“Bob Kerslake was a great man, and LDN readers will share our sadness at the news of his death. Few who came across him would fail to be impressed by his dedication to public service and his generosity of spirit. Even after a stellar career that took in the highest ranks of local government and Whitehall, running national agencies and as a member of the House of Lords, he continued to devote his energies to causes that stirred his passions. Just in London alone his CV swept in running Hounslow Council, and chairing Kings College Hospital NHS Trust, BeFirst, Peabody, the New Economics Foundation. No doubt I’ve missed something, he was that prolific.
Indeed, so sought after was Bob’s rich experience he became a go-to person for inquiries and commissions, notably the work he did for City Hall on housing supply in London. I first came across Bob when he chaired UK2070 – tackling the UK’s engrained geographical inequality was a cause about which he cared deeply. When he spoke publicly about the dangers of overcentralisation and the need for more devolution, given the positions he’d held in local and central government, it carried great weight.
In an age when experts and advice from wise officials are too easily denigrated, the likes of Bob are more important than ever. There will be an appropriate moment, I’m sure, to celebrate all he achieved but for now everyone at LCA sends Bob’s family and friends our sincere condolences at this terribly sad time.
Elsewhere, the tennis world descending on SW19 for Wimbledon fortnight is another reminder of the role sport and historic institutions play in London’s soft power and global reach. The hallowed courts of the All England Lawn Tennis and Croquet Club (AELTC) (to give it its full name!) has seen some famous battles down the years. But the biggest battle over the coming months might well be away from the grass, in Town Hall committee rooms, City Hall and maybe even the corridors of Whitehall.
The AELTC have ambitious plans for modernizing and expanding facilities, to bolster the tournament’s global standing. But it is a constrained site, surrounded by residential areas and green space and sits aside two battleground parliamentary constituencies (with the current MPs both expressing their opposition to the plans).
As well as boosting soft power, Wimbledon brings economic benefits, both for the city as a whole and even for enterprising locals. But balancing the various competing interests while maintaining the competitiveness of one of London’s global assets exposes starkly the conundrum many are facing as they negotiate our creaky planning system.”
Nick Bowes, Managing Director, Insight
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AIR QUALITY LATEST
With the judicial review of the proposed expansion of the Ultra-Low Emission Zone (ULEZ) starting yesterday, recent reports have put into perspective the scale of the capital’s air pollution problems. A City Hall-commissioned report has found the most deprived Londoners are more likely to live in the most polluted areas, with Black Londoners and diaspora immigrant communities most affected. Meanwhile, research from the Clean Cities Campaign has found that air pollution levels in a third of boroughs breach the Government’s maximum permitted level of nitrogen dioxide. However, according to a poll by Clean Air Wins, a majority of Outer Londoners believe air pollution has only a minimal impact on health. Separately, the Mayor has been rebuked for his claim, made in March, that 90% of vehicles in outer London meet ULEZ standards. The UK Statistics Authority (UKSA) said the claim was not supported by publicly available data, with City Hall saying the Mayor ‘misspoke’ when he made the comments. Meanwhile, Labour’s candidate for the Uxbridge and South Ruislip by-election, Camden councillor Danny Beales, has also now called for delays to the scheme’s expansion, despite previously being supportive - perhaps reflecting a growing sense from within the Labour campaign that the ULEZ issue is causing problems on the doorstep. The outcome of the legal challenge against the Mayor’s plans for the expansion of the ULEZ - brought by Bexley, Bromley, Harrow and Hillingdon councils as well as Surrey County Council – is not expected to be made public until a later date. It will be particularly interesting to see whether the judgement appears in time for the by-election on 20 July.
AT HOME WITH JOHN LEWIS
From a draper’s shop on Oxford Street, to new ventures in housebuilding, John Lewis Partnership (JLP) made a dramatic entry into London’s Build-to-Rent (BTR) market – a market booming amid the city’s acute housing needs, despite the challenging economic context. First announced in July 2021, JLP has ambitions to develop 10,000 new BTR homes across the UK. However, despite JLP’s securing a £500m partnership with Abrdn, the company’s Chair, Dame Sharon White, has faced a significant challenge to these plans to diversify the business. JLP have since submitted their first BTR plans in the capital, aiming to develop nearly 800 homes on retail sites in West Ealing and Bromley with 35% of homes allocated as affordable. Tall ambitions aside, residents at an exhibition of the Bromley site were told that only 20% of the homes would be affordable due to rising construction costs. Meanwhile in Ealing, Leader of the Council, Cllr Peter Mason said the company was trying to ‘bully through’ its plans to develop residential blocks between 10-19 storeys. All in all, it has been a harsh lesson to date for John Lewis, showing that reputation on the High Street counts for little when faced with the realities of the planning system.
