WHAT MIGHT LABOUR DO WITH POWER?
“If today’s polls are to be believed, Keir Starmer will be in 10 Downing Street around a year from now. Obviously, much can still happen to scupper that, but it doesn’t mean people aren’t thinking about what a future Labour Government might do in power.
Here at LCA, we know that the prospect of a change in government brings with it uncertainty. Many of our clients are actively considering what Labour might mean for them and their businesses. To help them, the latest in our series of Insight Special reports – Labour in Power – has assembled the party’s policy commitments that touch on the built environment. You can request a copy of the report here.
Obviously, this is a moveable feast, and new policies will be unveiled over the coming months. Our plan is to periodically revisit the report, updating it with the latest announcements as we head towards the actual manifesto being published shortly before the next election.
Manifestos are one of those particular quirks of our political system – we place more emphasis on their importance at election time than in many other democracies. And in previous roles, I’ve played a small part in the production of election manifestos, both at a national level and in London.
Some view manifestos as the product of pointy-headed policy geeks, locked in a room beavering away in isolation, spitting out a finished product prior to polling day. And there’s some degree of truth in this, but in reality the process is more complicated and prolonged, and for Labour at least is wrapped up in an internal democracy that seeks contributions far and wide, before it is approved by internal formal structures and committees.
Apparently, Michael Heseltine once said “a manifesto that has policies alienates people”. He is of course right that by committing to specifics, you put your head above the parapet leaving you open to people taking pot shots. But without detailed policy, it is also hard to sell your wares to the electorate – by being vague, you lack tangible – what are often called ‘retail’ - policies.
As well as being a contract with the voting public, manifestos perform a number of other roles. What makes it in (and, as importantly, is left out) is a way of managing expectations, holding together coalitions of supporters and stakeholders. Getting the balance is critical – the right mix of ambition tempered with a dose of what can, in all reality be delivered and afforded. Packed with too much, and the public risk not taking it seriously. Thin on content, and the public think the party isn’t taking it seriously.
Not everything a Government does is in a manifesto (Labour’s independence for the Bank of England, announced days after the 1997 General Election, famously got no mention in the manifesto), but what is in sends a signal to the civil service about the priorities of a Government. And in our messy constitution, manifestos have standing – the Salisbury Convention, one of the many ‘gentlemen’s agreements’ that steer the workings of Parliament, sees the House of Lords self-restrain from blocking primary legislation that delivers on specific commitments in a governing party’s manifesto.
Get a manifesto right, and it captures the zeitgeist, acting as a springboard into power. Get it wrong and it can drag a party down – Labour’s 1983 manifesto was famously dubbed the longest suicide note in history. As the General Election approaches, we will be monitoring manifesto development closely in LDN and in our other Insight work as all of the main parties formulate their policies."
Nick Bowes, Managing Director, Insight
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COVID INQUIRY: the Covid-19 Inquiry moved on to Metro Mayors, with Sadiq Khan giving evidence on Monday. Khan described how he’d been kept in the dark about the true scale of the spread of Covid in London in the early days of the virus, only finding out the facts when finally allowed to attend a Cobra meeting.
Lockdown lowdown: the hearing was shown a copy of a private letter sent by Khan to Prime Minister Boris Johnson on Sunday 20 March – the day before lockdown was imposed. In the letter, he warned Johnson he’d unilaterally tell Londoners to stay at home if the Government didn’t act. Is this the intervention which finally forced Johnson’s hand?
In the spotlight: elsewhere, Khan is the subject of two major profiles. Bloomberg have looked closely at how the Mayor is walking a delicate tightrope of a city strained by the war in Gaza (including some commentary from our own Nick Bowes), while Politico delve into the battleground that is London’s air quality and Khan’s mission to tackle it.
Ashcroft polling: the latest polling on the race for City Hall confirmed others seen in recent weeks, with a strong lead for Khan (50%) v Susan Hall (23%). Ashcroft’s view is that while Londoners question what Khan has to show for eight years in City Hall, he is not unpopular.
Corbyn or out: even with Jeremy Corbyn on the ballot paper, Khan romps home against Hall with 41% to 22% (with Corbyn on 14%).
Guess who: for his Tory opponent, the challenge is recognition – while 77% identified Khan from a picture, just 7% so far knew Hall.
Picking pockets: Hall generated headlines in a different way, after claiming she’d been pickpocketed on the Tube, launching a sideswipe at the Mayor for crime levels in the city. Yet her belongings were returned to her safe and sound.
London Pride: that her possessions were returned to her suggests perhaps London at its best, not its worse, with even the former Minister of London throwing some shade on Hall.
Safe city: elsewhere, with crime likely to be a key battleground in forthcoming elections, a new report has found London to be one of the world’s safest cities, scoring particularly well for women and LGBTQ+ travellers.
But in less good news: this comes shortly after a worrying survey by London Travelwatch found one in five LGBTQ+ Londoners have faced abuse on the city’s public transport network and TfL data revealing a 50% rise in thefts on the Tube. Earning its nickname the Misery Line, the Northern Line came out as the worst affected line.
