SECOND ROUND FOR KHAN?
London never ceases to toil and neither do we, in what has been another news-filled week for the capital.
This week, LDN covers the results of last week’s by-elections, as well as a trio of major property developments and Sadiq Khan’s latest housing initiatives, among a host of other stories relating to local politics, transport and notable people moves in the capital.
One developing story that we have not had time to cover in full for this issue but cannot help but mention, is that Sadiq appears to have broken cover, confirming his intention to re-stand as Mayor on the most unlikely of channels – a podcast by London singer-songwriter Jessie Ware. We eagerly await formal confirmation from the Labour Party in due course.
As always, we’d love to hear your feedback and do follow us on Twitter @LDNComms if you don’t already.
LAST WEEK’S ELECTIONS
Last Friday saw results come in from two London elections. Firstly, the Lewisham East by-election result saw Labour hold their parliamentary seat with Janet Daby elected, albeit with an underwhelming majority of 5,629 - cut by over 15,000 compared to Heidi Alexander’s in 2017. By-election turnouts are often significantly below that for general elections and so it proved, with a turnout on the day of 33.2%, compared to last month’s 37% turnout in Lewisham at the local elections. Furthermore, the by-election saw a 19% swing away from Labour to the Liberal Democrats, which some commentators have interpreted as a result of Labour’s wavering position on Brexit. Meanwhile the Lib Dems won three council seats in Southwark’s London Bridge and West Bermondsey ward, a newly-formed ward comprising what were parts of Grange and Riverside wards (which collectively returned five Lib Dem candidates and one Labour candidate in 2014) following a review by the Local Government Boundary Commission for England. The particular ward's vote had been postponed from 3 May due to the death of a candidate. The Lib Dems will be pleased with the narrow victory over Labour, which consolidates their control over the northern fringe of the borough where they have historically performed well. There is a final local ward election happening in London, tomorrow, in Brent Council’s Willesden Green ward.
LONDON COUNCILS LEADS FIGHT AGAINST HOMELESSNESS
London Councils (LC), the umbrella body representing the capital’s local authorities, continues to play a key role in marshalling city-wide initiatives aimed at tackling homelessness. As highlighted by specialist magazine Inside Housing, the LC Executive Committee met yesterday to discuss issues including 'Proposals for use of top sliced flexible homelessness support grant: Temporary Accommodation joint working.’ LC is acting as the coordinating body for a group of 24 boroughs to design and set up a not-for-profit company, which will secure the use of properties from the private sector and act as a landlord for people at risk of homelessness. The initiative will be piloted by 10 boroughs, with specialist staff seconded from participating boroughs, and funded by a Ministry for Housing Communities and Local Government (MHCLG) grant of £39m over three years. It is hoped this will provide a cost-effective model for the 50,000+ households in need of temporary accommodation on any given night in London. A business plan for the new company is being drawn up and the company could start trading as early as next year.
- Secretary of State James Brokenshire is continuing to assemble his team of civil servants and SpAds at MHCLG – most recently Jeremy Pocklington was appointed to the key position of Director General for Housing. Pocklington is currently Director General for Energy and Security at the department for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy (BEIS) and will be succeeding Helen MacNamara, who has already moved to the Cabinet Office.
- In the private sector, developer Legal & General Homes has appointed Chris Sly (previously of Berkeley Homes) as its new Finance Director.
- In the world of rail, Govia Thameslink Railway (GTR) CEO Charles Horton has announced his resignation after weeks of industry-wide disruption caused by a timetable restructuring which has seen trains up and down the country delayed and cancelled for weeks. Horton, who began his career in transport at London Underground, has been CEO of GTR since September 2014. Horton will reportedly remain in post for an as-of-yet unspecified 'short period,' to oversee the development of a new temporary timetable.
- Finally, we were sad to learn that BBC Question Time host David Dimbleby is to step down after 25 years on the programme – the LCA team fondly recalls one memorable episode filmed in City Hall in 2013, whose panellists included then-Mayor of London Boris Johnson and the late Dame Tessa Jowell MP. Dimbleby's final episode on Question Time will be broadcast on 13 December 2018. Speculation is rife on possible replacements, with calls for a female journalist to anchor the show.
