ROGUE LANDLORDS ON NOTICE
The London Assembly and House of Commons are in recess this week, but the Mayor of London and the capital’s borough councils have been very busy indeed.
In this edition, we take a look at planning issues and people moves at the Greater London Authority (GLA), as well as the outcome of Annual General Meetings (AGMs) across London’s councils, which have confirmed eight new borough Leaders and Mayors and a host of other changes.
We also touch upon some of the latest big news in the capital’s property sector, with CapCo’s Earls Court saga entering a new chapter and the Chinese embassy preparing to move East to Tower Hamlets.
But the above is only the tip of the iceberg for the capital this week! Read on for more on rogue landlords, hi-tech buskers, concerned Conservative councillors and the latest skirmishes in the seemingly endless war of the (Labour) roses.
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TWO WINNERS (FOR NOW)
The Mayor of London’s Office has celebrated Mr Justice Ouseley’s ruling on a challenge to his Affordable Housing Supplementary Planning Guidance (SPG) by a consortium of four retirement housing developers. But while the judge rejected two of the three grounds brought forward by the consortium in their argument that the SPG should be quashed, he actually ruled in favour of the first ground of their challenge, that the SPG is inconsistent with the current London Plan (adopted in 2011 and updated on several occasions since). To City Hall’s relief, the judge did not find the Mayor’s Fast Track Route for developments supplying 35% affordable housing inconsistent with current London Plan guidance per se. However, he did find that the SPG’s imposition of the threshold approach on all sites over 10 homes, and its requirement that developers produce at least three viability appraisals, as not consistent with the current London Plan. Expert planning solicitor Simon Ricketts has written an excellent blog on the ruling, which is worth a read. Perhaps the most significant question raised by this ruling is how much material weight should be given to draft planning guidance before it is formally adopted. While the SPG is in alignment with policy H6 of the new draft London Plan, this is still at least six months from becoming the official rulebook. The consortium’s members – McCarthy & Stone, PegasusLife, Renaissance Retirement and Churchill Retirement Living – have also called on the Mayor to recognise that the new London Plan’s stipulations are likely to impair his ability to deliver his own target of 3,900 specialised homes for older people over the period 2015 – 2025. They are not alone among developers arguing that elements of the new London Plan are too rigid and ‘one size fits all.’ While City Hall has been adamant that it will stand by core policies in the new London Plan, the hefty document is set to undergo its Examination in Public (EiP) later this year and may have to face down similar criticism from the government and further London boroughs, whose views on the draft are not yet clear.
EARLS COURT SPLIT?
Developer Capital & Counties (CapCo) is considering a demerger, separating its £2.5bn Covent Garden business from its £12bn plans to regenerate Earls Court. The Earls Court site, which is valued at £759m, features a masterplan designed by Sir Terry Farrell for thousands of new homes. In an announcement, CapCo bosses said that if the split went ahead, the Earls Court side of the business would be run by Gary Yardley, Development Director, and the Covent Garden side by Chief Executive Ian Hawksworth. There is speculation in the press that this will attract investors – with some reporting interest from Berkeley – while others suggest a fall in the value of Earls Court could lead to a build to rent developer scooping it up instead. The Earls Court Masterplan continues to meet challenges from Labour-run Hammersmith & Fulham Council, with relations between the council and CapCo believed to be strained. The company has reportedly discussed ceding to the council’s request to hand back Gibbs Green and West Kensington estates to the local authority due to continuing opposition to the proposals. The recent CapCo announcement added that current Chair Ian Durant is resigning, with Henry Staunton, the current Senior Independent Director, stepping up to the role from 5 June.
