“Unapologetic train geeks like me don’t need much persuasion that the Elizabeth Line is amazing. But last week’s London Property Alliance breakfast – ‘The Crossrail Effect’ – was a reminder of what a difference it has made to the city. If you build it, they will come – and come they have, in enormous numbers. Returning to the office (on the Elizabeth Line, of course), I reflected that perhaps one of – if not the biggest achievement - was actually getting the thing built at all.
Against the odds, after decades of wranglings and shelved proposals, and through sheer engineering effort and dogged political determination, it was a miracle that the line finally opened last year. But in the 47 years from the first serious proposals until carrying the first passengers, Paris built 5 RER lines, the French capital’s equivalent of Crossrail.
In an ideal world, we’d go seamlessly from Crossrail to the next big project, transferring over expertise picked up through planning and construction. Yet, despite no shortage of preferred big schemes - the Bakerloo Line Extension (BLE), DLR to Thamesmead, West London Orbital, South London Metroisation and Crossrail 2 – with no money, shovels in the ground seem unlikely any time soon.
This doesn’t seem compatible with London’s pretensions to continue as a global economic powerhouse. Major transport capacity enhancements drive productivity, widen access to job opportunities (levelling up, anyone?) and unlock new development. Estimates are that over 400,000 desperately needed new homes could come from these five big schemes.
But HS2/Euston reveals a government in a muddle over what to do about spending big bucks on infrastructure in London. Treasury resistance to major projects isn’t new – what is new is national politicians, petrified at spending big bucks in the capital through fear of a backlash from the rest of the country (understandably) resentful at lack of investment in their areas. But as long as London’s government lacks financial powers to fund major projects, the city will keep having to go cap in hand to the Treasury for money.
Candidates for next year’s Mayoral election will champion their ‘standing up for London’ credentials, but the fact remains that the city needs a major change in the political weather in Westminster, or some serious loosening of the Treasury’s tight control of the nation’s purse strings (or, ideally, both), to get the next big scheme off the drawing board.”
Nick Bowes, Managing Director, Insight
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HALL OR HOSSAIN?
Just a week until we find out who will be selected as the Conservative candidate to take on Sadiq Khan next May. The two remaining contenders, Susan Hall and Moz Hossain, have only days left to make their case to party members. Hall, a current London Assembly member and former Leader of Harrow Council where she is still a councillor, has pledged to remove 20mph speed limits on roads, dump Low Traffic Neighbourhoods (LTNs) and abandon work on pay-per-mile road user charging. Also among Hall’s other commitments are cancelling the expansion of the Ultra Low Emission Zone (ULEZ) (although maintaining it to the North and South Circular Road), halting building homes on TfL station car parks, and an end to high rise towers with instead a focus on low rise, high density family homes. With her “Safer With Susan” strapline, policing and crime is a major focus, with tackling knife crime and backing more stop and search key commitments. Hossain, the Bangladeshi-born criminal barrister, is widely seen as the outsider given his lack of frontline political experience. Unsurprisingly, given his background as a criminal barrister, Hossain has majored on the tackling of gangs, increasing the use of stop and search and greater use of CCTV in order to make London safer. Like Hall, he has also committed to cancel the ULEZ expansion. However, pleas from Conservative HQ to avoid blue on blue attacks seem to have fallen on deaf ears with the latest hustings between the two final candidates becoming rather heated. We will of course be keeping an eye out for the result next Wednesday and hope to update you in the next edition of LDN!
For years, Gatwick has been in the shadow of its much larger neighbour, Heathrow. But the Sussex-based airport has now submitted an application to the Planning Inspectorate for a second runway, to support annual passenger numbers doubling to 75 million by the late 2030s. While a recent YouGov poll has found that residents across Sussex, Surrey and Kent are largely in favour of the plans, adding extra airport capacity anywhere in the south-east is increasingly an uphill struggle. Heathrow know this only too well, with their proposals for a third runway after a lengthy legal and political battle finally given the go ahead (albeit now on ice). With Luton, Stansted and City Airport also planning expansion (although the latter just rejected by Newham Council), the coming years are going to be a test of where the balance lies between the drive for economic growth, the challenges of climate change and opposition from local residents.
LONDON PLANNING ROUNDUP
Related Argent has received planning permission from Brent Council for the development of a nine-storey office block at its Brent Cross Town development. The 17,300m² space at Copper Square will be built from engineered mass-timber using off-site MMC methods.
Tower Hamlets Council has granted permission to GIC and Oaktree for the retrofit of vacant offices at Columbus Courtyard in Canary Wharf. The plans include minor extensions and façade replacement to open up the 250,000ft2 space for potential future life sciences investment.
Regal London has submitted plans to Southwark Council to develop a £313m mixed-use scheme on the Old Kent Road. Developed across four buildings, up to 33 storeys high, the plans include a 941-bed student accommodation block and 200 affordable homes, as well as public amenities and retail space.
Transport for London has signed new contracts with Helical for its commercial office development portfolio. TfL has appointed the developer to deliver sustainable and ‘tech-enabled’ office space across a cumulative 600,000ft2 of floor space at Bank, Paddington and Southwark.
Gareth Bradford, the West Midlands Combined Authority’s housing property and regeneration executive director, has been appointed as The Crown Estate’s director of strategic business development.
Katie Oliphant, Canary Wharf Group’s managing director of offices, has been appointed as proprietary partner at Knight Frank. She also joins its London offices board.
