“Last Saturday, with a group of friends and wrapped up against the elements, I braved the clifftop walk from Ramsgate to Broadstairs. Looking out at the slate grey yet totally flat English Channel, in passing I remarked that after a few weeks of bad weather, the calm conditions looked likely to encourage migrants risking all to cross from France. Yet, while the sea was like a millpond, the Channel at this time of year is icy cold and the shipping lanes are as packed as ever with ferries and container ships. Heartbreakingly, just a matter of hours after our walk, five migrants died in a failed attempt to reach the Kent coast.
Back in London and this week the Government’s flagship Rwanda Bill is reaching its final stages. As we press send on LDN, it’s unclear how much trouble Rishi Sunak is in with his own backbenchers, but it’s fair to say it has been a difficult few days for him and his Government. This week has speeded the Tories ever further towards being a single issue party - stopping the boats seen as pivotal to any route to victory in the election.
Yet there’s much more going on across the political and public policy landscape than the Government’s latest internal convulsions. London hurtles towards May’s mayoral election and Lewisham faces a mayoral by-election. We await Michael Gove’s quick review of the London Plan. The Leasehold and Freehold Reform Bill reaches Committee Stage.
You may have noticed some small changes to last week’s LDN, as we switched over to a different way of sending it out. Hopefully it didn’t affect your reader experience but if you did have any problems, do let us know. Today’s LDN is issue 299 – next week we reach a major milestone and we will look to mark LDN’s triple century in an appropriate manner.”
Nick Bowes, Managing Director, Insight
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Lease in our time: This week, the Government’s flagship Leasehold and Freehold Reform Bill has reached Committee Stage. “Feudal”, “outdated” and “unfair” are just some of the words Secretary of State Michael Gove has used to describe the existing leasehold system.
Lease is the word: The Bill aims to make it easier and cheaper for leaseholders to extend their leases and buy their freehold. It is also intended to make it easier for leaseholders in mixed use buildings to take over the management of their building.
Leased lightning: Leasehold reform has cross-party backing with Labour and the Tories both vying for the leaseholder vote in the coming election. With time running out before a General Election, the pressure is on to get the Bill on to the statute book in time. Gove is “absolutely confident” it will become law.
Not in the bill: A ban on the creation of new leasehold flats nor any consequent reforms to reinvigorate commonhold as a replacement for leasehold.
Not in the bill (yet): A ban on the creation of new leasehold houses nor restrictions to ground rents, which is currently subject to a consultation. But the Government has indicated that they’ll add provisions to the Bill to cap ground rents and ban leasehold houses at a later stage.
Qualified support: The British Property Federation (BPF) dubbed the Bill a “missed opportunity”. Matthew Pennycook, Labour’s Housing Spokesperson, said “commonhold should be the default tenure for all new properties, with the system completely overhauled so that existing leaseholders can collectively purchase more easily and more to commonhold if they wish”.
Unintended consequences: Some are concerned that widening the scope of collective enfranchisement to include properties where residential comprises just half the floorspace damages the regeneration of High Streets and the curation by landlords of large development projects, counter to the Government’s wider aims. The BPF warn the “Bill will wipe billions of pounds off the savings of not just investors, but charities, pensioners, and local authorities”.
Stuck in committee: out of 17 members of the Bill Committee, five are current or former housing ministers or opposition housing spokespeople, two are MPs just elected in recent by-elections and two are due to stand down at the next General Election.
Lording it: Given the Government’s in-built majority, the Bill is unlikely to change much as it progresses through the Commons stages. However, the House of Lords is a different matter - the Government doesn’t have a majority and have suffered 257 defeats (and counting) since 2021.
End of the Peer Show: Guaranteed to annoy members of the Lords are governments that flood a Bill with new amendments mid-way through scrutiny. With the Government indicating they’re likely to do this, it will be interesting to see how much this riles up peers.
Not the end of it: Labour have vowed to seek to amend the Bill and strengthen reforms, with the prospect of an alliance with a group of Tory MPs to ban new freehold houses. Matt Pennycook said that if the party win the next election that “Labour will have to finish the job” of leasehold reform and will “enact all the Law Commission’s recommendations on enfranchisement, right to manage and commonhold in full”.
