KHAN ON THE ROPES?
Our unflappable Mayor has been dealt a blow by Westminster Council's decision to halt the Oxford Street pedestrianisation project, even as others have taken jabs at his Housing Strategy and homebuilding performance.
But Sadiq has hit back at his critics with a flurry of announcements, launching initiatives in a variety of other areas, from tech and big data to air quality and skills training. With another two years to go until the next Mayoral election, Sadiq's stamina is being tested, but he remains far from spent.
Beyond developments at City Hall, this week's edition touches on ward and constituency by-elections, London Borough politics and the latest on The Silvertown Partnership and Battersea Power Station - among other stories!
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OXFORD STREET PEDESTRIANISATION
Westminster Council has announced that Sadiq’s plans to pedestrianise Oxford Street are ‘off the table for good’. The Mayor has responded harshly, accusing the council of ‘betrayal’ and asserting that ‘all the main mayoral candidates’ were agreed on the need for the shopping street’s pedestrianisation at the 2016 election, as was Westminster Council ‘until today’. But if anything is surprising, it is the Mayor’s own apparent astonishment. Even when the plans were announced in November 2017, the Westminster Deputy Leader’s soundbite included in the Mayoral press release was unmistakeably noncommittal – ‘We now want to hear from as many people as possible’ he said, ‘about what they think about the detailed plans before we take any final decisions’. And in the course of the local election period this past spring, where an anti-pedestrianisation party was formed and fielded three candidates, the Westminster Conservatives’ manifesto raised a number of concerns with the plans and set several ‘red lines’ as a precondition for their support. Furthermore, the council leadership’s response to the Mayor’s latest statements highlights local residents’ opposition to the plans, as expressed ‘through two public consultations and recent council elections. As stated by the London Assembly’s Transport Committee Chair, Liberal Democrat AM Caroline Pidgeon, the pedestrianisation project ‘could transform the area for the better’. But it undoubtedly ‘must be done carefully’. So back to the drawing board it is – hopefully something can be done, for the better.
A CLEANER AND SMARTER CITY?
Even as one of the Mayor’s flagship manifesto commitments grinds to a halt, a whole range of others have been launched this week. These include initiatives aimed at improving London’s workforce, air quality, digital infrastructure and creative industry. Sadiq has launched a new Skills and Adult Education Strategy and a ‘Construction Academy’ programme – the latter being especially crucial if the development industry is to secure a steady supply of skilled construction workers post-Brexit. He also announced the expansion of the planned Ultra-Low Emission Zone up to the North and South circular roads from 25 October 2021, an area ‘18 times larger than the Central London Ultra Low Emission Zone’. Speaking at the launch of this year’s London Tech Week, Sadiq also unveiled Smarter London Together, a ‘roadmap’ for helping the city’s public services use tech and data. Finally, the Mayor has published a new map of the full range of music facilities across the city – including music venues, recording studios and rehearsal spaces – as part of his wider efforts to sustain and grow London’s creative industries.
The Mayor’s push to set out his vision for how the housing crisis is to be addressed and deliver ambitious housebuilding targets is an area which has seen mixed results of late. His new Housing Strategy came into effect last week, but failed to secure the support of a majority of London Assembly Members. The Conservatives, Greens, Liberal Democrats and UKIP all voted against it, largely citing concerns at the lack of specific targets and funds for delivering family-sized homes and easing overcrowding. Meanwhile, the Evening Standard and LBC have publicised claims by property entrepreneur and pro-Brexit campaigner Richard Tice, who accuses City Hall of misreporting housing start figures either through ‘bureaucratic incompetence’ or purposefully ‘inflating the numbers to flatter the Mayor’s performance on a key policy’. Tice bases his assertions on an investigation he and his ‘team’ undertook after London Labour announced Sadiq beat his annual target of 12,500 affordable house building starts for 2017/2018. According to Tice, there is ‘no evidence of building’ or it was apparent starts had been ‘double-counted’ for 819 of the homes declared as started. As of the writing of this piece, City Hall has not formally commented on Tice’s claims. However, the Standard cites a ‘London Labour spokesman’ who dismissed them as ‘utter rubbish’ from ‘a Conservative mayoral hopeful’. The unnamed Labour source further argued that ‘the official definition of a housing start […] does not require work to be visible to passers-by’. For reference, the official definition can be found here.