London for Everyone: City Hall has launched a new campaign – London for Everyone – designed to bring communities together and rejecting hatred. Here at LCA, we can’t help wonder if this is in any way related to the Tory Mayoral candidate’s social media history but also are not entirely sure how much real substance there is behind the headline.
Well, nearly everyone: as was widely expected, Khan’s long-standing ally Deputy Mayor for Business, Rajesh Agrawal, has stood down from his role after being selected as Labour’s parliamentary candidate in Leicester East. No doubt the hunt is on for a replacement. CVs c/o of the Mayor, City Hall….He is in fact one of a growing number of London politicians who are finding seats outside the capital (see people section below for two recent selections).
LONDON PLANNING ROUNDUP
- Joseph Homes’s plans to deliver a 688-bed student accommodation scheme at Sylvan Grove have been granted consent by Southwark Council. The proposals include the delivery of purpose-built student accommodation in a 34-storey tower along with a seven-storey building containing 23 affordable family homes, along with 21,430 sq ft of employment space.
- Croydon Council has granted planning consent for Amro Partners and Flemyn’s plans for a 447-home Build-to-Rent scheme (20% affordable) on the site of the former Croydon Park Hotel. The proposals include the demolition of existing buildings to deliver two connected buildings eight storeys. The designs will also deliver a 51% biodiversity net gain to become Croydon’s ‘most sustainable’ residential development.
- Yoo Capital’s plans to redevelop Shepherd’s Bush Market have been recommended for approval by planning officers at Hammersmith and Fulham Council. The proposals include the demolition of the former St Mungo’s Hostel and redeveloping the 4.2 acre site to include a new nine-storey commercial building with 240,000 sq ft of lab-enabled workspace, operated by Imperial College London.
- Westferry Developments has submitted new plans to redevelop the Westferry Printworks on the Isle of Dogs. Westferry proposes delivering a five-storey school and 1,358 homes in nine towers between eight and 31 storeys. Previous plans for the site were rejected by the Housing Minister in 2021 following concerns over a potential conflict of interest between the developer and then-Secretary of State Robert Jenrick.
- Hollybrook has submitted plans for a residential-led redevelopment of Neasden Goods Yard in Brent, proposing the delivery of seven buildings between five and 51 storeys. Across the development, Hollybrook proposes 1,151 homes (30% affordable) and 604 student beds, along with 11,614 sq m of mixed commercial and light industrial space.
- Fleet Street Quarter BID has unveiled its £80m plans for a ‘radical’ transformation of the public realm around Fleet Street. The proposals include overhauling 34 public realm sites including at Ludgate Circus and Holborn Viaduct and a new ‘gateway’ to the City at Blackfriars.
- The landmark HMV store on Oxford Street has reopened after a four-year absence. The HMV chain was saved from insolvency in 2019 by Canadian entrepreneur Doug Putnam, with the Oxford Street site resecured for the retailer’s return in April 2023.
- Labour Leader Keir Starmer has made a number of changes to his Shadow frontbench following the resignation of several Shadow Ministers over the party’s stance on the conflict in Israel-Gaza. Former Shadow Environment Secretary, Jim McMahon, has been appointed as Shadow Minister for English Devolution and Local Government, while Liz Twist becomes Shadow Minister for Local Services and Communities. Baroness Sherlock has been appointed as Lords Shadow Minister for Faith. Enfield North MP Feryal Clark becomes Shadow Minister for Crime Reduction.
- As mentioned above, Deputy Mayor of London for Business, Rajesh Agrawal, has stepped down from his role in City Hall to focus on contesting the Leicester East seat at the next General Election. The recruitment process for his successor is underway.
- Former Smart Cities Adviser for Microsoft, Linda Chandler, has been appointed as Chief Digital Officer for Olympia, Yoo Capital’s 14-acre redevelopment project for the exhibition centre in Hammersmith.
- CBRE has appointed Rob Seabrook as its new Executive Director for Hotels, joining from Cushman & Wakefield. Seabrook was previously with CBRE before leaving in 2017.
- Chief Executive of Octavia Housing, Sandra Skeete, is to step down from the role in January 2024, but until then continues to oversee the 5,000-home housing association’s merger with Abri.
- Independent candidate Sophia Naqvi won last week’s by-election in Newham’s Plaistow North ward, taking the seat from Labour.
- Labour’s Deputy Chief Whip on Lambeth Council, Cllr Tom Rutland, has been selected as the Party’s candidate to contest the East Worthing and Shoreham seat at the next General Election.
- Cllr Simon Fox, Conservative councillor on Croydon Council, has been selected to contest the Croydon West seat at the next General Election.
BILLS, BILLS, BILLS: The Government finally introduced the long-awaited Leasehold and Freehold Bill to the House of Commons on Monday evening, having first promised to reform the leasehold system in 2017 and then referencing it in the King’s Speech earlier this month.
The details: The Bill will make it easier for leaseholders to extend their lease or buy the freehold on their homes. The legislation will also ban leaseholds on new houses.