KHAN’S AFFORDABLE OFFERS
Many local authorities and housing associations appear keen on the Mayor’s recent moves to encourage affordable housing delivery. City Hall’s press release in May announced the launch of Building Council Homes for Londoners, the first GLA-led programme dedicated to supporting council housing, offering £100,000 grants per social home. Waltham Forest, Lewisham, and Newham councils had already struck deals with the Mayor and since then, Inside Housing has reported that several boroughs which have previously disposed of their social housing stock, including Bexley, Richmond and Merton, are now looking to bid for funding through the programme. The finance will be drawn down from the £1.67bn allocated for affordable housing secured by Sadiq in the Autumn Budget, on top of the £3.15bn previously secured in the 2016 Autumn Statement.
This week, City Hall has also announced it is raising grant rates for housing associations obtaining funding through the Homes for Londoners programme. Grant funding is rising from £60,000 to £70,000 per social home built, specifically for any additional starts made by housing associations beyond that agreed for initial funding allocations with the GLA. The increase in grant is also being sourced via the same £1.67bn pot of additional funding mentioned above. While public and private housebuilders appear receptive to Sadiq’s affordable offers, it is unclear how much funding will be allocated and how this will affect the Mayor’s ability to meet his target of 116,000 affordable housing starts by 2022, as set out in his London Housing Strategy.
In other GLA housing news, Sadiq also announced two small plots of TfL-owned land to be developed by the London Community Land Trust, delivering 70 homes expected to be for sale at between a third to a half of local market values and linked to average local incomes.
BUMPER WEEK FOR BTR
Brexit and recent signs of house prices and rents in London levelling out have understandably caused jitters in the property market but the build to rent (BTR) sector serves as a reminder that London real estate retains its allure to both uk and foreign investors. The first round of bidding for the sale of £3bn BTR developer Quintain reportedly saw strong interest from seven investors, including a joint venture between Oxford Properties and APG. Meanwhile British Land are said to be in the early stages of talks to acquire Fizzy Living, a BTR development company owned by housing association Thames Valley Housing whilst Lincoln MGT, a new joint venture between US multi-family housing developer Lincoln Property Company and MGT Investment Management, has made its first major acquisition in in nearby Reading. Finally, Malaysian company EcoWorld International has teamed up with Willmott Dixon on EcoWorld London to develop 10,000 open market sale and BTR homes in London and the wider South East. Such is the attraction of BTR that even the public sector is angling for a slice of the pie: Lambeth Council’s pension fund has invested no less than £42m into BTR developer Invesco Real Estate.
Not everything is always as it seems when it comes to transport in London at present.
Theresa May announced a new £394m a week for the NHS just in time for the service’s 70th birthday celebrations. Insisting this is funding in ‘real terms,’ the increase will be paid for by a ‘Brexit dividend’ and tax rises, which the Prime Minister said will be introduced in a ‘fair and balanced way’. The NHS England budget would increase by 3.4% a year on average over the next five years, so that by 2023 the budget will be £20bn higher than it is now, once inflation is taken into account. Work on a new 10-year plan for the NHS is also due to get under way almost immediately, with final proposals expected towards the end of the year. The plan will look at the workforce, technology, buildings and productivity.
GASCOIGNE ESTATE WEST PLANS APPROVED
The Planning Committee of Labour-led Barking & Dagenham Council has approved the borough’s own outline plans for the demolition and redevelopment of Gascoigne Estate West’s 179 homes. Of these 54% are owned and managed by the Council, while the remaining 46%, have previously been sold under private leasehold agreements. The new development will include a significantly higher number of homes, for several different tenures, as well as commercial space and an energy centre. Of the 850 homes to be developed on the site after existing properties have been demolished, 97 will be available at social rent, 90 at 80% of the market rate rent, while 174 will be shared ownership, leaving 489 for private sale. Deputy Leader of the Council Dominic Twomey has described it as an 'exciting proposal' and welcomed the extra 671 'badly needed homes' which will be provided. The minutes and documents of the Planning Committee meeting can be viewed here.
