KHAN’T TOUCH THIS
The ‘Sadiq 2020’ team will be thrilled by today’s news that Conservative front-runner Justine Greening has ruled herself out as a candidate for the London Mayoral contest in two years’ time.
Greening’s socially liberal credentials were viewed by many in the party as an antidote to the perceived toxicity of 2016’s Conservative campaign under Zac Goldsmith, and there currently appears to be no obvious alternative of her pedigree. Not that any of this is providing a distraction to Mayor Khan. This weekend he joined anniversary celebrations of the arrival of the Windrush generation in the UK, pledged to engage in legal action once the government formally designates the Airports National Policy Statement (NPS) for the delivery of a third runway at Heathrow, and held Uber to task by drawing concessions from the company on its conduct, after a nine-month dispute.
In other news, we report this week on the last deferred local ward election results in London, Haringey Council’s first cabinet decision, and comment on a series of housing policy ideas and proposals hoping to catch the eye of this Conservative government.
As always, we’d love to hear your feedback and do follow us on Twitter @LDNComms if you don’t already.
MORE HEATHROW HEADWINDS
In the twilight hours of Monday evening and after hours of strident debate, MPs voted by a clear majority (415 to 119) to approve the Government’s preferred option of a third runway contained in the Airports National Policy Statement (NPS). However the lead-up to the vote was not without high drama. A well-timed diplomatic excursion to Afghanistan meant that Boris Johnson was 3,482 miles too far away to vote against the plans – it would appear in doing so preferring to roll over rather than ‘lie down’. His Uxbridge constituents, who will be directly impacted by the increase in noise and air pollution, may find it difficult to forgive him at the next general election. Six London Conservative MPs rebelled against the Government, including Justine Greening (Wandsworth), Bob Blackman (Harrow East) and Greg Hands (Chelsea & Fulham), who resigned his ministerial post last week to vote against the proposed expansion.
While Monday’s vote finally paves the way for Heathrow to submit a detailed planning application to the Planning Inspectorate by late 2019 / early 2020, complications appear set to continue. A cross-party group of four London local authorities impacted by Heathrow’s expansion are preparing to launch a judicial review of the decision, according to a letter seen by The Times, on the basis that Theresa May had pledged to oppose the plan in 2010. The cross-party legal action by Wandsworth (Con), Richmond (LD), Hammersmith & Fulham (Lab) and Hillingdon (Con) councils is being joined by Greenpeace and Labour’s London Mayor Sadiq Khan. This leaves Heathrow with three potential judicial reviews to contend with after rival airport schemes by Heathrow Hub and Arora previously announced they were considering launching their own legal actions. It would at least appear that Heathrow’s expansion will be limited to just the three runways as the approved NPS states that an application for a fourth runway ‘would not be supported in policy terms’ – amounting to a light dusting of sugar on a bitter pill for disgruntled west London MPs and their constituents.
After nine months of uncertainty, global private hire firm Uber has been granted a 15-month probationary licence to continue operating in London by chief magistrate Emma Arbuthnot, with immediate effect. Since September 2017, when Transport for London (TfL) chose to suspend Uber’s licence, it has successfully extracted a number of concessions from the operator. These include the organisation agreeing to install new leadership in the capital, enhance its reporting of incidents to the police, share traffic data with the city and keep tired drivers off the road. A 15-month licence is, however, significantly less than the five-year licence typically granted to private hire companies and is an indication of the increased scrutiny Uber must now accept it will face while operating in London. Arbuthnot also ruled that Uber will pay £425,000-worth of legal costs to TfL. In a statement, Mayor Sadiq Khan said of the court’s decision: ‘no matter how powerful and how big you are, you must play by the rules’, addingthat TfL had helped overhaul the way Uber operates by suspending its licence last September.
