“It’s over 70 years since the last time a King officially opened the new parliamentary term. On that occasion, a new Conservative government had just been elected in a post war period still feeling the effects of the conflict. That new government’s priorities, among commitments around international security and tackling the nation’s economic problems, included promises to address serious skills shortages, privatise the recently nationalised steel industry and to “do their utmost to stimulate the building of new houses … using to the fullest extent both public and private enterprise”.
On 7 November, the King will unveil this government’s legislative priorities for what is almost certainly the final parliamentary term before a General Election. For the Prime Minister Rishi Sunak, this represents another opportunity to relaunch his struggling government. So far, a string of major policy shifts and even attempts to use the party’s conference in Manchester to regain the initiative have failed to budge the polls. If anything, things have got worse.
The bind Sunak finds himself in is that the nation’s finances leave little room for manoeuvre. And any headroom there is, he’s under pressure from his backbenchers to use for pre-election tax cuts. So any announcements on 7 November have to come cheap. But even then, there’s not vast amounts of time left to pass legislation before the next General Election, so expect many of the bills mentioned to never even reach the statute book.
And that’s partly the strategy – it’s more about PR, and they’ll be eye catching announcements that have little hope of becoming law but are included purely to set traps for Labour. But with the opposition increasingly confident to stick to its own narrative and less easily knocked off course by what the Tories say, this is a risky strategy for Sunak.
There looks unlikely to be any radical new commitments around housing to match those of 1951, increasingly leaving the pitch open to Labour to own the ‘Get Britain Building’ agenda. This is politically tricky ground for the Government as the party is split into two camps with opposing views, and those in marginal suburban seats in the Green Belt hold considerable sway.
But with the Autumn Statement also due on 22 November and a government reshuffle widely expected before Christmas, the words that come out of the King’s mouth should be seen through the prism of the Conservative Party fighting hard for political survival and a General Election campaign that is well and truly underway.
In today’s LDN, we cover in more detail the King’s Speech, update on the City Hall latest, and summarise what’s in the new Levelling Up and Regeneration Act. All this, plus the usual planning round up and people moves .”
Nick Bowes, Managing Director, Insight
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WHAT WILL BE IN THE KING'S SPEECH?
CARRY ON ENGLAND: With all the pomp and ceremony that we excel at, the King will open the new Parliamentary session on 7 November – the first King’s Speech since 1951. All eyes are on what the Government’s priorities will be for the coming year.
Carry on behind: For Rishi Sunak, the State Opening of Parliament is another opportunity to relaunch the flagging popularity of his government, battered further after two recent brutal by-election defeats and continued comfortable double-digit poll leads for Labour.
Carry on regardless: The Rental (Reform) Bill, which has already caused the government difficulty, will return to complete its remaining stages. Whether concessions made at the Second Reading stage on when no fault evictions will finally be outlawed are enough to placate Tory backbenchers is yet to be seen.
Carry on constable: With little additional funding around for policing and prisons, expect a focus on tougher sentences and compelling criminals to hear their sentencing.
Carry on cabby: London might be spared of the scourge of pedicabs, with a commitment likely on including regulation in a transport bill. Reports also suggest that there’ll be a doubling down on anti-green and pro-motorist policies, with it made harder for local councils to introduce ULEZ-style schemes and 20mph zones.
Carry on at your convenience: Might the government seek to put into legislation the list of transport projects funded by the money freed up from cancelling HS2, and challenge Labour to oppose?
Carry on screaming: It looks unlikely that there’ll be much – if anything – in the way of radical planning reform, to support the building of more homes and infrastructure. However, it is pretty certain that leasehold reform will make it, with Secretary of State Michael Gove reportedly winning his behind the scenes battle.
Carry on don’t lose your head: For Labour, a test of their growing confidence is whether they fall into the traps set by the Tories or stick to their own narrative.
Carry on, Insight: You can read more in Nick Bowes’s blog on what might to expect from the King’s Speech. LCA Insight will report back next week on what is in the speech and what this means for you and your organisation.