Permission comes with a number of conditions and remains referable to the Mayor, who provisionally rejected a previous iteration of the plans in September 2017, pending a number of changes. It is unclear whether the project, which has secured GLA funding, will be subject to an estate regeneration ballot. The relevant contract to allocate the grant was signed in July 2017, before the Mayor announced the relevant proposals, which could suggest that the scheme will be exempt.
A trio of major property sales caught our eye this week. In a sign that foreign property investment in London is alive and well after all, property developer CK Asset Holdings, which is headquartered in Hong Kong, has bought UBS investment bank’s London HQ at 5 Broadgate for £1bn. Meanwhile, Singaporean-listed company Ho Bee Land has also made a similarly weighty acquisition, purchasing Ropemaker Place, situated near Moorgate station for £650m. Ho Bee Land chairman and chief executive Chua Thian Poh said that London has proved resilient ‘despite Brexit’ and that it had in fact helped provide the group with ‘the opportunity to suss out excellent investment opportunities like Ropemaker Place’. A smaller but significant acquisition was also made this week by Indian real estate developer ABIL group, which bought 5 The Strand from Blackrock property fund for more than £90m, in what is the company’s first foray into the UK. The deals come as latest research from real estate firm Savills indicates Asian buyers have invested over £3.52bn in City of London property alone this year to date, compared to £2.8bn in the first six months of last year.
THEY’RE LOVING ANGELS INSTEAD
You may have missed news this month that a 10-year old girl has successfully saved the ‘Angel Wings’ sculpture at Angel Central shopping centre in Islington. Presenting Islington Council’s planning committee with a petition signed by over 2,000 people to save the sculpture, she had argued in a speech that Islington residents saw it as a local landmark. The committee, which was meeting to decide on an application to redevelop the shopping centre, subsequently agreed to defer it, telling applicants that they must either retain the sculpture on site, or find a suitable place to move it to, preferably within a quarter of a mile of its current location.
GROSVENOR SQUARE TO BE REIMAGINED
Grosvenor Britain & Ireland has launched a call for ideas to help reimagine Grosvenor Square, a historic park in the heart of Mayfair. Urban visionaries and place-makers are welcome to submit proposals by 26 October for improving perceptions of the square, encouraging its better use as a green space and using physical design to help it thrive. The initiative builds on a campaign called `Shaping the Square', which polled 1,000 locals and visitors to gather a wide selection of ideas on how it could be used. Details of the call for ideas and its independent panel of experts can be found here.
LATER LIVING IN LOUGHTON
This week LCA will be helping clients Elysian Residences (an owner, operator and developer of Later Living communities) consult on their proposals for a new community in Loughton, Essex. Demand by older people for opportunities to downsize is growing in Essex, as in all other parts of the country. LCA has organised a public exhibition as part of an engagement programme that has also seen one-to-one engagement with the local community.
Last week’s London Real Estate Forum was, once again, a brilliant opportunity for stakeholders across the public and private sectors to come together and discuss their visions for the capital’s built environment. We were especially interested to hear the views of London Borough Leaders, Cabinet Members and senior officers. Fresh out of May’s local elections, local government leaders from across the political spectrum are evidently keen to leverage developers’ capacity to help deliver their manifesto promises on housing. Newham’s new Labour Mayor Rokhsana Fiaz suggested housing developers – whether private or public sector – should be prepared for ‘demanding’ conversations with the council, which will expect them to contribute to tackling entrenched poverty and impediments to social mobility in the borough. Speaking for Tory-led Westminster Council, Cabinet Member for Place Shaping and Planning Richard Beddoe asserted that ‘if you build in Westminster you need to build for Westminster’ and warned that the council will not support luxury housing ‘that does nothing for the borough.’ For the GLA, Deputy Mayors Jules Pipe and James Murray, as well as Chief Planner Juliemma McLoughlin, all spoke about the draft London Plan and conveyed the Mayor’s commitment to delivering at least 35% affordable housing on private land.
LCA prides itself on its intelligence-led approach to PR and communications and our dedicated research 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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