Fitzrovia, following its purchase of the six-storey property from British Land in 2020. The plans were submitted to Westminster City Council in December 2022 and include adding another storey, increasing its office space to 35,500 sq ft.
Waltham Forest Council and its development partner London Square have submitted a planning application to amend its already-approved plans for a high-rise development at Lea Bridge Station, adding second staircases to the two towers and a third “courtyard” style building at the same site.
HUG VS CANDY
Much has been written about the American candy stores now dotted around Central London, but now Westminster City Council is taking action. The growing trend of candy stores on Oxford Street has seen Leader of the Council Cllr Adam Hug voice his concerns to a wide group of stakeholders, including a recent letter to 19 property groups urging them to do ‘all that they can’ to halt the rise of the businesses. In March, Hug called on the Government to strengthen its Economic Crime Bill to include a reform of business rates to clamp down on the candy and souvenir stores found on popular thoroughfares such as Oxford Street. Indeed, Westminster City Council has reported it is owed £9m in unpaid business rates from the shops – a rather sour taste for the local authority as council budgets continue to tighten. But it’s not just about their prevalence or taxes. Cllr Hug reported that Westminster City Council has spent over a year seizing over £1m in counterfeit goods, while working with national bodies such as HMRC and the National Crime Agency to tackle illegal activity.
Planning firm Turley has appointed its current Senior Director for the North, Stephen Bell, as its new Chief Executive. Bell will replace the company’s current Chief Executive Dave Trimingham, who will become the firm’s Executive Chair.
Housing developer Wyatt Homes has hired Shaun Pettitt as its new Managing Director. Pettitt joins from Bellway where he led the housebuilder’s Wessex division.
Shoosmiths partner and mixed-use development specialist lawyer Karen Howard is joining Gateley Legal as a partner in its London office.
Former Chief Policy Director at the CBI, Matthew Fell, is joining BusinessLDN as its new Director of Competitiveness.
Property management firm The Langham Estate has appointed two new members to its executive team. Richard Hillyard joins as Head of Sustainability from consultancy Greengage Environmental, while Joanne McGillen has been promoted to lead the company’s health and safety division.
Former head of country homes sales at Savills, Lindsay Cuthill, has established a new estate agency focusing on high-end developments in South West London and the South of England.
Expanding on their pledge to ‘back the builders, not the blockers’, the Labour Party has unveiled more about their plans for boosting housebuilding. According to reports, in Government the Party would introduce legislation which would change how land is priced when being acquired by local authorities through compulsory purchase orders (CPOs). Under the current system, when purchasing land councils are required to take into account its ‘hope value’, the site’s potential value if planning permission is granted in the future. Labour’s proposals would overwrite the 1961 Land Compensation Act and allow local authorities to purchase sites without taking this value into account if they are able to demonstrate that its acquisition is in the public interest, giving councils access to more land where they would be able to deliver more housing. The reports come after Party leader Keir Starmer announced that in Government, Labour would give local authorities more power to deliver housing on green belt land, where development would not ‘affect the beauty’ of the local landscape.
TECH CAPITAL... OF THE WORLD?
London’s reputation as a global hub for commerce, innovation and connectivity received a welcome pat on the back this past week. The annual report of the SCI7 Smart Centres Index showed London holding first place as a centre for technology, with New York and San Francisco placed second and third respectively. It follows April’s findings from Z/Yen suggesting that London has maintained its place as top of the Global Green Finance Index. The Mayor’s trip to the US earlier this year put London’s innovation and technology industries front and centre for incentivising investment. But despite how prominent these sectors are in London’s commercial framework, inclusion remains a problem for transferring the benefits of the digital economy to Londoners. This is also the view of the London Office of Technology & Innovation, a partnership between London boroughs and the GLA, which has published its research on triaging digital inclusion in London boroughs. The report found high levels of digital exclusion in London’s older population, including challenges when accessing online council services. It added that boroughs should develop more dedicated training for excluded groups, as well as improve overall workforce capacity to deliver face-to-face and digital support.
LONDON FESTIVAL OF ARCHITECTURE
The London Festival of Architecture launches tomorrow, offering a month of events across the capital for all to enjoy. The theme this year is In Common, focusing on how to ‘make the most of what we have in common’ and ‘explore the things we don’t’. LCA’s very own Andrea Klettner will be chairing a panel debate on 21 June on why London needs more risky play spaces, with panellists from Lendlease, the UK Play Safety Forum and Erect Architecture. A number of LCA’s clients will also be partnering with the LFA on different events throughout the month. The EC BID is hosting an Urban Playground in the City until the end of August, while the Royal Docks is hosting a Build-A-Town event for kids, as well as Pews & Perches as part of their summer season At The Docks.
NEW KID ON THE BLOCK?
Recent changes in building safety and regulations have ushered in an enhanced green energy for the built environment sector. Retrofit and decarbonisation is the core mission of a new industry-led organisation aimed at delivering a collective response to the climate crisis. Cue the new National Home Decarbonisation Group which was founded earlier this month. Formed out of the National Insulation Association (NIA), its purpose is to stimulate growth and innovation in the sector in support of the Government’s net zero goals. The group is chaired by the NIA’s Chair, Derek Horrocks, and was established with 17 founder members from construction, energy and property services industries, including Mace, British Gas and VINCI Construction. Crucially, the new group’s remit is supporting all housing tenure types including social, private rented and owned homes. With energy efficiency recently highlighted as an area of focus for supporting social housing and private rented homes, this broad approach is a ‘defining moment’ for the industry, according to Horrocks. It also aims to act as a policy influencer and close partner with the Government, devolved nations and sector stakeholders to support its aims. You can read a full list of the group’s founding members here.
WOKING IN TROUBLE
Anyone in the business of local government will have looked to the heart of Surrey and read of Woking Borough Council’s debt woes, to put it mildly. A Government external assurance review into the Council’s finances and governance revealed a precarious administration which by 2026 would have accumulated £2.6bn in debt, 100 times the size of its annual budget of £24m and officially the most indebted council in the UK. The Minister for Local Government, Lee Rowley, said Woking was facing ‘the most challenging financial position of any local authority in England.’ Sources told local government newspaper The MJ that Woking’s situation was ‘like Thurrock on speed’, referring to another financially challenged council. Woking joins the list of councils with commissioners overseeing its operations, along with Thurrock, Slough and Croydon. Alarm bells were sounded in February 2023 when the then-Deputy Leader of the Council, Cllr Will Forster, called for urgent support from Whitehall. The subsequent review revealed that borrowing from central government and a series of property deals in office and commercial real estate left the council’s budget vulnerable. In a similar situation to Croydon, , the pandemic and a year-on-year reduction in public funding pushed Woking into borrowing to support its public services. At the May 2022 local elections, the Liberal Democrats took control of the council from a Conservative administration which had lasted 14 years. Despite these high-risk investments taking place between 2016-19 and under a different political party, the council’s leadership has a mammoth task on its hands.
BUILDING HEALTHIER HOMES
The Healthy Homes Checklist (HHC) has been created by LCA client Ekkist, the UK’s first specialist wellbeing consultancy for the built environment. HHC examines every aspect of a residential building’s design, using scientific research and best design practice to measure how healthy new homes are, and identify potential areas for improvement in both design and construction. Another LCA client Quintain is among the first of a number of developers to trial this groundbreaking tool that comprises more than 130 practical steps that architects, developers and housebuilders can integrate into the design and construction process to make homes healthier. Launched this week, we’ve achieved significant coverage including pieces in the Evening Standard, Property Week, BE News and BTR News, with more to come.
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