Following initial reports in January, it was confirmed last week that China has bought (at an unspecified price) the old 5.4 acre Royal Mint site, just north of St Katharine Docks in Tower Hamlets to house its new embassy. Currently owned by Delancey and LRC Group, the site is expected to host the ambassador’s residence and accommodation for other staff alongside the new embassy. The Royal Mint complex operated on the plot between 1810 and 1975, when it moved to Wales, and it has since remained largely vacant. The Crown Estate sold the site’s freehold for £51m to Delancey and LRC in 2010. They initially planned to build a 600,000 square foot office development, for which they received planning permission only last year. An ‘Official Transfer Ceremony’ has been held and attended by Chinese ambassador Liu Xiaoming, as well as Tower Hamlets Mayor John Biggs. According to the East London Advertiser, the Chinese embassy could be relocating from its current site at Portland Place in Marylebone as soon as the Autumn of 2019, following an extensive refurbishment of the Royal Mint site.
All 32 London Boroughs’ Annual General Meetings (AGMs) have been held as of last Friday, meaning that we now have a relatively complete picture of councils’ new Cabinets and planning committees. Some highlights (and contact us if you’d like more):
- It’s almost all change in Labour-held Haringey, which has confirmed Councillor Joe Ejiofor as council Leader and Councillor Emine Ibrahim as both Deputy Leader and head of Housing & Estate Renewal. Ibrahim and eight other cabinet colleagues are new to the top table, while only three (including Ejiofor) are returning. A similar rate of attrition (nine new members and two returning) is apparent on Haringey’s Planning Sub-Committee.
- Newham Council’s AGM welcomed new Labour Mayor Rokhsana Fiaz and a Cabinet with seven out of seven new members to date – but Fiaz has, for reasons still unclear, not yet submitted nominations for her entire cabinet. Meanwhile, no less than eight out of nine members of Newham’s Strategic Development Committee (SDC) are also new.
- Tory-led Westminster had a ball of an AGM, replete with a live jazz duet, during which it revealed a slightly slimmer Cabinet of seven full members (down from eight previously) of whom three are new. Westminster also unveiled a new ‘Major Applications’ Sub-Committee.
NEW LEADERS ACROSS LONDON
It is worth noting that with the aforementioned council AGMs now done, we can confirm that there are ultimately 9 new leaders across London’s 32 London Boroughs and specifically in: Enfield, (Lab hold), Greenwich (Lab hold), Harrow (Lab hold), Haringey (Lab hold), Havering (still NOC), Kingston (LibDem gain), Lewisham (Lab hold), Newham (Lab hold), and Richmond (LidDem gain). It is also notable that there are now 10 female Leaders and Mayors – one more than on the eve of the election. Mayor Fiaz has made history in Newham as its first female Mayor, as has Enfield Council’s new Labour Leader, Councillor Nesil Caliskan, who is believed to have broken more than one record. Aside from being the council’s first female leader, Caliskan is the youngest leader in London at 29 and as suggested by the Local Government Chronicle, quite possibly the first person of Turkish heritage to lead a council in the UK. Another emerging trend worth noting relates to the number of Labour Leaders taking planning, regeneration and/or housing briefs upon themselves, or assigning them to their Deputy Leaders. Aside from Newham, Haringey, Hounslow and Redbridge, this could possibly be happening in Hammersmith & Fulham as well as Lewisham, where newly appointed cabinets conspicuously lack an executive member clearly assigned one or more of these briefs.
Sadiq and the London Assembly have jointly appointed Mary Harpley as City Hall’s new Chief Officer, to succeed the long-serving Jeff Jacobs (and his interim replacement, David Lunts). Harpley, who has been Chief Executive of the London Borough of Hounslow for the past seven years, will act as the GLA’s statutory Head of Paid Service and the first woman in the role. According to the GLA’s announcement, Harpley should be taking up her new post this September. Meanwhile, London First has announced that its Chairman, John Allan, will be leaving the business association when his term concludes at the end of June. Allan will be succeeded by Paul Drechsler, Chairman of Bibby Line Group, Teach First and currently the President of the Confederation of British Industry (CBI). Drechsler will be joining London First as of 1 July, by which time his term at the CBI will have expired. It is also worth noting that Professor Jane Cummings has announced that she will be retiring from the role of Chief Nursing Officer for England after more than six years in the role, and nearly 40 working in the NHS. Since September 2017, Jane has also been NHS England’s regional director in London. She will spend the next six months supporting the alignment of the two nursling teams across NHS England and NHS Improvement.
