"London was at its stunning best today in the cold December sunshine. Cycling in to the office early this morning afforded a glimpse of a majestic fiery orange sunrise. For the cold and crisp final leg of my cycle through Covent Garden and the West End, glinting Christmas lights and festive window displays flooded the streets with colour and sparkle.
In today’s LDN we list some of the city’s Christmas highlights. But among all this glitter, there is a stark reminder that not all Londoners face a few weeks of parties and growing excitement about Christmas. Rough sleepers huddled in doorways on freezing cold mornings like today the most visible sign of the homelessness crisis the city is facing.
The stats are horrific. One in every 58 Londoners are recorded as homeless – 19 of the top 20 worst affected local authorities are in London. In Newham, the figures reach nearly one in five. Nearly 170,000 people in the capital live in hostels, bedsits or temporary accommodation – that’s equivalent to the population of Kingston-upon-Thames. Over 300,000 are on council housing waiting lists – that’s more than the number of people living in Newcastle-upon-Tyne. One child in every classroom is on average homeless. And over 10,000 people sleep rough in the city – 2/3 of these for the first time. Nights like last night are killers for those out on the streets.
A few years back, I visited a Crisis at Christmas centre in Camden and witnessed the amazing work of the charity over the festive period in bringing people in off the streets. It left a real and lasting mark and every year now I choose to donate to their work instead of sending Christmas cards. Crisis aren’t alone and there are other excellent groups and charities doing amazing work against a rising tide of homelessness in the city but one thing is for sure, their job is getting tougher year after year.
Lazy stereotypes abound about the kind of people that find themselves homeless. There are many reasons why people find themselves on the street – large numbers suffer severe mental health problems, a good contingent are ex-military, many have fled from abuse in the home, a growing number just can’t afford to pay rent. But a key factor is that London hasn’t built enough new homes for decades. Compounding this, the city been a victim of its own success – growing by over 2 million people since the late 1980s and continuing to suck in new arrivals all the time, putting further pressure on housing. We can see this most vividly in the eye-watering cost of buying a property in London, but also in the haywire state of the rental market.
London is one of those places that has always attracted those who want to find themselves or their tribe. Alternatively, some come to deliberately lose themselves among the hordes. The bright lights lure the talented and the ambitious, as well as those fleeing abuse or repression. And none of this is going to change any time soon. With big political choices ahead in 2024, prioritising housing as one of the most basic of necessities has never felt more important."
Nick Bowes, Managing Director, Insight
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LASSO GOOD: News just in – Richmond is apparently the happiest borough in all of Great Britain. The feel good Ted Lasso effect rubbing off on Richmondians?
Believe: That being said, Richmond isn’t one of the nine councils bidding to the Mayor’s next London Borough of Culture. Here’s the full list.
EN-Go: The English National Opera has chosen Manchester as its new home after the Arts Council told it to leave London or lose its funding. Meanwhile, with the only bidder to host the 2026 Commonwealth Games dropping out, Tory Mayoral hopeful Susan Hall has thrown her support behind London stepping in to the breach. Last July, Mayor Sadiq Khan said London stood ready to support, after the Australian State of Victoria cancelled plans to host the 2026 games.
Norwegian wood: Trafalgar Square’s Christmas tree arrived in London from Norway. Cue the usual clickbait stories criticising the state of the tree, which routinely forget that it has been an annual gift from the City of Oslo since WWII.
Spruced up: Who knew Christmas trees got the arboriculture equivalent of facelifts. Let’s hope all the lights work.
Crime Stats I: Mayor Sadiq Khan has had his knuckles rapped by the Office for National Statistics over claims knife crime had declined since he took charge of City Hall. The ONS rebuke said the Mayor’s statement “has the potential to mislead the public”.
Crime Stats II: Elsewhere, pickpocketgate rumbles on, as intrepid Evening Standard journalist Ross Lydall tracks down the good Samaritan who found Susan Hall’s wallet and handed it in. Sounds increasingly like one crime that can be struck off the stats, not helped by Hall’s appearance on LBC.
