…unavoidably features in today’s newsletter, as it does pretty much everywhere else today, as fans eagerly await the World Cup semi-final between England and Croatia.
But believe it or not, there are a whole lot of other developments kicking about in the capital. We take a look at political developments spanning Whitehall, Parliament, City Hall and London’s boroughs, as well as a host of cultural and sporting events.
We also cover recent people moves and news relating to major property sector deals and planning applications.
As always, we’d love to hear your feedback and do follow us on Twitter @LDNComms if you don’t already.
After her first big public speech at the Centre for London last week, Sadiq’s new Deputy Mayor for Transport Heidi Alexander attended her first London Assembly committee this Monday. The Confirmation Hearings Committee unanimously agreed her appointment as Deputy Chair of TfL. AMs appeared impressed with her level of preparedness, though they did not seem particularly inclined to give her a hard time, with even Conservative AMs markedly less antagonistic than they have been in recent, heated sessions on London transport. While cheerfully confident – and eloquent in defending City Hall’s line across all key issues – Alexander appeared to be reluctant to be drawn on how sure she was of TfL’s financial projections for the year ahead. Indeed, her responses were notably guarded on the prospects of securing funding for Crossrail 2, estimates of income from the Elizabeth Line and crucially, TfL’s ability to achieve an operating surplus by 2021.
A LOAD OF HOT AIR?
After much discussion and delay, linked in part to his scorn for a decision by his predecessors to relocate the US Embassy from Mayfair to an [sic] ‘off location’ such as Nine Elms, Donald Trump will arrive in the UK this Thursday. He will first meet Theresa May at Blenheim Palace, before spending the night at US ambassador Woody Johnson’s official residence. While this is explicitly not being framed as a State visit, the President will meet the Queen on Friday, at Windsor Castle. Though both Downing Street and the Embassy deny that widely-heralded anti-Trump protests in London have influenced his itinerary, it is striking how little time Trump will be spending in the capital. Perhaps the most controversial aspect of the protests is the rather unflattering six-metre-tall balloon of Trump-as-a-baby that has been cleared by the GLA to float above Parliament Square. Speaking to Piers Morgan on Tuesday, Sadiq defended the decision to greenlight the balloon on the grounds of the right to protest and argued it was not for him to decide if the balloon was ‘in good or bad taste.’ But Morgan and others are not at all amused, suggesting that it could even threaten a post-Brexit trade deal with the US. Unusually, given the President’s previous spats with Sadiq and his tendency to sound off on social media against any and all critics, Trump has remained remarkably quiet on the balloon. The US ambassador has argued that the President ‘appreciates free speech,’ suggesting that the visit may signal yet another first for Trump: Taking the high road.
SADIQ STRIKES BACK
The Oxford Street pedestrianisation saga rumbles on. Last week, Sadiq sent Westminster City Council a stern letter in response to the Tory-led borough’s decision to freeze his plans and proceed with drawing up its own scheme. The letter has been published in full here by the Better Oxford Campaign, which is supported by several local residents and business groups that have agitated against Sadiq’s plans. The Guardian’s reporting focuses on Sadiq’s warning that the council’s decision risks damaging Oxford Street’s reputation as a shopping destination. Perhaps more to the point, City A.M underlines the Mayor’s thinly veiled threat to deny Westminster any more funding for Oxford Street’s transformation unless he is convinced that any alternative plans brought forward can cope with the needs of the local economy, air quality standards, additional foot traffic following the Elizabeth Line’s launch and road safety. Westminster Council thumbed its nose at the Mayor’s threats this Monday in a council cabinet meeting which resolved that the borough should go ahead with its own plans.
Whatever its final form, this is a fiendishly complex project affecting the beating heart of London’s transport network, the contours of the iconic West End’s built environment, the purse of retailers large and small – and of course, the daily lives of residents across several postcodes. While the causes of the project’s current predicament are therefore far from black-and-white, it should be noted that this particular row increasingly resembles a re-run of a recurring struggle for supremacy over projects of local importance between City Hall and Town Halls, or even just an old-fashioned red-versus-blue bust-up. Indeed, on other fronts, Westminster is pursuing a judicial review against a City Hall-backed ‘cycle superhighway’ through its patch, while Sadiq has also taken the council to task over delays in reinstalling CCTV cameras, suggesting to the BBC that Westminster councillors have been ‘dragging their feet’ and playing politics.’