NAME AND SHAME
According to an announcement by City Hall, all London councils have now agreed to participate in the Mayor’s Rogue Landlord and Agent Checker. Sadiq’s team is working with the boroughs, as well as the London Fire Brigade, The Property Redress Scheme and The Property Ombudsman, to jointly publish their enforcement records on landlord and agent offences. Only landlords and agents who have been fined or convicted of a housing offence will appear on the checker and relevant records stay on the system for a limited time. The project is, in many ways, still in its infancy. Only 12 of the 32 boroughs’ information can be viewed by the public, while some councils have uploaded records which can only be viewed by other London boroughs to help with their enforcement activities. But in a city where the number of renters is on the rise, tenants – and law-abiding landlords – will welcome this contribution to a transparent and well-functioning private rental market.
LONDON PROJECT OF THE YEAR
Woodberry Downs has received the Project of the Year Award at the 2018 RICS Awards. Berkeley Homes is leading the project, one of the London’s largest estate regeneration schemes, which on completion in 2035 is expected to deliver over 5,500 mixed-tenure new build homes (with 41% for social rent and shared ownership) in the place of 1,890 existing ones. It will also provide parkland areas and a number of other community assets. 1,479 homes have been delivered to date. The project, which will last about three decades from beginning to end, is being delivered in close partnership with Hackney Council, Genesis Housing Association, the Manor House Development Trust, and the Woodberry Down Community Organisation (WDCO) resident steering group.
TORY COUNCILLORS’ CALL FOR SOCIAL HOUSING CASH
A Joseph Rowntree Foundation-commissioned Survation national poll of 121 leading Conservative councillors – and specifically council leaders and council housing leaders – has revealed significant concerns over the state of the social housing sector. 71% of respondents ‘remain concerned’ that the Prime Minister’s pledge of an additional £2 billion of funding for affordable housing ‘will not be enough to meet the needs of their constituents,’ while 96% ‘argued the Social Housing Green Paper must address the supply of low-cost rented homes’. We delved into the detailed polling report and it is worth making a few additional observations. The poll’s sample may appear quite small, at 121 respondents in total (101 leaders and 20 housing leads), but actually represents slightly more than 1/4 of the estimated 418 local councils in the country (not including town, parish, community, neighbourhood and village councils). That said, a mere three respondents spoke for London. It is however notable that the three generally appeared significantly more concerned than their peers in the rest of the country about the availability of homes for first time buyers, the availability of low-cost rented homes for those who can't afford to buy, as well as the cost of renting and homelessness in general – but comparatively less concerned about the availability of homes suitable for older people.
London’s first directly elected Mayor, Ken Livingstone, resigned from the Labour Party last week. Livingstone had already been suspended by the party and was due to attend a hearing following an inquiry into comments he made in 2016, before he chose to resign his membership. Despite this fall from grace, Livingstone can be credited with stewarding the Greater London Authority from its foundation in 2000 to 2008, implementing the Congestion Charge and playing a pivotal role in bringing the Olympic Games to London, among other achievements. In other news, Constituency Labour Parties (CLP) have begun nominating their candidates to stand in the next round of elections for the party’s National Executive Committee (NEC). Three new places on the NEC for CLP nominees, agreed at last year’s Labour Party Conference, were each taken by Momentum-endorsed candidates. It appears from the CLP nominations so far that candidates on the Momentum slate are likely to perform similarly well later this year.
TAP TO DONATE
In what is thought to be a world-first, card readers are starting to be rolled out to street performers in London, so passers-by can tap to donate. The scheme is being implemented by Busk in London – an initiative to encourage and improve street music in the capital – and technology company iZettle, to help increase the amount of money buskers receive. The readers are set to accept a fixed amount chosen by the musician, with buskers keen to ‘adapt to the cashless society’.
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