2018 ELECTIONS: IT’S NOT OVER YET
Two council ward elections are set to go ahead in the coming days, having both been postponed on 3 May following the death of prospective ward councillor candidates. Tomorrow, residents in London Bridge and West Bermondsey ward (Southwark) will go to the polls. Following a Local Government Boundary Commission review of the borough in 2016, London Bridge and West Bermondsey was created from parts of the former Grange and Riverside wards. At the 2014 Local Elections the wards together returned five Liberal Democrat candidates, and it will be interesting to see if the party can repeat as strong a performance when results come through on Friday. Next Thursday’s Willesden Green ward election (in Brent) is likely to be more clear-cut and return Labour councillors, repeating the clean sweep of three Labour councillors in 2014. Of more national significance, by the end of this week we will also know the new MP for Lewisham East, following the departure of Heidi Alexander to City Hall as the new Deputy Mayor for Transport. As of this morning, Ladbrokes were offering tempting odds of 1/100 for prospective Labour candidate Janet Daby, with Liberal Democrat candidate Lucy Salek at 20/1. Perhaps demonstrating the merits of good expectation management, it has been suggested by some Liberal Democrat party insiders that they expect a ‘strong second’ in the constituency.
LONDON COUNCILS EXECUTIVE TEAM
Following last week’s election of Peter John to be Chair of London Councils, it is worth touching on three other key appointments to its Executive Committee for the wider planning and development sectors:
- Councillor Lib Peck (Lab, Lambeth) has been elected Deputy Chair, while being re-elected as executive member for Crime and Public Protection.
- Councillor Julian Bell (Lab, Ealing) has been re-elected as Chair of London Councils' Transport and Environment Committee, which handles congestion charging, CCTV enforcement, waste and recycling, air quality and public protection. He was first elected to the role in 2014.
- Councillor Darren Rodwell (Lab, Barking & Dagenham) has been elected as executive member for Housing & Planning, a newly formed position merging the committee’s two previous portfolios of housing and city development.
We were delighted to see some of LCA’s past and present clients, as well as other prominent Londoners and housing sector figures, feature in this year’s Queen’s Birthday Honours List 2018. Those honoured this year notably include:
- CBE: David Orr, outgoing Chief Executive, National Housing Federation
- CBE: Gillian Moore, Director of Music, Southbank Centre
- OBE: Ruth Duston, Managing Director, Primera and Chief Executive of The Northbank Business Improvement District (BID) and Victoria BID
- OBE: Ian Basnett, Director of Public Health and Associate Medical Director, Barts Health NHS Trust
- MBE: David Joy, Chief Executive, LCR (London & Continental Railways)
- MBE: Veronica Jobbins, Head of Learning and Participation (dance), Trinity Laban
- MBE: Victoria Harrison-Cook, Head of Media, Transport for London (TfL).
Over the weekend Sadiq wrote to Prime Minister Theresa May with a stinging critique over the government’s ‘inhumane’ treatment of Grenfell families one year on. Sadiq also blamed the government for showing ‘institutional indifference’ to the families affected in the past 12 months. While there is an argument to say there is no limit to the support that should be given to those who endured such an awful tragedy, the Mayor’s tone perhaps overlooks that the government has not been resistant to change when necessary. A Downing Street statement has disputed Sadiq’s criticisms, citing that it had spent over £46m to support recovery following the fire and that it had now housed 98% of households affected by the fire. Prime Minister May also penned what amounted to an apology in the Evening Standard, in which she acknowledges her response during the tragedy was ‘not good enough’ and that she will ‘always regret’ not having met Grenfell residents in the immediate aftermath of the fire. In the same letter, she also highlighted the government’s support for Green for Grenfell, an event organised by Grenfell United encouraging schools across the country to wear green in memory of the tragedy this Friday. Which leaves one wondering that if the leader of the United Kingdom is offering a full-throated apology over hers, and her government’s actions, what is the Mayor hoping to achieve – nearly one year on – from this latest intervention?