Chief Executive of HS2 Ltd Mark Thurston has announced that he will be stepping down from his role in the autumn.
Anit Chandarana has been appointed as the Rail Infrastructure Group’s Interim Director-General.
TOO LITTLE, TOO LATE?
A Sunday Times article published last weekend felt like a dramatic attempt by Michael Gove to recapture the agenda for the Government on house building. Particularly eye-catching were proposals to make Cambridge ‘Europe’s Silicon Valley’ with an extra 200,000 to 250,000 homes in the surrounding Fens, all of which came as a complete surprise to the city’s politicians. Other proposals floated including amending the Levelling Up and Regeneration Bill (LURB) to alter controversial ‘nutrient neutrality’ rules which have come under criticism for holding up the building of new homes, plus extra support for the regeneration of 20 towns and cities across England through the creation of new development corporations to speed up housing delivery. As reported last week by Planning Resource, Gove additionally confirmed at the Local Government Association conference that changes to the National Planning Policy Framework (NPPF) would be delayed until the autumn. However, today’s reports that DLUHC has handed back almost £2bn to the Treasury originally earmarked for tackling the housing crisis isn’t great timing for attempts by Gove to grab the initiative on housing. Meanwhile, over at City Hall, the Mayor has made clear his opposition to the proposed Infrastructure Levy, warning that London could have lost out on up to 10,000 affordable homes had the Levy been in place instead of the current system.
MANSION HOUSE SPEECH
If you’re a City finance enthusiast, the annual Mansion House Speech is like the Oscars. Over in the City, the Chancellor Jeremy Hunt delivered his annual Mansion House speech. Taking inspiration from Australia and Canada, Hunt asked the biggest investment funds in the UK to voluntarily reserve 5% of their pension investments into high-growth start-ups and emerging sectors such as life sciences. With the City facing stiff competition from New York and others, the Chancellor is attempting to bolster London’s competitiveness through a simplification of rules to draw investors back, particularly through measures to make buying and selling shares easier. Parallels are often drawn with the 1980s ‘Big Bang’ bonfire of regulations that unleashed a period of strong growth in the City – whether this is Big Bang II or more like a muffled noise is yet to be seen.
LIGHTS, CAMERA, ACTION
London’s creative talents and rich film heritage has produced some of the greatest movies in history. The recently announced £6m renovation of 3 Mills Studios represents a boost to the local economy and a vote of confidence in the British film industry. Funded by the GLA and LLDC, it will see the creation of over 10,000ft2 of creative workspace. London’s struggling creative workforce, whose success has been hit by a difficult combination of economic challenges, funding cuts and the cost of living in London, will be buoyed by recent developments in the capital which reveal a huge appetite to invest in film and TV, including Kentish Town’s ‘Creative Quarter’, expansions in West London and Greenwich, and the ongoing GLA-backed construction of Eastbrook Studios in Dagenham. And while there’s no shortage of talent, as Film London’s latest cadre of participants from its Breaking the Glass Ceiling programme shows, growing pains means a lack of space, a shortage of skills and financial constraints threatening one of the city’s biggest growth industries (which brought in more than £10bn for the capital’s economy in the last five years). With envious eyes in other cities around the world desperate to steal away the film industry from London, this is a pressing headache for the sector and policy makers alike.
- According to the Music Venues Trust, over a million people attended live music events in London last week, as acts including Lana Del Rey, Bruce Springsteen and The 1975 took to stages across the capital.
- Chief Executive of the New West End Company Dee Corsi has written for City A.M. about the impact of the ‘tourist tax’ on London.
- The Good Food Guide has named Crouch End’s Les 2 Garçons as the capital’s best local restaurant – best get booking!
- The Times reports that London, particularly Covent Garden and Fitzrovia, are increasingly becoming home to US tech firms looking to benefit from the UK’s tax breaks, culture and talent pool.
- The Economist has taken a look at the Conservatives’ changing relationship with ‘Metroland’ (that's Middlesex, Hertfordshire and Buckinghamshire to you and me) and what this may mean for the Party’s fortunes at the next General Election.
LUNCH WITH JAMES MURRAY MP
Last Thursday our client EC BID hosted a roundtable lunch at The Folly in Gracechurch Street with James Murray MP, Shadow Financial Secretary to the Treasury. Over lunch, which was an intimate gathering of senior representatives from the public and private sectors, our very own Nick Bowes, Managing Director, Insight facilitated a discussion based on findings from the recently published Centre for Cities and Imperial College London report ‘Office politics: London and the rise of homeworking’. The Centre for Cities report, produced in partnership with EC BID, was published in May 2023 and considers the possible long-term economic risks of businesses permanently adopting hybrid working and calls for more research and business engagement to look at what a lower presence in offices means for productivity and economic development. The lunch presented a crucial opportunity to feed into the Shadow Front Bench thinking ahead of the next General Election, and James was clear that Labour are in the market for ideas on how to boost growth, but also in ways that benefit not just London but the whole country.
On Tuesday, we welcomed Leader of Westminster City Council Cllr Adam Hug to our Covent Garden offices as part of our LCA Breakfast Waffle series. Over coffee and pastries, our clients and associates heard from Cllr Hug on a range of topics including his ambitions for a Fairer Westminster, an expected announcement on the council’s plans for Oxford Street next week, and how the sector can help them achieve net zero. We have several other events lined up over the coming months and if you would like to get involved, please do get in touch.
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