BACK TO BUSINESS AS USUAL
As the dust settles after the local elections, this week’s edition takes a look at real and potential leadership changes across London and anticipates the upcoming borough Annual General Meetings (AGMs) where leaders, cabinets and committees will be officially confirmed.
Furthermore, in today’s roundup of the capital’s most important news, we mourn the loss of Dame Tessa Jowell, who was instrumental in bringing the Olympics to the capital and showcasing London to the world.
Meanwhile, if you are planning to travel this weekend, you might want to take a look at our piece on London transport as there could well be a real muddle in the making.
Finally, you may have noticed that earlier today, Sadiq issued an impressively-entitled announcement in which he unveils a new programme ‘to kickstart [a] major council homebuilding comeback in London.’ We will be unpicking his press release in next week’s edition.
Thank you for reading and do get in touch if you have any feedback. You can also follow us on Twitter @LDNComms.
SHOULD I STAY OR SHOULD I GO
The LCA team is keeping a close eye on leadership changes across London’s boroughs, in the wake of the local elections. Voters directly elected their leader in Hackney, Lewisham, Newham, and Tower Hamlets on 3 May. All four Mayors are Labour but the replacement of long-standing incumbents in Lewisham and Newham is widely expected to be the catalyst for significant changes in boroughs’ policies and governance. In the other 28 London Boroughs, the winning parties are in the process of confirming their group leaders and preparing for the Annual General Meetings (AGMs), which will formally install them as Council Leaders. The overall picture at present in the 32 boroughs is as follows:
- we now have confirmation that 10 (all Labour) will have the same Leaders or Mayors
- we also know that eight will have new ones – Enfield, Greenwich, Harrow, Haringey, Lewisham, Newham and two new Lib Dem leaders in Kingston and Richmond.
- in the remaining 14, which include all of the Tory-led London boroughs, the situation remains unclear, though it is believed that the incumbents should be safe in the majority of these (if they are, then 25% of the 32 boroughs will have new Leaders)
The capital lost two of its leading lights this week. Dame Tessa Jowell died on Saturday at the age of 70. Jowell, a former Labour councillor in Camden, MP for Dulwich and West Norwood, and Secretary of State for Culture, Media and Sport (among other Ministerial posts and appointments as Shadow Minister), is recognised as one of the key players in bringing the Olympic Games to London, as well as an important contributor to the Sure Start scheme for supporting children in the early years. More recently, she campaigned to support cancer research and treatment. LCA will be donating £1,000 to cancer research in her memory. Meanwhile, we were also saddened to hear of the death of architect Will Alsop, also at the age of 70. Alsop will be remembered for his whimsical and colourful designs, which in London most notably include the Peckham Library, winner of the 2000 Stirling Prize.
John Finlayson, currently Head of Planning Regeneration at the London Borough of Hammersmith & Fulham, will be joining the Greater London Authority (GLA) as its new Head of Service for Development Management in about two months’ time. Meanwhile, Dame Sarah Mullally has been formally installed as the 133rd – but notably the first female – Bishop of London, following her appointment to the role back in December 2017. Meanwhile, the Labour party’s National Executive Committee (NEC) has published its all-female shortlist of candidates for the Lewisham East constituency by-election on 14 June, which includes Lewisham councillors Janet Daby, Brenda Dacres, and Sakina Sheikh, as well as NEC member and Islington councillor Claudia Webbe. The party’s by-election candidate will ultimately be selected from this list by a members’ vote at a local hustings this weekend. Whoever is selected is highly likely to be the constituency’s next MP, in what is widely considered a safe seat for Labour. The Lib Dems have selected Lucy Salek, who previously stood in Southend West for the party at the 2017 general election, but we are yet to hear who the Conservative candidate might be. It is also worth highlighting an enquiry submitted for this week’s Mayor’s Question Time session by Conservative Assembly Member Keith Prince, who pointed out that Knowledge of London examiner Ma'am Gerald will soon be retiring. ‘The Knowledge’ is the legendarily rigorous test which aspiring black cabbies are required to pass – and its notorious examiners are strictly referred to using the honorific ‘Mr’ or ‘Ma’am’. It would appear that Ma’am Gerald is one of a handful of female Knowledge Examiners – and it is understood that only two will remain once she retires.
