“After years of London being largely overlooked by central Government, recent announcements have once again put the capital front and centre of party politics.
Following the Conservatives’ somewhat unexpected retention of Uxbridge and South Ruislip (albeit with a significantly reduced majority), which the Government has interpreted as a rejection of the expanded Ultra-Low Emission Zone (ULEZ), the Prime Minister has gone further by declaring himself to be on the side of drivers, including announcing a Department for Transport-led review of Low Traffic Neighbourhoods (LTNs) across the country, while it is also reportedly considering limiting the ability of local authorities to introduce 20mph speed limits.
Also drawing the battle lines for the upcoming elections was the Prime Minister’s declaration that the Government will ‘step in’ and rectify the Mayor’s ‘failure’ to deliver housing in the capital. More details on this are covered below, but it represents a major intervention in the responsibilities of a devolved administration.
So much then for devolution and decentralisation. Up and down the country, mayors and local authority leaders will be listening with growing alarm at the rhetoric coming out of central Government. Across transport, housing and now policing, the undermining of localised decision making and the threats to centralise control is a major backward step. So what does all this mean? On the basis of current polling, it’s not clear that it’ll persuade a significant number of floating voters to change their minds and perhaps it is just politics and positioning. One thing is for sure, Ministers will continue to be a thorn in Khan’s side in the run up to next May.”
Account Manager, Insight
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And just like that, London matters again, with a major Government intervention in the city’s housing and planning over the last week. Following Michael Gove’s wide-ranging speech, the Prime Minister made a flying visit to a housing scheme in West London – and he couldn’t resist a full-on political attack on the Mayor of London’s record. Which was, after all, kind of the point. This intervention is more about the politics than the policy, positioning over substance. For Sunak’s team, the Evening Standard’s frontpage will be seen as mission accomplished.
The substance of what was announced doesn’t feel like it is going to make all that much difference on the ground, and certainly not any time soon. Forcing changes to the Mayor’s London Plan and talk of Docklands 2.0 aren’t going to deliver vast numbers of new homes in the next year or so.
But with housing such a divisive issue for the Tories in their own ranks, the party has struggled to reconcile opposing views. One wing champions building new homes on a vast scale with the other side – particularly those in leafy suburban seats – fearing the electoral cost of new development. But housing is a growing concern for voters – and the party knows it can’t simply be ignored. And that’s what this new nuanced positioning is all about - Sunak vowing to defend the Green Belt while simultaneously talking of building many more homes in “Central” London (and, tellingly, away from the suburbs). Outer London Tory MPs and notable critics of top-down housing targets are happy. In all this, the Mayor presents a handy foil for the Government. And that’s not to say that the Mayor’s record on housing is immune from criticism – far from it – but as we’ve pointed out before in LDN, it’s complicated and key levers driving the housing market aren’t in Khan’s (or even for that matter the Government’s) control. Unsurprisingly, the Mayor and his Deputy Mayor for Housing, Tom Copley, came out fighting. One thing is for sure, the starting pistol on a long General and Mayoral election campaign has been fired.
DRIVING IN MY CAR
Motorists are suddenly a key in-demand demographic for politicians. With the High Court ruling that the expansion of the Ultra-Low Emission Zone (ULEZ) can proceed, the Mayor is now free to go ahead with his expansion as planned on 29 August, despite the ongoing fallout following the Uxbridge and South Ruislip by-election. However, the Prime Minister has responded rather differently to the result in Uxbridge, by declaring that he is ‘on the drivers’ side’, announcing a review of LTNs and even reportedly considering limiting councils’ ability to introduce 20mph speed limits, accusing the Labour Party of being ‘anti-motorist’. With the polling somewhat mixed on the Prime Minister’s intervention, it is particularly surprising therefore to see him confirm the Government’s plans to phase out petrol and diesel cars by 2030, a policy which is, according to polling by YouGov, opposed by 68% of Conservative voters. While the PM’s intervention is likely to appeal to a vocal minority, the risk is that a perceived watering-down of the environmental agenda could turn off floating voters in the centre ground – a constituency that holds the key to winning the next election.
LONDON PLANNING ROUNDUP
- Brockton Everlast’s plans to redevelop Telephone House at Leonard Circus have been approved by Hackney Council. The seven-storey office building will be demolished and replaced with an office block up to 10 storeys, providing 20,000 sq ft of workspace.
- Lambeth Council has rejected PPHE Hotel Group’s proposals to develop a 15-storey, 186-room hotel close to Westminster Bridge. Lambeth’s Planning Committee rejected its officers’ recommendation for approval citing the impact of the scheme on nearby heritage assets.
- Regal London has submitted plans to deliver four residential blocks ranging from 16 to 33 storeys at Devonshire Place to Southwark Council. The developer proposes a 941-bed student accommodation scheme alongside 200 affordable homes on the site near the Old Kent Road.
- Berkeley Group has announced plans to restart the construction of its 1,300-home scheme at Malt Street in Southwark, with amendments for heat pump installation and prioritising market-sale properties. The development was paused in May 2022 due to high material costs.
- Wandsworth Council has adopted its new Local Plan. The plan sets out the borough’s vision for development up to 2038, with a minimum of 20,311 new homes allocated for construction and renewed proposals to build a new pedestrian bridge between Nine Elms and Pimlico.
- Mayor of Lewisham Damien Egan has been selected as Labour’s candidate for Bristol North East. The local Labour Party has confirmed that Egan will stand down from his role before the next General Election (which we can assume points to there being a Lewisham Mayoral by-election on the same day as the London Mayoral election in May).