LONDON POLITICS LATEST
Headline grabbing: Monday morning saw new YouGov polling showing Labour winning a 120-seat majority if an election were held today. The polling of 14,110 respondents, commissioned by the previously unknown ‘Conservative Britain Alliance’ and based on the new constituency boundaries, found that Labour would sweep to victory with 385 seats, leaving the Conservatives with 169, the Lib Dems 48, the SNP 25, Plaid on three and the Greens with one.
London focus: As for London, the same polling suggests that an already red city would be even redder – Labour would have 65 MPs in the capital - the Conservatives left with just six (Finchley and Golders Green, Hornchurch and Upminster, Old Bexley and Sidcup, Orpington, Ruislip, Northwood and Pinner and Sutton and Cheam) and the Lib Dems four (Carshalton and Wallington, Kingston and Surbiton, Richmond Park and Twickenham).
Flashback: Meanwhile, Rallings and Thrasher have published their analysis showing how the new 650 constituencies would have voted in the 2019 General Election. The Conservatives would gain an additional seven seats on its current majority, with Labour down by two, and the Lib Dems down by three. In London, this would equate to three more seats for Labour and one less for the Conservatives.
Motorists’ motivation: Looking ahead to May’s Mayoral election, Conservative candidate Susan Hall set out her five point plan to end the ‘war on motorists’. Hall pledged to remove floating bus stops, allow black cabs to go wherever buses go, cancel the ULEZ expansion and rule out ‘pay per mile” road charging. The Tory candidate also repeated her promise to restrict funding for Low Traffic Neighbourhoods (LTNs) and get rid of 20mph zones on main roads. In The Telegraph, Hall suggested 20mph zones might increase the likelihood of accidents, saying “I pay far more attention when I’m driving at 30mph than I do when I’m driving at 20mph.”
Savvy spending? Meanwhile, the Conservatives have launched an attack on the Mayor, accusing him of ‘wasting’ £123m of funding on ‘pointless schemes’, which they argue would have been better spent on initiatives to improve health outcomes. In response, the Mayor’s team has questioned some of the analysis, while also highlighting that some of the projects began under Khan’s predecessor Boris Johnson.
Broadway star? The Tory candidate in tomorrow’s by-election in Wandsworth’s Tooting Broadway ward has been criticised for his campaign materials failing to mention the Conservative Party. Otto Jacobsson has also told local residents to ‘go on strike’ and withhold their vote in the election, to ‘change Labour’s attitude’. One of Tooting’s most famous sons – Citizen Smith – would be proud of this power to the people approach.
Hackney hiccup: Tomorrow’s by-election for Hackney’s Cazenove ward has also been hit by controversy after Labour’s candidate Laura Pascal was suspended following complaints of transphobia. Pascal will still be listed as the party’s candidate on the ballot paper as it is too late to make any changes, but if elected will sit as an independent councillor.
Lewisham leadership: Lewisham’s Deputy Mayor Cllr Brenda Dacres, Cllr Amanda de Ryk, Cabinet Member for Finance and Strategy and Cllr Rudi Schmidt have entered the race to be Labour’s candidate in the Mayoral by-election triggered by the resignation of Damien Egan. Egan stepped down after being selected to stand as Labour’s candidate in the Kingswood by-election. A date for the by-election has not yet been announced, but in a borough where every politician is currently Labour, there’s a good chance that whoever the local party chooses as its candidate will become Mayor
LONDON PLANNING ROUNDUP
- Grainmarket Properties has received planning consent from the City of London for plans to redevelop its seven-storey office building at Bridewell Place in Blackfriars to add an additional three floors. The plans would retain 61% of the existing structure while changing the building’s use into a 152-bedroom hotel operated by Motel One.
- Peabody and Lovell Partnerships have announced a new joint venture to deliver the second phase of the major regeneration masterplan at South Thamesmead. The partnership will deliver 329 mixed-tenure homes (42% affordable) as part of its seven-stage plans for 2,800 homes overall (25% affordable).
- Regal London is preparing new plans to deliver a 265-bed purpose-built student accommodation scheme next to the Roundhouse in Camden. The 0.75 acre site is currently occupied by three vacant office buildings, which would be demolished to deliver two buildings up to 12 storeys, along with 24 affordable homes and ground floor commercial space.