Blue Oyster Cult: With £250m of unused credit reportedly sat on Oyster cards, it’s good news Hall had hers returned. Time for all Londoners to rummage around in ‘that’ draw in the kitchen.
Cashing in: Newly released data showed the ULEZ Expansion swelled TfL’s coffers by £53m in just the first week as non-compliant vehicle owners were left paying the charge.
Dartford Cross(ing): Unhappiness beyond the M25 with the Mayor’s ULEZ has led to Dartford’s Conservative MP Gareth Johnson tabling a Private Members Bill, which would limit the ability of TfL to amend the boundaries of clean air zones without ministerial permission. With the bill sat 13th in the list, it is unlikely to make it to the statute book.
Brent Cross: London’s newest railway station opens this weekend at Brent Cross West, which is part of the wider regeneration of Brent Cross and Cricklewood.
We’re all super loopy: New routes of TfL’s Superloop network have launched, with the Mayor hailing ‘game changer’ boosts in passenger numbers. Since route SL7 became part of the network, weekly passengers were up 62%.
Oxford Treat: London’s famous shopping street is to become home to the biggest kebab house in the country!
Moment to reflect: The Mayor of London has committed £130,000 towards the creation of London's first permanent memorial to the victim of HIV/AIDS. The memorial will be located near the former Middlesex Hospital in Camden, where the UK's first treatment clinic was founded.
FLURRY: You wait for one update on the Secretary of State’s call-ins, and several come along at once.
Called-in: Following the Mayor of London’s refusal last week of the Stratford MSG, the Government has now called-in the plans, meaning that Michael Gove (or another DLUHC minister) will have the final say. However, this might prove academic as the applicant has said that it has no interest in pursuing the plans further, expressing dismay about a planning system which ‘can be so easily undermined by political winds’.
Approved: Earlier this week, the Government approved plans by Montreaux for 1,049 homes (35% affordable) in buildings of up to 18 storeys in height in Cricklewood. The plans were approved by Barnet Council in September 2021 before being called-in by then-Secretary of State Greg Clark in August 2022.
Delayed (again): Michael Gove has delayed his decision on plans for the redevelopment of the ITV Studios building on the Southbank for the third time. The decision will now be made on or before 6 February 2024.
Complicated: While it may seem like Gove has done a lot of intervening in planning in London, the Sphere is actually only the third planning application he has called in himself, the others being plans for the redevelopment of M&S on Oxford Street and plans for the redevelopment of former Tesco and Homebase sites in Hounslow. During Greg Clark’s second stint as Secretary of State during Liz Truss’ premiership (so 44 days), he managed to call-in two schemes in the capital, ITV Studios and B&Q Cricklewood. The turnover of DLUHC’s team in recent years hasn’t exactly simplified matters, with most ministers not remaining in place for long enough to make decisions on applications that they originally called in.
LONDON PLANNING ROUNDUP
- Islington Council has approved Kadans’ plans to develop a five-storey lab-enabled office building in the Knowledge Quarter in King’s Cross. The 51,500 sq ft building has been designed by the developer to be flexible to respond to ‘changing scientific requirements.’
- Hammersmith and Fulham Council’s Planning Committee was adjourned early last night after an activist group disrupted discussions on Yoo Capital’s plans to refurbish and redevelop Shepherd’s Bush Market. The proposals would provide new market stalls and shop units alongside incubation space for life science companies and 40 new affordable homes. Council officers were recommending approval and the plans have received widespread support from the existing market traders.
- Southwark Council has paused two council estate regeneration projects due to ‘cost inflation’ and ongoing financial challenges in local government. Proposals to deliver an infill scheme to create 79 new council homes at Sceaux Gardens, as well as delivering three new buildings on the Bells Gardens & Lindley Estate to provide 127 new council homes, were granted planning consent in August and November 2021 respectively.
- Abu Dhabi-based investor Aldar Properties has bought developer London Square in a £230m takeover. London Square, which is delivering nearly 4,500 homes in a £2bn development at Nine Elms, has said that the deal will allow it to ‘flourish and extend its presence’ across London.