CITY HALL LATEST
SPOTTED: The first report on the impact of the expanded Ultra Low Emission Zone (ULEZ) has given the Mayor of London a boost. Figures have shown that there are now on average 77,000 fewer non-compliant vehicles per day on the road compared to June 2023 (a 45% reduction), as well as bringing in nearly £26m from levies and fines between August and September.
Air your grievances: Conservative mayoral candidate Susan Hall was quick to point out that the ULEZ figures did not include any details about its impact on air pollution. Hall said the Mayor’s ‘disastrous charge’ was a ‘tax grab.’ City Hall, in response, said results of the impact on air quality would come next year.
Back on the road: ULEZ-compliant or not, road users will hopefully see their journeys improved through Khan’s new pledge of £10m to speed up roadworks carried out by utility company operations.
One day more: TfL has abandoned plans to scrap the one-day Travelcard following an agreement with train operators. While the price will be increased slightly, the Mayor hailed the ‘good compromise’ as a ‘fairer deal’ for all.
Under the roof: The GLA’s latest Housing in London 2023 report reveals key data about the state of the capital’s housing market. Two key takeaways are the rise of the Build-to-Rent sector with 54,723 homes starting between 2009 and 2022, alongside a 106% annual increase in starts on City Hall-backed council homes in 2022/23.
More Met woes: Team GB athlete Bianca Williams and her partner have expressed their shock after it emerged that over £75,000 has been donated to a crowdfund for the two police officers who were sacked after they were found to have lied during a stop and search of the couple. Black police officers are reportedly facing internal pressure to add to the kitty, the Guardian has revealed.
Khan vs Keir: Keir Starmer’s refusal to back an outright ceasefire in Israel-Gaza has opened rifts in the Labour Party. Sadiq Khan (along with other Labour mayors and politicians at national and local level) went beyond his Leader’s position, stating that a ceasefire would allow aid to reach Gaza and open channels for ‘preventing’ the conflict to continue.
Clarifying his position: Starmer sought to clarify his position and quell growing dissent in his ranks in a speech in central London but, with international events showing no sign of abating, Labour’s internal crisis looks likely to continue for some time soon, and could have a material impact on support for the party.
Fade to gray: Liam Conlon, son of Keir Starmer’s new Chief of Staff, Sue Gray, has thrown his hat in to the ring to be Labour’s candidate for the new constituency of Beckenham & Penge.
LONDON PLANNING ROUNDUP
- Merton Council has approved the All England Lawn Tennis Club’s plans to expand Wimbledon, proposing the delivery of a new 8,000-seat stadium and 38 tennis courts on the grounds of Wimbledon Park Golf Club. The expansion will increase the site from 42 to 115 acres with full completion not expected before 2030. The plans faced strong opposition from local residents, including a protest outside council chambers on the night of the committee meeting. The scheme still requires consent from neighbouring Wandsworth and the Mayor of London.
- Picton has secured planning permission from the City of London Corporation to convert its 64,000 sq ft Angel Gate offices into homes. The developer previously used permitted development rights to convert 30,000 sq ft of the 1.7 acre site into 34 dwellings, but this was reviewed following the PDR direction running out in September 2023. Picton renegotiated plans to double the number of homes to 70, none of which will be affordable to maximise ‘higher value alternative uses’.
- Hillingdon Council has granted planning permission for Hillingdon Hospitals NHS Foundation Trust’s proposals to develop a new 79,604 sq m seven-storey hospital, including a 23,034 sq m mobility hub and multi-storey car park. The proposals have been funded through the Government’s New Hospitals Programme.
- Berkeley Group has submitted plans for the fourth phase of its 5,000-home estate regeneration at Woodberry Down in Hackney. The developer proposes the demolition of six existing housing blocks, delivering 511 homes (47% affordable) in a new 26-storey building, four split level terraced buildings ranging from 8 to 13 storeys and two free-standing towers up to nine storeys in height.
- Architects RCKa have unveiled a speculative masterplan for the 39 hectare Enfield Golf Course, reclaiming nine holes for 650 homes in ‘low-to-mid rise villa blocks’. The plans include transforming the landscape with new allotments and a ‘biodiverse wetlands’ flood zone.