- Galliard Homes and City Developments have appointed Jo Cowen Architects to rework the masterplan for the £763m redevelopment of Morden Wharf on the Greenwich Peninsula. The joint venture partnership purchased the site from LandsecU+I in November 2023, with planning permission to deliver 1,500 homes (35% affordable) in 12 residential ‘tenure-blind’ buildings ranging from 16 to 36 storeys acquired in 2021.
- Promontoria Battersea has submitted a scoping application to deliver a 38-storey skyscraper at Battersea Bridge, comprised of 170 homes (35% affordable) and up to 743 sq m of office space. The developer would demolish the existing six-storey Glassmill Building on the site.
- JTRE London has purchased the long leasehold interest for Southwark Charities’ development at 220 Blackfriars Road. The £400m plans received planning permission in 2021 for the demolition of the current two-storey building to provide two buildings of 15 and 21 storeys, providing 62 alms houses and 219,000 sq ft of office and hospitality space
- The Barbican has appointed Philippa Simpson as Director for Buildings and Renewal, joining from the Victoria & Albert Museum after ten years leading its design and estates team. Beau Vigushin has also been appointed as the Barbican’s new Director for Audiences, with over 20 years of experience in arts and culture venues in the UK and Australia.
- Former Executive Director of Arts Council England, Sarah Weir, has died aged 65. Weir was the influential Head of Arts and Cultural Strategy at the Olympic Delivery Authority and oversaw the integration of creative arts and design into the Olympic Park in Stratford ahead of the 2012 Games.
- John Lewis Partnership has appointed former director Peter Ruis as its new Executive Director, joining from Indigo Plc where he led as Chief Executive for three years.
- Long-standing investment director at CBRE, Stephen Pearson, has left the company after 25 years advising on major office and commercial deals. Pearson advised on Google’s landmark £762.5m purchase of Central St Giles in 2022.
- CBRE has appointed Jonathan Lowe as its new Head of Science and Technology for the north of England, joining from Avison Young where he led on life sciences development and investment.
- Savills has appointed Maxine Loftus as a new Director in its Governance, Risk and Regulation team, joining after leading on consumer standards reviews at the Regulator for Social Housing.
- Montagu Evans has appointed Ashley Collins as a new partner in its planning team. Collins joins from JLL where he specialised in data centres, logistics and life sciences subsectors.
- Labour MP for Rochdale, Tony Lloyd, has sadly died aged 75. Last week, Lloyd announced that he had been receiving treatment for blood cancer and had been diagnosed with an untreatable form of leukaemia.
- As mentioned above, Deputy Mayor Brenda Dacres, Cllr Amanda de Ryk, and Cllr Rudi Schmidt have put themselves forward to be Labour’s candidate for Mayor of Lewisham.
- Former Tower Hamlets mayoral candidate for the Liberal Democrats and councillor for Shadwell, Rabina Khan, has announced her bid to become the party’s candidate to contest the Bethnal Green and Stepney constituency at the next General Election.
- Campaigner Marcela Benedetti is Labour’s candidate for London Assembly super-constituency of South West London in the May elections. Conservative Nick Rogers is the incumbent Assembly Member, securing a majority of 7,990 in 2021, however Rogers is not seeking re-election.
- Leader of the Liberal Democrats and MP for Kingston and Surbiton, Ed Davey, is to be challenged at the next election by local independent Kingston councillor Yvonne Tracey. Tracey is a former Deputy Postmistress at the Post Office and is running on a ‘Justice for Sub-Postmasters’ ticket. Davey has been a focus of criticism for the Post Office Horizon scandal due to his role as Post Office Minister in the Coalition Government.
- Count Binface has officially announced his candidacy for the London mayoral election in May and will stand if he secures enough campaign funds from fundraising. The satirical candidate last ran for Mayor in 2021 where he came eighth with 24,775 votes (1% of vote share).
THE BEST LAID PLANS?
Permitted irrelevance, right? Planning policy could be a key feature in manifestos ahead of the next General Election, with the Green Belt, biodiversity, tall buildings and housing targets likely to be much contested. Here’s the latest headlines from the battleground.
Here we go again: The Government’s plans to introduce biodiversity net gain regulations have been postponed for the second time since November 2023 due to ‘parliamentary delays.’ The new regulations would require developers to add 10% more habitat and biodiversity per development to counter the impact of new buildings.