WINDRUSH 70TH ANNIVERSARY
Around 2,000 people gathered at Westminster Abbey last Friday to celebrate the 70th anniversary of the arrival of the Windrush generation in Britain. Commemorating the arrival of Caribbean migrants from the ship MV Empire Windrush on Tuesday 22 June 1948 exactly 70 years before, guests heard heartfelt testimony from original settlers upon their arrival to the United Kingdom. Also in attendance were Prime Minister Theresa May, Home Secretary Sajid Javid, his opposite number Dianne Abbott, and the Mayor of London. Sadiq separately hosted his own Windrush commemoration event at City Hall on Saturday which included a variety of workshops, film screening installations and talks from the likes of Baroness Floella Benjamin OBE, writer Afua Hirsch and Assembly Member Jennette Arnold OBE.
WILLESDEN GREEN STAYS RED
Seven weeks after the London local elections, all results across the capital are now finally in. In last Thursday’s Willesden Green ward election in Brent, deferred following the death of Labour candidate Councillor Lesley Jones, Labour held all three of its seats. The result leaves Labour holding 60 of 63 seats on Brent Council, three more than at the 2014 local elections, and represents an all-time high for the party since the borough’s formation in 1964. These final results cap off what can be viewed as a relatively successful performance by Labour in London, with a total of 1,123 seats – 63 more than in 2014 (1,060) but still less than their best result of 1,221 seats in 1971. However, Labour’s gains in Brent reflected a wider trend for the party at these local elections, by consolidating its numerical strength in boroughs where strong Labour representation already existed. While the party increased its councillor total by 63, this only amounted to gaining one borough, Tower Hamlets, and the party failed to break significant new ground in the traditional Tory strongholds of Wandsworth, Kensington & Chelsea and Westminster (as LDN has previously reported).
A range of housing initiatives and reports have caught our eye in the past week, encouraging the Conservatives to find new ways to address the housing crisis and build more homes. Firstly Policy Exchange released a new report, co-authored by former Newham Mayor Sir Robin Wales with a foreword by Secretary of State for Housing, Communities and Local Government James Brokenshire MP, arguing the housing crisis will only be solved if developers start placing more emphasis on the design and style of new homes to overcome NIMBYism from existing communities. Then this week, Onward, a new Conservative think-tank set up by former Downing Street advisers Will Tanner and Neil O’Brien MP, published their first-ever report arguing for fundamentally new approaches to housing, such as building 500,000 new build homes and 500,000 discounted rental properties for young people through capturing more planning gain. Both centre-right think-tanks are considered to be influential in shaping Conservative Party policy.
Closer within the boundaries of Government, Sir Oliver Letwin MP’s Independent Review of Build Out Rates Draft Analysis, published on Monday, suggests build out rates on large sites could be improved by developers offering a greater variety of housing tenures on-site while absolving them of land-banking claims. The Thames Estuary 2050 Growth Commission has also set out its report on delivering economic growth in the Thames Estuary area this week. It remains to be seen how seriously the Government considers all or any of these proposals. However, what is clear is that after fifteen years of falling homeownership, the Conservatives need to move from listening mode to delivery mode in order to rebuild their credibility among home-owning voters – and among those aspiring to own one. Yet it would seem the Government’s reply to all of this is a less radical one – yesterday the Communities Secretary announced a new pot of £1bn additional borrowing for local authorities to build council housing, split equally between London and the rest of England.
The eagle-eyed among you may have noticed an update by the Greater London Authority (GLA) in April 2018 on its London Development Panel 2 (LDP2), which noted the final stages of assessing bids and that the panel would be going ‘live’ in May 2018. While it would appear, according to the update, that each bidder should now be notified of their success, it is our understanding that 29 members in total will be part of the panel. This is four more than the 25 members who sat on the previous iteration of the panel (LDP1) introduced under Mayor Boris Johnson in May 2013. The panel’s membership is expected to be revealed following the completion of a standstill period. The panel was renewed by Mayor Sadiq Khan in order to significantly increase the pace of property construction on public land, as well as give more emphasis to recruiting Build-to-Rent specialists.