GRENFELL INQUIRY EXPANDED
In a letter to Inquiry chairman Sir Martin Moore-Bick, Prime Minister Theresa May has made the decision to expand the panel of the Grenfell Tower Inquiry by two additional members for Phase 2 of the Inquiry’s work. Phase 2 will examine the cultural and community reasons behind the tragedy, covering territory not reviewed in Phase 1, which focuses on the events of the night and not ‘the reasons why things happened as they did or what should have happened’. Campaign groups including Grenfell United, survivors and other local residents have pressed the government to diversify the panel. Simultaneously an e-petition signed by more than 156,000 people led to a relevant debate in Westminster Hall on Monday evening. The news of the Inquiry’s expansion has been welcomed by activists as a step towards rebuilding trust between local communities and officials. In another interesting development, London commentator Dave Hill has revealed rumours that Labour opposition councillors in RBKC could be invited to take up leadership roles on some of the council’s various committees, even though key Cabinet positions have already been confirmed by Tory leader Elizabeth Campbell. If realised, this cross-party approach could help mitigate the lingering lack of trust for the authorities in communities affected by the Grenfell disaster, , though it is yet to be confirmed that the council’s leadership (which still commands a comfortable majority in the council) intends to reach out to the opposition in this way.
WHO LET THE DOGS OUT
It’s all happening on the Isle of Dogs! One of the most highly anticipated planning documents in London regeneration, the Isle of Dogs and South Poplar Opportunity Area Planning Framework (OAPF) was released last week by the GLA, almost a year later than originally planned (and four years in the making). The document outlines the GLA and TfL’s masterplan for the area, including three development scenarios for the next 25 years. In line with Sadiq Khan’s ambitions to deliver thousands of new homes in London every year, the low growth scenario would see the area add a minimum of another 32,000 homes, 1,450,000 sqm office space and 64,000 sqm retail space on the Island, whereas the maximum growth scenario foresees a whopping 49,000 new homes to be delivered in the area in the next 25 years. The date of the launch also coincided with the public examination of the Isle of Dogs Neighbourhood Plan as well as with another GLA study assessing the additional infrastructure needed to cope with the intensive development planned for the area.
CANADA WATER MEGA-MASTERPLAN
Another major regeneration project is also getting underway, just across the river: After an extensive four-year consultation process, British Land has submitted an outline planning application to Southwark Council for its Canada Water Masterplan. If approved, the £4bn, 46-acre regeneration project would deliver a new town centre, complete with up to 3,000 homes, extensive workspace, retail, leisure and entertainment outlets, as well as key infrastructure and community space. It even includes an improved wetland habitat in Canada Water Dock, developed in collaboration with the London Wildlife Trust! Aside from the outline masterplan, detailed plans have also been submitted for three buildings, including 650 homes, workspace, a leisure centre and improvements to the Canada Water dock area. Subject to receiving the council’s consent by this autumn, building could begin on parts of the site as soon as spring 2019 (to be completed by 2022) while the entire masterplan could be realised by 2033. The wider area between Surrey Quays and Canada Water has been designated as an Opportunity Area and Housing Zone by the GLA and the local council – and the masterplan has been drawn up in close partnership with the developer and the authorities. Indeed, this March, British Land and Southwark Council reached an agreement which ensures the delivery of 35% affordable housing on the site (70% of which social rent) and enables the borough to secure a stake in the project as well as its new social rented housing provision.