- Brockton Everlast has unveiled initial plans to refurbish its 11-storey Waterside House in Paddington, which currently houses the UK headquarters for Marks & Spencer. The developer is currently consulting on its proposals to expand the 237,000 sq ft office building’s floorplates to add additional public space.
- Crystal Palace FC is seeking to raise £45m to start redevelopment of its stadium in south London, increasing capacity from 26,000 to over 34,000 seats. Croydon Council approved the plans in October 2022, which were revised from initial plans approved in 2018 with delivery delayed due to the Covid-19 pandemic.
- Castleforge and Gamuda Group have unveiled plans to refurbish and extend the 317,000 sq ft 10-storey Winchester House at London Wall, currently the UK headquarters of Deutsche Bank. The developers propose adding an extra three floors, a roof terrace, and improving pedestrian access and public realm on the ground floor.
- As mentioned in our previous story, the Government has called-in plans for the Sphere in Stratford following the Mayor’s refusal, while it also granted approval for the redevelopment of a former B&Q in Cricklewood. Secretary of State Michael Gove has also delayed his verdict on the application for the redevelopment of the ITV Studios on the Southbank until early next year.
- The Building Safety Regulator has announced the appointment of Philip White as its permanent Chief Executive after holding the position on an interim basis since April. White was appointed to the role following the departure of the agency’s Chief Inspector Peter Baker.
- Notting Hill Genesis has appointed Mark Smith as its new Chief Financial Officer, joining from the same role at NHS Property Services.
- Kate Markey, CEO of The London Community Foundation, is joining the Nationwide Foundation as its new CEO after nearly six years in the role.
- The CBI has elected former Chief Executive of Serco Rupert Soames as its next President. Soames succeeds its current President Brian McBride, former CEO of Amazon UK, who was elected in June 2022.
- RBKC’s Cllr Mona Adam has joined the Greens from Labour.
- Former Chancellor Alistair Darling has died aged 70. Lord Darling was Chancellor under Prime Minister Gordon Brown during the 2007-8 financial crisis, with Brown commemorating his ‘integrity’ and ‘wise judgement.’
- Former Foreign Minister and MEP, Baroness Kinnock of Holyhead, has died aged 79. Wife of former Labour Party Leader Neil Kinnock, the Baroness held ministerial responsibility in the Blair Government for diplomatic relations with Europe and Africa.
- Labour has selected Deputy Leader of Westminster City Council, Cllr Tim Roca, to contest the Macclesfield constituency at the next General Election, while Liam Conlon will contest Beckenham and Penge and current Redbridge councillor Cllr Bayo Alaba will stand in Southend East and Rochford.
- The Conservative Party has selected Abbas Merali as its candidate to contest the Harrow West constituency at the next General Election. Merali is currently a district councillor at Three Rivers Council in Hertfordshire.
- The Green Party’s Lorna Jane Russell has been elected as ward councillor for Highgate on Camden Council, in a by-election prompted by the resignation of London Assembly Member Sian Berry.
A MOST WONDERFUL TIME: For retailers, the last three months of the year represent the biggest opportunity for in-store and online sales, as customers jingle all the way through a catalogue of the year’s top products and well-worn traditional sells.
Merry rizz-mas? The pull of the high street saw more shoppers returning in October to November 2023, according to the month’s footfall data from the British Retail Consortium. Pre-Christmas marketing campaigns ‘rallied’ the consumer after a slow autumn, with Black Friday’s footfall rising by 52.4% week-on-week.
Step into Christmas: Business in the capital is looking more confident as we enter into the festive season, with Lloyds Bank’s Business Barometer posting London firms at their highest levels of confidence since early 2022. 56% of businesses expect business to improve over the next twelve months, while 46% will look to increase staff levels.
Halleluia, it has risen: It was good news, crowded carriages and long lines at cafes on Thursday 23 November as Tube journeys exceeded four million for the first time since March 2020.
Snow business: According to data from MRI Software, Tuesday 5 December saw a 8.3% decline in retail footfall as ASLEF train drivers continue industrial action over pay. Their current series of walkouts and an overtime ban lasts until Friday 8 December, while fellow transport workers union RMT have accepted a pay deal for 2022-23.
