“Just when you thought it was safe to go on holiday, the last week has provided one last hurrah of frenetic politics before August arrives. This week’s LDN sinks its teeth into all the action, dominated by Labour’s internal blame game after the Uxbridge by-election and Michael Gove’s shoring up of the suburbs in his major housing speech. In the rush to interpret what all this might mean for the busy political 18 months ahead, here’s my top ten take aways from the last week. What with Tory Mayoral candidate Susan Hall’s outer London policy friendly focus, there’s a real sense that a key battle line in the forthcoming elections has been drawn straight through the city’s suburbs.”
Nick Bowes, Managing Director, Insight
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MIXED EMOTIONS AND FINGER POINTING
Defying predictions, the Tories narrowly held Uxbridge & South Ruislip in last week’s by-election. Making it a referendum on the Mayor’s ULEZ expansion paid off for the Tories, aided by reports of a poorly run Labour campaign. As touched on in last week’s LDN, by-elections are weird beasts and a clash of the national and local. Uxbridge ended up a battle between an unpopular national government and an unpopular local policy (ULEZ). Turns out ULEZ was the slightly more unpopular of the two.
Much satisfaction amongst London Tories, despite being well behind in the national polls and Labour throwing everything at the seat. Replicating the Uxbridge strategy in key London marginals at the next General Election might look attractive to the Tories, but to do so is likely to be a lot harder. If General Elections are a referendum on anything, it’s the record of the incumbent government. Current polling on that front doesn’t bode well for the Tories – as Nick argued in last Friday’s City AM, the most likely outcome is still Keir Starmer as the next Prime Minister and Sadiq Khan re-elected Mayor.
Hats off to Labour for turning a pretty difficult day for a Government narrowly avoiding losing three by-elections into a massive internal split story. Failure to win Uxbridge saw party HQ dump the blame at the door of City Hall’s ULEZ expansion. The party’s frenzied over-reaction has masked the progress Labour achieved – the same swing repeated at a General and Mayoral election and the party make gains across the city with Khan comfortably re-elected. Khan shows no sign of retreating, supported by polling that backs his plans and boosted by strong endorsement by the Evening Standard. Assuming the looming judicial review challenge is defeated – and it could come any day now – ULEZ will still expand on 29 August.
SHORING UP THE SUBURBS
On Monday the Government announced its long-term plan for housing and planning. With the Prime Minister committing to deliver one million homes in this Parliament, Secretary of State Michael Gove set out how the Government plans to achieve it, including major – and controversial – expansion plans for Cambridge and a commitment to protect the Green Belt. London featured heavily in Gove’s speech – a rarity given the Government’s ‘levelling up’ focus in recent years has mostly been beyond the M25. That being said, it’s hard to escape the feeling that this is really just a bit of party political knockabout ahead of the Mayoral elections. Grabbing most attention were Gove’s plans for a ‘Docklands 2.0’ in Thamesmead, Beckton and Silvertown including 65,000 homes. As has been pointed out, a lot of what the Government wants to do in East London is already happening, but key to unlocking development is the Treasury funding the DLR extension and the politics of that happening anytime soon look tricky. Elsewhere, Gove said the Affordable Homes Programme can be directed towards regeneration schemes for the first time, with up to £1bn available to the capital – although it quickly became clear this is not new money, but part of the capital’s existing funding. Gove also confirmed that, after months of uncertainty which has seen delays to new schemes already in planning, the Government will be mandating second staircases in residential buildings of over 18m in height. Other announcements include plans to extend Permitted Development Rights and a new ‘super squad’ of planners to ‘unblock’ housing projects.
MARKS & SPARKS FLYING
While Gove’s housing speech was very pro-development, elsewhere in London he’s halted a major scheme in a decision which has ramifications across the country. In his long-awaited decision, Gove refused permission for the demolition of the M&S Oxford Street store and the construction of a 10-storey office and retail building. Citing both heritage and environmental grounds, interestingly Gove’s decision is against his own Planning Inspector’s recommendation. There has been considerable controversy around the plans, which were granted permission by Westminster City Council in 2021 and waved through by the Mayor before being called-in by the Government last year. M&S certainly didn’t hold back in their response, with CEO Stuart Machin calling the decision ‘utterly pathetic’. Writing in The Telegraph, Machin said M&S will ‘review its future position on Oxford Street’. Wider reaction has been mixed - heritage campaigners welcoming it, others questioning the impact on an already under pressure Oxford Street, with the FT accusing Gove of being ‘anti-business’. As the Architects’ Journal argues, this is a big moment – but a wider shift to retrofit over demolition requires the Government to develop relevant policy and regulation, otherwise the continuing lack of clarity will see schemes put on the back burner.
LONDON PLANNING ROUNDUP
- Schroders Capital Real Estate and Stanhope’s plans for the demolition of an existing office building and the delivery of a 63-storey office building at 55 Bishopsgate have been approved by the City of London. The building will also include a roof viewing gallery as well as a new home for New London Architecture’s London Centre.