- Former Labour MP for Kensington, Emma Dent Coad, has announced her plans to stand for the seat as an Independent at the next General Election. The seat is currently held by Conservative Felicity Buchan, who has a majority of 150, making it a top target for Labour.
- Downing Street adviser and Harrow councillor Ameet Jogia has been selected as the Conservatives’ candidate for Hendon.
- Larry Kramer has been announced as the new President and Vice Chancellor of the LSE.
BUILDING SAFETY LATEST
While it has been making headline-grabbing housing announcements, the Government has also quietly been making process on the building safety front:
- The Department for Levelling Up, Housing and Communities (DLUHC) has launched the Cladding Safety Scheme for all building works in England. Mid-rise blocks over 11 metres in height are eligible for funding from the Government’s £5.1bn Building Safety Levy for the removal of flammable cladding.
- DLUHC has also launched its Responsible Actors Scheme, aimed at recognising developers who remediate hazardous fire safety defects in residential buildings over 11 metres in height. Launched on 21 July, developers have 60 days to respond to the regulations or risk being prohibited from delivering major developments.
- One of the cornerstones of the Building Safety Act (2022), the new Building Safety Regulator, has been found to have ‘significant issues’ in its management and operations. In its annual report, the Infrastructure and Projects Authority (formed by the merger of Infrastructure UK and the Major Projects Authority in 2016) watchdog gave the new regulator an ‘amber warning’ suggesting issues which require ‘prompt’ action.
- Meanwhile, the financial cost of the Grenfell Tower fire has reached a running total of £1.17bn according to findings from the Guardian. The majority of this has been spent by the Royal Borough of Kensington and Chelsea in their response to the fire and allocating funds to rehouse survivors. This includes the allocation of £291m for the repair and refurbishment of the site to create a memorial.
The Government’s programme of big infrastructure projects has its annual school report – and it’s a long way from achieving all As. The Infrastructure and Projects Authority (IPA) has given a bruising review of the management of ongoing major construction, transport and other government projects. The IPA’s red warning for HS2’s first phase connecting Old Oak Common to Birmingham is hardly surprising - albeit describing it as ‘unachievable’, with ‘major issues’ in its delivery, budget and schedule is nevertheless damning. The IPA are the latest to slam HS2, hot on the heels of the Transport Select Committee being deeply critical of the ‘completely unrealistic’ plans for Euston and the reopening of the Public Accounts Committee inquiry into the new HS2 London terminus. The Lower Thames Crossing – that will tunnel between Kent and Essex – has also received an amber warning. Over £250m has already been spent on the crossing, despite it not having received planning permission.
- Shadow Housing Secretary Lisa Nandy has given an interview to The Sunday Times on how her own experiences have influenced Labour’s housing policies.
- Former Chair of the London Assembly and Sky News presenter Trevor Phillips has written criticising the Government’s recent interventions on devolution.
- A Sunday Times article explores why Britain has become so poor in recent years.
- Chief Executive of Eurostar Gwendoline Cazenave is interviewed in The Guardian on future plans for the international rail service and St Pancras’ new biometric check-in system.
- A section of Roman wall found in the City has now gone on display thanks to collaboration between developer Urbanest, the City of London Corporation, Historic England and the Museum of London.
This month, LCA client Get Living received unanimous approval from the LLDC’s Planning Decisions Committee for the final development plots at East Village, completing the vision for the original Stratford City Masterplan. These include the delivery of 848 high-quality rental homes, over 500 student beds, and improved public spaces at Victory Park & Belvedere, that will provide exciting new amenities and community activities for the whole neighbourhood. LCA led an inclusive, meaningful programme of consultation on the projects over the last 2 years, which involved a series of public drop-ins at the cultural hub The Lab E20, site tours with key community and political stakeholders, as well as workshops with a local school and the LLDC’s Youth Panel.
Last week, LCA also secured a full-page article in the Metro for Get Living. The article was a full-page interview with resident ambassador, Ramzan Miah. The British-Bangladeshi actor who appears in the most talked about movie on the year, Greta Gerwig’s Barbie, recently relocated to London. In the interview, Ramzan discusses why he chose East Village as his new home, touching on the location, lifestyle, and benefits of build-to-rent.
SUMMER ON THE RIVER
For our client, Knight Dragon, we announced an exciting installation from London’s hottest name in happy psychedelia, Murugiah, coming to Greenwich Peninsula as part of London Design Festival (LDF). Rangoli Mirrored Cosmos is Murugiah’s first 3D site-specific work which combines his South East Asian heritage, Western upbringing and architectural training. It takes as its starting point the Hindu tradition of Rangoli – colourful mandala patterns painted onto doorway floors for celebrations. Installed on 16 September, the striking mirrored light sculpture marks the beginning of LDF as well as the lead-up to Diwali, the Hindu festival of light, bringing positivity and good fortune for the new season.
This morning (Wednesday 2 August) Greenwich Peninsula was featured live on air on the BBC Radio London Breakfast Show’s Summer in the City segment (you can listen here from 1:52:00). Laura Flanagan, Marketing Director for Knight Dragon, spoke about the packed Summer Sessions offering in the Design District with incredible free activities every weekend in August, from a Charles Mingus listening party to a Victoria Sponge decorating workshop, Big Music Weekend and outdoor cinema screenings
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