Flat out: However, the bill won’t ban leaseholds on new flats, something which has attracted criticism from campaigners and the Opposition alike as in England 70% of homes are flats. There are reports that some Conservative backbenchers are prepared to table amendments to the Bill to include flats.
Timing is everything: Levelling Up Secretary Michael Gove, who has called the current system ‘outdated’, has said that he is confident the Bill will become law before the next General Election. He has said that the reform will mean that people are able to ‘take back control of their property’.
Unintended consequences? A study by Bayes Business School and Knight Frank has found that the measures could result in a 10% increase in house prices. This would be due to rising numbers of lease extensions that will in turn result in higher demand and higher prices for properties with short leaseholds.
Consultation: At the same time that the bill was introduced, the Government’s consultation on leasehold reform closed, having received over 2,000 responses, with the majority of respondents saying that they are supportive of plans including those to increase the non-residential limit for collective enfranchisement.
CITY OF REFURBS
THE GREAT DEBATE: With the High Court approving Marks & Spencer’s request for a judicial review of the Secretary of State’s decision to block the redevelopment of their Oxford Street store, the question of whether to rebuild or refurb is one of the most topical in the built environment sector.
Assembly required: In St Martin Property Investments’ plans to ’revamp’ and retrofit the former City Hall on the South Bank, the exterior glass shell would be peeled back to create balconies for the planned office spaces, along with a new public space on the ground floor for shops and eateries.
Green gauges: CBRE IM’s eight-storey offices at 10 Gresham Street is a relative toddler compared to its neighbouring nineteenth-century livery halls. But even at 23 years old, the 145,000 sq ft space is getting a new wellbeing-focused refurbishment with minimal embodied carbon waste to add new balconies, a flexible event space, and a new rooftop terrace.
Going up? Fenwick’s department store in Mayfair could be having a glitzy spruce up with plans by Foster & Partners for a ‘deep retrofit’ adding five new upper floors as offices of the 136-year old building. Lazari Investments’ plans are currently with Westminster City Council for consideration.
Back to the boards: London’s Theatreland is the indisputable global capital for live performance. But with Yoo Capital’s plans to convert the 110,000 sq ft Saville Theatre from its current use as an Odeon cinema back into a live venue, the West End regains a stage it lost in 1970 and could become host to world-class Cirque du Soleil for its first permanent home in the UK.
King of Spades: Early in November, The Crown Estate signed contractor Multiplex to refurbish its iconic 18-storey home of the New Zealand Commission at New England House, as well as appointing McClaren Construction to fully refurbish its nine-storey offices at 10 Spring Gardens. Both buildings will receive a full replacement of windows, fixtures and fittings, while retaining the vast majority of their current structures.
More than this: As featured in this week’s coverage in Architects’ Journal of the retrofit vs redevelopment debate playing out on the Isle of Dogs, it’s much more than a simple two-way choice. There’s serious considerations of heritage, economy and social value alongside the increasing environmental expectations being placed on the construction sector. One thing’s for sure – this question is only going to get asked more and more.
- LCA’s new Insight Special Report – Labour in Power – documenting the party’s policy commitments to date – is essential reading.
- Keep an eye out for an upcoming report from the London Property Alliance on the capital’s knowledge clusters, set to be published in the next few days.
- Open City's Phineas Harper in the Guardian on delivering new homes on golf courses.
- City A.M.’s interview with MTR Corporation’s UK chief executive, Steve Murphy, who played a key role in the delivery of the Elizabeth Line.
- Council funding crisis will hurt the Tories in election year, in The Times (£).
- Christmas is coming – Oslo’s annual Christmas tree gift to London has set off on its journey to Trafalgar Square.
- With this on the forgotten role James Bond author Ian Fleming played in the Trafalgar Square Christmas tree tradition (£).
- Just don’t drop the star for the top of the tree during decorating it.
A DECADE OF BROADGATE CONNECT
Last week, our Managing Director, Insight Nick Bowes chaired a major event to mark the launch of a new report by long-standing LCA client, British Land – A Decade of Broadgate Connect.
Hosted by the Everyman in the Broadgate, British Land’s major development in The City, it brought together a brilliant lineup of panellists - Anna Devlet (British Land), Carole Williams (Hackney Council), Julie Hutchinson (ELBA), and Kenneila Quashie (JLL) following an introduction by British Land Chief Operating Officer, David Walker.
The panel discussed the role of businesses and partnerships in the Broadgate Connect programme, which over the last ten years has successfully connected employers with local talent across East London.
The discussion focused on experiences over the past decade, looking closely at the learnings from the programme and how to collaborate even better in the future to further support local talent.
Photo courtesy of British Land
FIVE MINUTES WITH… DANIEL PÖHNER, DIRECTOR, BAUMSCHLAGER EBERLE ARCHITEKTEN
The LCA team recently secured an interview in NLA for client Baumschlager Eberle Architekten. Director, Daniel Pöhner speaks about the unique concept they have developed to dramatically cut energy and construction costs.
Daniel explains the 10-year history of the 2226 concept and the practice’s plans to bring it to the UK market. Read the full interview here: https://nla.london/news/5-minutes-withdaniel-pohner
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