Cul-de-sac-racy: Considered a cornerstone of the Government’s Levelling Up and Regeneration Act, proposals for ‘street votes’ have now been published. The plans include granting residents the right to agree highly localised design principles potentially permitting densification or the building of extensions without the need for planning permission.
Town hall tumbleweeds: Last year saw the lowest number of Local Plans submitted for review to the Planning Inspectorate, and lowest number of new drafts opened for consultation. Analysis from Planning Resource shows that this makes 2023 the worst performing year for Local Plans since records began in 2012.
Bedtime reading: National Highways has submitted its breathtaking 359,000-page planning application to deliver the Lower Thames Crossing east of Dartford. The £10bn project is aimed at relieving congestion on the M25 and improve access to ports in the South East. As a major infrastructure project, it falls to the Transport Secretary to make the final decision, with a recommendation from the Planning Inspectorate expected by 20 March. The size of the application has reignited the debate about the UK’s sclerotic planning process.
Excellent timing: Head of the National Audit Office General Gareth Davies has called for a new and ‘smarter’ approach to delivering major infrastructure projects, stating that Whitehall is wasting billions of pounds on a ‘crumbling’ system. Speaking in Parliament, Davies said projects such as HS2 and central IT systems suffer from a ‘governance’ problem which delays completion.
Kitty’s got claws: Shadow Chief Secretary to the Treasury, Darren Jones, was quick to respond to the Davies speech pledging a Labour Government would ‘modernise’ public services. Jones has also launched Labour’s own review into major infrastructure projects led by industry top brass Paula Reynolds, Chair of the National Grid; Juergen Maier, former Siemens UK CEO, and Mark Reynolds, CEO of Mace.
Writing on the wall: The latest figures on construction output from the Office for National Statistics reveal a challenging market for the building sector in November 2023, declining 0.2% for a second consecutive month. Barbour ABI analysis shows the value of contracts awarded in 2023 fell year-on-year by £11bn.
Flying low? Three investors in London Heathrow Airport have announced that they will be selling their combined 35% stake in the airport in a decision which could prompt the ‘biggest shake-up’ in Heathrow’s corporate direction since its privatisation in the 1980s. It follows Ferrovial’s decision to sell its 25% stake in the airport last year.
Farewell to the good and great: In sad news, the private members club and homelessness charity House of St Barnabas has announced that it is closing. The charity operated workplace programmes for homeless Londoners, funded through its members and a private restaurant on Soho Square.
- The Guardian’s take on the limits of the UK planning system, following the withdrawal of plans for the Spere entertainment in Stratford.
- A look at the future of shopping centres.
- Likely to spark much debate in the LCA office, the Standard’s guide to where to find the best bagels in the capital.
- Accidental landlords keeping a lid on London rents.
- London’s hospitality sector in £46bn post Covid bounce-back.
- The mystery of the ghost bus and the weird legacy of parliamentary trains in West London.
- Centrepoint homelessness protests fifty years on.
- The latest in the NLA’s Meet the Expert series, featuring our very own CEO Jonny Popper.
Yesterday morning we were delighted to welcome Housing Ombudsman Richard Blakeway to our offices as part of our Breakfast Waffle series of events. Richard spoke passionately about where the sector is right now, the good and not-so-good practices, and how best to improve services for residents. If you would like to attend our future events, please get in touch using email@example.com.
This Blue Monday we launched RECHARGE 2024 a year-long campaign from our clients, Eastern City BID (ECBID), with a new survey looking at mental, physical and environmental wellbeing for workers in the City of London. One concerning figure revealed that nearly half of 18-34 year-old professionals have increased concerns around their mental health at this time of year. RECHARGE is designed to tackle those trends with an uplifting programme including the stunning Elysian Arcs installation, bringing joy to the city in February.
LCA prides itself on its intelligence-led approach to PR and communications and our dedicated insight team monitors London politics, news and issues as it happens. If you would like to know more about LCA or anything in this edition of LDN – London in short please get in touch.
LDN is put together by a dedicated team at London Communications Agency. The content for each edition is developed from news drawn from the last week from every London local paper as well as the regional and national press, from intelligence gathered by monitoring local, regional and national government activity and from the insight and expert knowledge of the entire LCA team.
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