It has seemingly taken all of a month for questions over the stability of Haringey’s leadership to surface, chiefly under its new Labour leader Joseph Ejiofor. His selection by Haringey’s Labour Group stood in contrast to voting held under a secret non-binding ballot in Hornsey & Wood Green Constituency Labour Party (CLP) where rival left-wing candidate Zena Brabazon was comfortably selected as winner. Brabazon has consistently opposed the Haringey Development Vehicle (HDV). This stance has generated support for her from the locally-influential Stop HDV campaign, that claims the Labour Group ‘ignored’ Brabazon to select Ejiofor, whose record in their view has a ‘spotty history’. Ejiofor’s statement in the Enfield Independent that ‘we will need some form of partnership with the private sector’ to deliver some council services will do little to pacify local unease. But it should be noted that Ejiofor was elected to Momentum’s National Coordinating Group (NCG), selected a cabinet including Brabazon among other leadership rival candidates, and has attended a Stop HDV meeting to build dialogue with local activists. While it remains likely that the HDV plans will be quashed at a cabinet meeting next month, a divide between the expectations of the local radical left membership and the limitations of what a radical left council can impose is starting to appear.
With all eyes focused on the London Plan and other GLA planning guidance documents inching their way through the policymaking pipeline, it is easy to forget that many councils are also engaged in the laborious process of pushing through local planning policies. Brent is notably running a second consultation on its Design Guide Supplementary Planning Guidance (SPD1), which if adopted will constitute a material consideration for officers and councillors assessing planning applications. An earlier draft of SPD1 was consulted on last summer and recommendations received during that process have led to substantive changes, in turn requiring further public consultation. The consultation remains open until 5 July 2018. Brent also held its latest consultation on a new Local Plan as well as on a Shopfronts Supplementary Planning Document (SPD3) this past Spring – and relevant comments are now being considered by the council. It is also worth noting that a proposed Neighbourhood Plan for the Isle of Dogs has been rejected by the Public Examiner, reportedly on the grounds that it contained data from a GLA Infrastructure Study that was published too late to be legally considered. This is despite the approval of the plans by the Tower Hamlets’ Mayor and Cabinet, as well as months of public meetings and consultation. The Neighbourhood Plan will now have to be resubmitted in six months’ time.
TWO STEPS FORWARD, ONE STEP BACK?
Following reports last week on uncertainty surrounding the future of Silvertown Quays, a breakthrough has been reached after developers Lendlease and Starwood Capital Group bought out The Silvertown Partnership (TSP) to acquire the project. The joint venture has acquired Chelsfield Properties, which had a 33.33% interest in TSP, buying the remaining 66.6% share of the partnership directly. Construction for phase one on-site had been scheduled to commence this year. Elsewhere, the security of foreign investment into London is once again being queried after the leader of the recently-elected Malaysian Pakatan Harapan party Anwar Ibrahim said his country would look again at its investment into Battersea Power Station, as part of a series of ‘dubious’ investments made by the previous administration. Ibrahim made the comments this week on a visit to the capital to meet British ministers including the Mayor of London, who in a tweet said they had discussed ‘how we can strengthen the close relationship between Malaysia and London even further’.
The LCA team has been busy at the London Real Estate Forum (LREF) – a major two-day event run by New London Architecture and Pipers, running today and tomorrow – chairing a number of panel sessions as well as supporting our clients with their own speaking opportunities. This year's conference explores the rapid technological, economic and societal changes that are having a major impact on our city. We were lucky to hear from a range of brilliant speakers, including: Bruce Daisley, EMEA Vice President at Twitter on the cultural and technological changes needed to get the best out of our workforce; Lyn Garner, CEO at the London Legacy Development Corporation on the ongoing transformation of the Queen Elizabeth Olympic Park and ensuring that it works for local people; John Miu, CEO at ABP London on creating a new global business hub in the Royal Docks to rival the Square Mile and Canary Wharf; Anil Menon, Global President at Cisco on the need to create a smarter, more tech-savvy city; and Charlotte Twyning, Consents Director at Heathrow Airport on the case for supporting a new runway and airport expansion so London stays competitive amongst its international rivals.
LCA Executive Chairman Robert Gordon Clark chairing a panel discussion on West London at LREF 2018
DESIGNS REVEALED FOR NEW MIXED-USE BUILDING IN KING’S CROSS
Our client, Kings Cross Central Limited Partnership (KCCLP) has submitted a reserved matters planning application to the London Borough of Camden for a mixed-use scheme in King’s Cross. It is proposed to contain a 600-seat theatre, 193,621 sq ft of office and 18,267 sq ft of retail space. The new theatre is an exciting addition to London’s theatre scene and a significant cultural addition to King’s Cross, London’s new creative quarter.
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