- Tottenham Hotspur’s plans to deliver 844 homes near their White Hart Lane stadium have been approved by Haringey Council. With 36% of residential units allocated as affordable, across three residential blocks ranging from 27-32 storeys, the scheme’s approval was delayed after revisions were made to include a second staircase as part of fire safety regulations.
- Reselton Properties’ plans for the Stag Brewery site in Mortlake have been approved by Richmond Council. The proposals include the delivery of 1,068 homes (8% affordable), 54,000 sq ft of office space, 30 retail and leisure units, a hotel, cinema and new school. Previous plans for the site were called-in and refused by the Mayor of London last year.
- Enfield Council have granted planning permission to British Land to redevelop Heritage House in Southbury into a multi-level logistics hub. The proposals to develop a 455,000 sq ft scheme include providing a 20,000 sq ft space for smaller occupiers, powered through roof-based solar panels and heat pumps.
- Galliard Homes’ plans to redevelop Leegate Shopping Centre into a 562-home (36% affordable) scheme has been approved by Lewisham Council. Galliard plans to demolish the existing buildings and build multiple new blocks ranging from 3 to 15 storeys.
- Steve Halsey has been appointed as Tower Hamlets’ new permanent Chief Executive, with Julie Lorraine taking on the role of Corporate Director of Resources. Halsey was appointed as the Council’s interim Chief Executive in February.
- Inland Homes has appointed Jolyon Harrison has its new Chief Executive.
- Chad Remis has been appointed as Oxford Properties Group’s first ever Chief Investment Officer, while Liz Murphy has been announced as the its Chief Financial Officer.
KING'S CROSS MILESTONE
Last week, the King’s Cross development, owned by KCCLP, reached a final milestone with Camden Council’s approval of the last building (F1) on the 67-acre site. Designed by Lee + Wilkinson Architecture, it will be the 50th and final building delivered as part of the King’s Cross masterplan and will occupy a prominent ‘island’ plot adjacent to the Regent’s Canal. It is the last plot to be developed under the original outline permissions which were granted by Camden back in December 2006. Since then, over 100 reserved matters applications have been approved at the multiple award-winning development. By 2024, an estimated 42,000 people will be living, working and studying at King’s Cross. Some of the largest global companies (including Astra Zeneca, Google, Meta and Nike), as well as 100 shops, bars and restaurants, 1,750 homes and 10 public spaces, now call King’s Cross home. We at LCA have had the privilege of working on the project since December 1999 when, as a newly formed agency, we supported Argent’s successful bid to become the development partner to original landowners London & Continental Railways and Excel. It has been an incredible journey and we look forward to the topping out of F1 in due course and the completion of this amazing project.
HOUSING CRISIS IN NUMBERS
Recent years have seen growing interest in the building of new council homes as part of efforts to address the shortage of affordable homes. Back in May, the Mayor of London claimed that he had beaten his target of 20,000 new council home-starts by 2024, in a sign of renewed enthusiasm for council house building which is reflected in a number of local authorities across the capital pushing ahead with schemes. But despite the sustained demand for affordable homes, some local authorities have failed to build a single council home over the past five years, according to a new investigation by The Independent. Eighty out of 148 surveyed English councils revealed that they had not completed any new council-owned stock in 2022. Meanwhile, figures from the GLA show that over 301,000 households were on the waiting list for council homes in 2022 across the capital, with new Government data revealing the numbers in temporary accommodation are the highest since records began in 1998. Little wonder new research shows two-thirds of councillors believe the housing crisis is getting worse, with local supply ‘somewhat’ or ‘severely’ lacking. It is therefore unsurprising housing is shaping up to be one of the biggest issues in the coming General Election.
- This is London author Ben Judah penned a provocative piece in the Evening Standard, accusing London’s local authorities of ‘suffocating’ the capital’s growth.
- Those interested in more detailed analysis of last week’s by-elections can read Lewis Baston’s excellent Guardian piece.
- Polling by Opinium has found that 57% of people who voted for the Conservatives at the last General Election think the Prime Minister has ‘not gone far enough’ on tackling climate change.
- Ben Cope from Young Voices UK has written for City A.M. about the ‘inevitable gentrification’ of Brixton.
- London’s cinemas experienced a record-breaking weekend thanks to the release of both Barbie and Oppenheimer, with Curzon reporting over 200 sold-out screenings at their London venues.
- The Tate Modern is hosting Rasheed Araeen’s Zero to Infinity display until the end of August, giving visitors the opportunity to play their own part in the ever-changing structure.
- For transport heritage fans, four London Underground telephone kiosks have been Grade II Listed.
EARLS COURT ERUPTS WITH A SUMMER OF ART
Earls Court has erupted with an array of public art and fun activities for the summer months. The programme includes a range of installations, workshops and creative activities taking place across the local area and involving members of the community. The Summer of Art reflects the re-emergence of Earls Court as a top cultural destination for visitors in London as part of the Earl’s Court Development Corporation’s long-term plan for the transformation of the largely derelict, former exhibition centre site. LCA supported the launch of the campaign with an integrated media and digital strategy, securing coverage in CN Traveller and London Live, as well as co-ordinating all influencer and paid digital management.
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