Mulled whine? Chancellor Jeremy Hunt’s Autumn Statement is still ringing in our ears, but for retail, some have argued that the dual impact of higher minimum wage levels and business rate contributions will ‘challenge thousands’ of retail businesses. James Lowman, Chief Executive of the Association of Convenience Stores, warned of ‘reduced investment’ because of bigger bills.
Writing a list, checking it twice: Mulberry has become the newest entry to the growing club of retailers calling on the Government to reinstate VAT-free shopping for overseas visitor. Chief Executive Thierry Andrretta said the UK is being ‘shunned’ as a result of the so-called ‘tourist tax’ and saw 10% of its UK sales lost in 2022-23 due to the end of tax-free shopping.
Little St James: A proposed Business Improvement District for the St James area of Westminster was rejected by ballot after 55% of occupiers narrowly voted against its establishment. Property owners were much more keen, with 75% voting in favour.
WHAT'S ON IN DECEMBER
DECEMBER DELIGHTS: The arrival of the festive season brings with it a multitude of events and outings for Londoners to enjoy and we’ve included some of our top selections here for you to choose from.
Get your skates on: at Somerset House, Canary Wharf or Battersea Power Station. For those who prefer alternative winter sports, head to King’s Cross for some curling. Or, you could watch the brave swimmers taking a dip in the Serpentine on Christmas morning.
All of the lights: Head to Kew Gardens, Eltham Palace or Kenwood House to see some of the capital’s best displays.
Secret Santa: Explore London’s Christmas markets to try and secure those last minute gifts! They are taking place on the Southbank, on Maltby Street and in Peckham.
He’s behind you! It’s not Christmas without panto, and thankfully there are plenty of choices this month. Aladdin at the Hackney Empire, Peter Pan at the London Palladium and Dick Whittington at the Richmond Theatre. There’s also the UK’s ‘first professional Jewish panto’ to enjoy. The Old Vic is also staging a version of A Christmas Carol.
The season of giving: For those wanting to do a good deed this festive season, why not spend some time volunteering at or contributing to charities such as Crisis or Age UK.
- A poll by London Councils has shown that 73% of Londoners say that the cost of living crisis has made it more difficult for them to transition to greener energy sources.
- The Times on the redevelopment of the National Sports Centre in Crystal Palace.
- A new study which has shown that birds are drawn to big cities during long migrations, but tall buildings pose a risk to them, with recommendations that windows are fitted with decals to prevent collisions.
- The Times on efforts by KFC to battle local authority planning policies that limit the opening of new fast food restaurants.
- One for the housing stats geeks – GLA data team on the cost to the NHS of homes in poor conditions.
- New government migration curbs can only do London harm, so says Dave Hill over at OnLondon.
- Do Keir Starmer’s sums add up?
- A new report by King’s College, London on the future of the city’s economy for 2030 and beyond
- Need a festive boozer? The Evening Standard have handily compiled a list of London’s fifty best pubs
FREEDOM OF THE CITY
Last week, LCA’s Managing Director, Insight Dr Nick Bowes was awarded the prestigious status of Freedom of the City of London in a special ceremony at the Guildhall. Nick was nominated for the award after working over many years in senior roles across the city, including five years as Director of Policy for the Mayor of London and most recently running the think tank, Centre for London. It is one of the oldest surviving ceremonies still in existence, having first been presented in 1237. While originally granting the right to carry out trade or craft in the Square Mile, it came with other privileges including the right to drive sheep over London Bridge. Nowadays, these privileges are largely symbolic, and the award is given to those with a strong connection to the City.
Photo courtesy of Nick Bowes
THE PROPERTY CATWALK
Last week, members of the LCA team kicked off the festive season the ‘The Property Catwalk’, a charity fashion show in aid of Dress for Success. Attended by a network of women across the built environment, 16 brave volunteers took to the runway to model, including LCA’s Account Executive, Flora Cowie. A collaboration between Oyster Partnership, Unibail-Rodamco-Westfield and Mentoring Circle, guests were able to purchase the modelled pieces on the night, raising £1000s for the brilliant cause.
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