New research reveals yet more troubling news for London’s private rented sector. Figures collated by London Councils, in partnership with LSE and Savills, suggests the number of private rented homes in the capital reduced by 41% since before the pandemic – with asking prices on rents soaring 20% above pre-Covid levels. Compounding matters, landlords are reportedly reducing their property portfolio; selling up because of rising mortgage rates and inflation. Commenting on this, Barking and Dagenham Council Leader and London Council’s housing lead Cllr Darren Rodwell said “a bad situation is now becoming disastrous.” Over one million of London’s households rely on the private rented sector and despite the Renters Reform Bill making its way through Parliament, the research authors urge the Government to act fast to respond to an unmanageable crisis.
TORY CANDIDACY NEWS
As Conservative Party members start voting for their candidate in next year’s Mayoral election, the two fighting it out are certainly making a splash. London Assembly Member and former Leader of Harrow Council Susan Hall has pledged to scrap the ULEZ expansion, instead providing £50m to boroughs for clean air projects. However, it is Hall’s comments in a Sun interview which have really caught the eye, where she accuses the Mayor of being ‘sexist’. Writing in ConservativeHome, Hall also claims to be her party’s ‘best chance’ of beating Sadiq Khan. However, analysis by JL Partners contests this view, which finds that her opponent, Mozammel Hossain, is the candidate to beat Sadiq. Hossain, a criminal barrister who has little political background has secured the high profile endorsement of former Home Secretary Priti Patel, and is portraying himself as the candidate who has the right experience to tackle crime. Party members vote until 18 July, with the final result announced on 19 July.
LONDON PLANNING ROUNDUP
A major mixed-use redevelopment of Berol Yard in Tottenham Hale has been approved by Haringey Council, refurbishing and extending a former pencil factory to include 210 new BTR homes (35% affordable).
Harrow Council has approved plans for an £8.2m town centre transformation scheme, utilising funds from the Government’s Future High Street Fund to develop affordable commercial spaces and public realm improvements.
Meyer Homes’ revised plans to build a 15-story housing block in Woolwich are set to be approved by Greenwich Council. The previous plans were paused following the Mayor of London’s updated rules on second staircases in towers above 30 metres.
Burberry has reopened its flagship store on New Bond Street following a redevelopment. The three-storey building features the luxury brand’s unique style and heritage in a modernised, open-plan 22,000ft2 space.
Westminster City Council is expected to approve plans for the redevelopment of Gillingham House near Victoria Station at next week’s Planning Committee.
Plans by Anthology for the delivery of 126 homes (24% affordable) have been narrowly approved by Lambeth Council following a redesign which cut reduced the height from 29 to 15 storeys.
- Andrea Ruckstuhl has been appointed as the new CEO of Lendlease Europe.
- Thomas Woldbye has been announced as the new CEO of Heathrow Airport.
- Gillian Douglas is set to join Lewisham Council in September as the local authority’s new Executive Director of Housing. She joins from Sandwell Council where she is Director of Housing.
- Labour held seats in by-elections in Hermitage & Gardens ward in Haringey and Newington ward in Southwark.
- Former President of RPTI, Wei Yang, has been appointed as Chair of the Construction Industry Council, succeeding Adair CEO Justin Sullivan.
- Former Chair of the National Police Chiefs’ Council and Assistant Commissioner at the Met Police, Nick Ephgrave, has been announced as the new Director of the Serious Fraud Office.
CONSTRUCTION SECTOR UPDATE
Construction Is a sector that is highly sensitive to the ups and downs of the economy, and unsurprisingly the recent high inflation, rising interest rates and economic turbulence is taking its toll. Here’s a number of stories which gave us pause for thought:
- Administrators have had a busy few weeks following the collapse of London-based contractors ME Construction, Claritas and Henry Construction who, despite an annual turnover of £400m, are the largest firm to go into administration since 2021. Latest figures from Creditsafe suggest May 2023 saw 42 construction companies go under UK wide, the highest monthly figure since January 2020.
- The Government has been urged by industry figures and politicians to improve its approach to tackling skills shortages in the construction industry. The National Federation of Builders and Construction Industry Training Board have both called for a relaxation of visa requirements to reduce vacancies, while Labour MP and Shadow Minister for International Trade, Bill Esterson revealed through a written question that the Government does not assess the impact of skills shortages on SME construction firms.
- A census of the home building industry’s workforce has revealed that nearly a quarter of on-site workers are over 50 years old. In the Home Builders Federation’s landmark survey for 2023, the association also found that the sector remains overwhelmingly male, with 96.1% of respondents identifying as men. The workforce is also predominantly white (91.6%).
- A Freedom of Information request from the Unite union has revealed unannounced inspections by the Health and Safety Executive have fallen by 32% in the last ten years. A decline of 2% in the last year has been blamed by Unite General Secretary, Sharon Graham, on austerity measures and cuts to funding from the Conservative government.