- Lendlease has announced a new joint venture with Japanese developer Daiwa House for the delivery of 259 homes in an 11-storey block at Elephant Park in Southwark. The scheme received planning permission in 2013 and is part of Lendlease’s mixed-use development masterplan, delivering more than 3,000 new homes (minimum 25% affordable).
- Great Portland Estates has announced a number of changes to its senior operational team.
- Martin Boyd has been announced as the Chair of the Leasehold Advisory Service.
- John Freker has been appointed as a partner in Cushman & Wakefield’s UK student accommodation team.
- Heathrow Southern Railway has appointed Mark Livock as its Chief Executive. Crawford Burden and Russell Jackson have been appointed as Non-Executive Directors.
- Shumon Ali-Rahman was elected as a councillor in Waltham Forest’s Higham Hill ward, retaining the seat for Labour in last week’s by-election.
- Sadiq Khan’s Deputy Mayor for Business, Rajesh Agrawal, has been shortlisted for the Labour parliamentary selection in Leicester East. Camden Labour councillor Rishi Madlani is the other person on the shortlist.
LURB BECOMES LURA
IT’S ABOUT TIME: After nearly 18 months of debate and scrutiny, as well as over 1,000 tabled amendments, the Levelling Up and Regeneration Bill (LURB) has finally become law, representing a significant shift in local government, land use and planning policy. Let’s go through some of the key measures…
Chevy to the levy: The current system of developer contributions is to be replaced with a new Infrastructure Levy, with charging rates set to reflect ‘local circumstances’. London Councils and the Mayor of London have both warned that the new system could lead to council powers and control over the planning process being weakened
Beautiful places: Local authorities will be required to create a new design code covering their boundaries, delivered as a baseboard for subsequent detailed codes for individual sites. The process for creating Neighbourhood Plans will be simplified, adding in an ‘empowering’ street votes system for proposing new development.
Dwelling on it: Local authorities will be able to apply higher council tax rates to long-term empty properties. The Mayor of London and Westminster City Council previously called for stronger powers against the estimated 30,000 empty homes in London to free up housing stock.
Breath of life? Councils will be empowered to bring empty commercial properties on high streets back into use by forcing landlords to lease premises through rental auctions. A 2022 report found that there were 13,500 empty shop units in London.
Airbnb-gone? The passing of the Act means that the Government will soon be delivering a register of short-term lettings, aimed at preventing people being ‘pushed out’ of local housing markets.
That’s not all: For planners, there’s changes to compulsory purchase, Local Plans, land transfer, ownership and transparency…and so much more. Chief Executive of the Royal Town Planning Institute, Victoria Hills, said the Act emphasises the importance of the profession in ‘making places better.’
TWO YEARS LATER: Following years of uncertainty, it has been confirmed that plans for the redevelopment of the Palace of Westminster will only be published in full, after the next General Election, in 2025. Lord Gardiner of Kimble, Deputy Speaker of the House of Lords, said that MPs and peers would be shown two options for redevelopment later this year, though detailed plans and costings would not be available until 2025.
Dither and delay: The news comes following the decision made last year to scrap the restoration and renewal programme due to cost concerns. This May, the Public Accounts Committee published a report which found that the Palace was at risk of being destroyed by a ‘catastrophic event’ before repairs are carried out. The report also said the progress on the project had been ‘painfully slow’.
Costly: The restoration of the Palace was first approved by the Commons in 2017 and legislation was passed in 2019, though discussions about the need for work to be carried out on the building had been taking place for decades. Currently, up to £2m a week is spent on repairs, with those who work in the Palace frequently documenting their working conditions.
- Alex Jan’s piece in City AM looking at London and New York’s recovery from the pandemic.
- Looking at the findings of a survey carried out by Pocket Living on housing and planning.
- Finding out whether your favourite local pub is haunted…
- Answering Historic England’s call for images of ‘ghost signs’.
- Reading all about the first major exhibition that will be on display at V&A East, which is set to open in 2025. The Music Is Black: A British Story will take a look at the contribution of Black British music to British culture.
- City A.M.’s interview with Managing Director of Stansted Airport Gareth Powell.
- Our Managing Director, Insight Nick Bowes’s take on what might be in the King’s Speech.
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