BROADWATER FARM CABINET DECISION
Haringey Council's cabinet faced its first tense moment yesterday evening, upon deciding to decant residents from the Tangmere tower block on Tottenham’s Broadwater Farm estate, deemed to be unsafe by independent fire safety experts. Housing campaigners aligned with the Stop HDV movement and in partnership with the Ledbury Action Group, based in Southwark, lobbied the first meeting of Haringey’s new cabinet yesterday to demand that the council offer tenants a choice of home while any work is carried out. They also demanded that residents should receive a ballot on whether the blocks are demolished or refurbished. Following survey work commissioned by the previous Labour administration, a report in this week’s cabinet papers presented the two options of strengthening (£33.6m) and demolition (£32m-£54m). In the same papers Councillor Emine Ibrahim, responsible for the borough’s housing portfolio, said that ‘while we don’t like the idea of demolishing homes […] we have been elected to deliver on a promise of safe and decent homes for all our tenants’. Her notes did not indicate that balloting residents was a consideration, but she did this week tweet her thanks to the Mayor of London for offering financial support towards purchasing 40 homes to rehouse tenants.
ON THE MOVE?
There appears to be a degree of apprehension swirling around London’s housing market following various warnings from prominent developers in the capital. Housebuilder Crest Nicholson chief executive Patrick Bergin recently noted the company was shifting its attention away from London to the South East over the next 18 months because of an ‘overheated’ housing market. Similarly, last Wednesday Berkeley chairman Tony Pidgley said that he was ‘cautious’ about investment in the capital due to political and economic uncertainty. The wariness some appear to be feeling is borne out by a long-term cooling in London’s annual housing price growth. According to the Office for National Statistics (ONS), figures from April 2017 to April 2018 show house prices on average rose in the capital by 1% versus a 3.5% increase in the South East. Today’s latest Nationwide House Price Index figures also show house price growth having decreased by 1.9% year-on-year. While cautious attitudes may not necessarily reflect wider opinion across London’s housebuilders and developers, it may deliver an upshot of encouraging the sector to boost housing supply in more affordable outer parts of the capital. Moreover, developer uncertainty in London might at least offer respite to first-time buyers in the capital able to take advantage of faltering house prices.
THE UK’S VERY OWN SILICON VALLEY
LCA helped the London Stansted Cambridge Consortium (LSCC) launch its annual conference with a bang today – calling on central government to make the ‘Innovation Corridor’ the UK’s biggest post-Brexit success story. The region, between London and Cambridge, is already home to leading global tech firms including Google, Microsoft, Airbus, GSK and AstraZeneca, as well as world-class research and educational institutions such as the University of Cambridge, UCL and the world class Genome Centre at Hinxton. Now, major businesses, public bodies and institutions that make up the LSCC are urging the government to set up a Local Industrial Strategy. That, and financial backing could help the region go head-to-head with the likes of Boston’s Route 128, Greater Munich and Silicon Valley and become one of the world’s top life science and bio-tech regions. LSCC chair Ann Limb said: ‘As Britain sits on the verge of leaving the EU, the Innovation Corridor is poised to realise its global potential and ambition.’ Watch this space..
EXTENDING THE BAKERLOO LINE
Last week, LCA attended the ‘Extending the Bakerloo Line: new connectivity and new housing for London’ reception at KPMG’s offices in Canary Wharf. Representatives from TfL, Lewisham and Southwark set out the business case for extending the Bakerloo Line in order to better serve the Old Kent Road, New Cross Gate and Lewisham. The extension, which would support 20,000 new homes on the Old Kent Road and 5,000 in Lewisham, is still in the early stages of planning, with TfL suggesting that the route could be expanded by 2029 if construction were to start in 2023. Lessons were taken from the Nine Elms Northern Line extension, with the speakers mooting mechanisms such as Stamp Duty uplift, borough specific Community Infrastructure Levy (CIL) agreements, fare surpluses and over-station development as possible measures to supplement a substantial funding shortfall. The question of whether Crossrail 2 development could run in conjuncture to the Bakerloo Line extension was also considered; with TfL’s funding specialist Julian Ware stating that projects of such size only come out of the realms of impossibility when they tip over into the remits of possibility.
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.
If you would like to know more about anything covered in this or any other edition of LDN or if you would like to know more about LCA please contact Duncan Hepburn on 020 7612 8480 or firstname.lastname@example.org.
We strive for balance and accuracy at all times; however, if you feel we have made a mistake, omission or have misrepresented a story or issue please alert the team by contacting Duncan using the details above.