CALLS FOR PLANNING REFORM
A new report commissioned by Sadiq and delivered by Urbanism Environment and Design Ltd (URBED) suggests that land assembly in London can be improved through measures such as a new planning designation termed ‘Land Assembly Zone’ and reforming the compulsory purchase orders (CPO) regime. In recent weeks, a number of other stakeholders have also articulated views on reforming the English planning system, notably the Town and Country Planning Association (TCPA) which published its Interim Report of the Raynsford Review of Planning in England, which began in spring 2017, ahead of a final version later this year. Key propositions include better alignment between English planning agencies, establishing a new covenant for community participation and the simplification of planning law. Meanwhile, Mitcham and Morden Labour MP Siobhain McDonagh – with the support of the Centre for Cities and others – has petitioned the Government to relax green belt restrictions, specifically for plots of land within 1km of train and tube stations and 45 minutes from Zone 1 in London, in order to enable housebuilding. Much of the above would require changes to the statute book and could prove unpopular with many voters. It thus remains to be seen whether they succeed in influencing the revised text of the draft National Planning Policy Framework (NPPF), the consultation for which formally closed last Thursday.
The approval of the Silvertown tunnel by the Department of Transport (DfT) – covered in last week’s edition of LDN – is perhaps the single biggest piece of transport news to hit the capital in months. But since then, we have seen a flurry of transport-related developments. On the positive side of things, The Telegraph reports that no less than five bidders have expressed interest in building a new, privately-financed rail link to Heathrow from the south. The project’s bidding process will end in July, an update on the next stage is expected in the autumn and new services could begin as soon as 2025, depending on the winning proposal. Less auspiciously, Crossrail appears to be facing yet more challenges, as according to the Sunday Times, issues relating to power supply and signalling may require an additional £500m funding injection to get the £14.8bn project over the finishing line. Meanwhile, Estates Gazette has reported that a ‘Transport Property Charge’ is being mooted to capture a share of the value uplift of properties along the proposed route of Crossrail 2. Transport for London (TfL) has since confirmed that such a proposal is being considered, but offered assurances that it is but one among several options being discussed – and would in any case require new legislation. Meanwhile, concerns are mounting that an almighty muddle is in the making, as the royal wedding in Windsor this Saturday coincides with the FA Cup Final at Wembley Stadium and scheduled engineering work by TfL – while on Sunday, Govia Thameslink Railway will rollout out a new timetable for around 3,600 trains. Finally, it is worth noting that the Mayor of London’s latest initiative to improve Londoners’ health involves plans, now out for a public consultation, to ban junk food advertising across the entire TfL network.
GLA PLANNING UNIT UPS FEES
In a recently-published Mayoral Decision, Sadiq has approved a new (and higher) fee structure for the Greater London Authority (GLA) Planning Unit’s non-statutory pre-application advice service. Two levels of pre-application options, benchmarked against fees used by London boroughs, are now being offered. The first entails ‘in principle’ advice based on limited information and generic assumptions, priced at £2,500 + VAT. The second, which involves more detailed advice, is priced at £7,500 + VAT (and a separate £2,000 + VAT fee for follow up meetings). In the same decision, Sadiq also approved the introduction of fixed-price Planning Performance Agreements (PPA) for all applications that have been recovered by the Mayor. This, the decision says, ‘will allow officers time to improve the quality of the planning applications that are recovered by the Mayor for his determination’ and is priced at £65,000 + VAT. The changes came into force on 1 May. It is clear that the GLA is seeking means to fund the recruitment of a new, wider cohort of planning experts to its team, but it remains to be seen whether the development sector comes to terms with these fees as good value-for-money.
BREATHE CLEAN AIR
Building on the success of an air quality study carried out in collaboration with King’s College London, LCA’s client The Northbank BID is planning a summer of local events and interventions meant to tackle central London’s air pollution problem. The programme will be spearheaded by a street event on Thursday, 17 May, entitled Northbank Cleaner Streets, which seeks to raise awareness of the health benefits of taking quieter walking routes, as the report found that people can reduce their exposure to air pollution by making small adjustments to their daily commute.
KHAN BUY, WILL BUILD
You may have spotted that the Mayor has for the first time used his £250million land fund to purchase the St Ann’s Hospital site, in Haringey. City Hall’s purchase of the site will see it work with the St Ann’s Redevelopment Trust (StART), an organisation made up of local people in Haringey, to deliver the plans. It marks the first time that the Mayor will work so closely with a community-led organisation to bring forward development proposals and will ensure at least 50% of the homes built are genuinely affordable. LCA has been helping to secure coverage for StART about its involvement in the site.
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