Since his appointment as Housing Secretary, Michael Gove has placed significant emphasis on the design of new buildings. In recent months, Gove has made headlines after calling in a number of planning applications on design grounds, something Housing Minister Rachel Maclean has defended, saying that new housing developments must meet Government criteria which are also those ‘that local people want’. Now, it looks like the Mayor of London may be taking steps to improve the design of the capital’s new build following the announcement of plans for a new Design Unit. Part of the GLA’s existing Planning and Regeneration team, the new team will bring together parts of existing teams to improve collaboration. In addition, there are also proposals to create a ‘multidisciplinary matrix team’ which will be known provisionally as the Place Unit. A consultation on the plans will close on 31 August.
CITY IN THE CLOUDS
The health of London’s office market differs depending on who you believe. JLL’s latest figures for the first six months of 2023 suggest a major reduction in investment in Central London’s offices in the past year, decreasing 55% to £3.5bn. Property analysts CoStar have estimated 105 million square feet of empty offices nationwide. Following HSBC announcing its departure from Canary Wharf, there’s a growing sense of unease about the future use of existing tall buildings. Not far from Canary Wharf, London City Airport’s future role is coming under the spotlight, with Newham Council’s planning officers recommending rejection of the airport’s expansion plans.
COUNCILS IN CONFERENCE
With the Local Government Association (LGA) under new leadership, member councils gathered in Bournemouth for their annual conference drawing keynote addresses from both Secretary of State, Michael Gove and Deputy Leader of the Labour Party, Angela Rayner. In his speech, Gove announced the creation of the Office of Local Government (although it is fair to say that there is a lot of work to be done before it is clear exactly how this will work, but it will cover the Mayor of London as well as local authorities), rounded on South Cambridgeshire District Council’s four day week trial and hinted there’ll be no response to the NPPF consultation before the Levelling Up Bill receives Royal Assent. Rayner promised the audience that legislation devolving more powers will be in the first Labour King’s Speech and that local people will have a bigger stake in the future of their local areas. While the sentiment of Rayner’s speech might be well received, the audience will be left wondering when more flesh will be added to the bones of Labour’s offer.
CRYSTAL PALACE DINOS
Some good news among the gloomy mood, with Crystal Palace’s iconic Grade I listed dinosaurs set for a much-needed restoration. Bromley Council have announced a £17.5m regeneration of Crystal Palace park and grounds, with architects HTA Design lined up to restore more than 30 models of extinct animals which were listed by Historic England in 2020. Funds for the renewal project will be boosted by a £304,000 National Lottery Heritage Fund grant utilised especially for the dinosaurs. And if you’re in the mood for a Jurassic Park-themed jaunt this weekend, you may just see a new member of the family…
In a new feature for LDN, we have rounded up articles that we have found particularly interesting over the past few days:
- The Times has published an overview of the best places in the UK to find work at fast-growing companies included in the Sunday Times 100 – 39 of which are based in the capital.
- The Guardian has covered what the future holds for London’s Thames Barrier in the context of rising sea levels, meaning ‘heightened risk of flooding’.
- The Mayor of London has announced the installation of five new rainbow plaques across the capital to commemorate ‘significant people, places and moments in LGBTQI+ history’.
- London’s free daily newspaper City AM has put itself up for sale citing rising production costs and a fall in readership.
- The Young V&A in Bethnal Green reopened last weekend following its £13m refurbishment. The museum, which is free to enter, includes over 2,000 objects across three new galleries.
- Rowan Moore has penned an interesting article on the future of offices, triggered by the HSBC decision to move from Canary Wharf to the City of London.
TALL BUILDINGS IN FOCUS
LCA secured a comment piece for client Baumschlager Eberle Architekten, in Building Design. Director Daniel Pöhner writes about the recent ban that Paris has reinstated on new tall buildings, posing the question of whether similar restrictions should be made in other cities in Europe and the UK. Daniel gives his opinion on the differences between the French and British capitals, and the lessons they can learn from one another.
SUMMER SESSIONS LAUNCH AT GREENWICH PENINSULA
The LCA team were excited to launch Greenwich Peninsula’s summer season of events and installations, Summer Sessions last week. On the 28th June, the team hosted a launch party on the Peninsula, unveiling the first outdoor site-specific work from Turner-nominated ‘Young British Artist’ Ian Davenport, and a poetic expression of community on the river from multi-disciplinary artist and designer, Marwan Kaabour, with both installed on riverside linear park, The Tide. Nearby, at the gateway to the Design District, NOW Gallery opened its 2023 Design Commission exhibition, ‘The Shape of Things’ by Simone Brewster. The launch attended by artists, media and influencers alike, was a great success. Summer Sessions is now open to the public: a programme of pioneering art, international music, unrivalled food and unmissable events all free, running to September 2023. Get down to Greenwich Peninsula and see what’s going on!
Photo courtesy of Victor Frankowski for Knight Dragon
A QUICK TRIP DOWN THE CHEESEGRATER
We’re in awe of our client Stanhope – last week a number of the team abseiled off the Leadenhall ‘Cheesegrater’ Building, raising over £8,000 for Maggie’s Centres, a charity supported by the Stanhope Foundation which provides free practical and emotional support for people living with cancer. See the team in action here.
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