While the Mayor showed Westminster he can play hardball, he remains keen to show Londoners that he has a softer side. Even as fans waited with baited breath to watch the England vs Sweden quarter-finals game last week, the Mayor’s office was telling the press that Sadiq wanted to hold a big public screening of the semis, if Gareth Southgate and his team made it to the semis. And make it they did, with England now set to play against Croatia later today .Sadiq has duly announced that he has teamed up with the Department for Digital, Culture, Media and Sport, to organise a ‘family-friendly’ outdoor screening of the game in Hyde Park. Up to 30,000 tickets have been made available free of charge and have already been scooped up.
LONDON AFTER BREXIT
While David Davis’ departure will likely amount to rearranging the furniture on the good ship Brexit (see more on the subsequent Cabinet reshuffle below), concerns over what the impact of leaving the EU will be for London endure. Before this week’s resignations, Sadiq Khan had issued a warning ahead of the Government’s Chequers summit suggesting that some cabinet individuals were ‘Hard Brexit zealots hell-bent on crashing the UK out of the Single Market and Customs Union’. Furthermore, this week the London Assembly Economy Committee hosted a number of guests including prominent Remain campaigner and Labour peer Lord Adonis for a discussion on what a good deal for London would look like. The guests collectively agreed that the current position agreed upon at Chequers was a fundamentally bad one, on the basis that a common rulebook for trade had been established for goods but not services, which in 2015 made up more than 90% of London’s economy. Indeed, the professional and financial services sectors will be waiting expectantly for more detail on a services trading position upon the release of the Brexit White Paper tomorrow.
MHCLG MUSICAL CHAIRS
Following David Davis’ sensational resignation as Brexit Secretary in the late hours of Sunday evening (not forgetting Boris’ which ensued), Dominic Raab was promoted on Monday to take his place. While Raab’s resumé – as one-time chief of staff to both Davis and fellow Brexiteer Michael Gove – gives DExEU a degree of continuity, the same cannot be said for the Ministry of Housing, Communities & Local Government (MHCLG), which was made bereft of another Housing Minister. Kit Malthouse’s subsequent appointment to the post is the eighth in as many years under the Conservatives, and the fourth since Theresa May became Prime Minister with Raab only lasting 6 months. London’s development sector will no doubt be hoping that this time Malthouse – who has knowledge of the capital’s unique housing pressures from time spent on the London Assembly and Westminster City Council – can offer the stability and certainty to drive through reforms such as the revised National Planning Policy Framework (NPPF), which is expected to be published within the month. In other MHCLG news, Communities Secretary James Brokenshire attended his first Housing, Communities and Local Government Committee on Monday afternoon, during which he called on local authorities to make most of the additional £1bn headroom provided by Government to borrow against for the delivery of affordable housing.
It’s been a busy week for London’s cultural and sporting calendar. Over the weekend, the capital hosted the London Pride march, the Wimbledon tennis and over the week, the RAF treated Londoners to an succession of awe-inspiring fly-bys, in celebration of its 100th anniversary. Meanwhile, all eyes are on the England squad in Russia – and as noted above, thousands of Londoners will be treated to open-air screenings of today’s semi-final in Hyde Park. Of course, nothing is entirely free of controversy: Veteran LGBT+ rights campaigner Peter Thatchell complained that Sadiq ‘strangle[d] Pride with restrictions,’ taking issue in particular with the number of people allowed to march in the official parade. According to Thatchell, ‘over 50,000 people applied to march and, of these, 20,000 have been told they can't,’ making it the smallest Pride march ‘in the western world.’ Meanwhile, members of a lesbian and feminist group ruffled feathers by muscling their way to the head of the Pride march to carry out a protest against… the trans movement, for allegedly attacking women’s rights. But Pride went ahead in an apt – and important – reminder that, in the final analysis, it takes all kinds to make a world.
INVEST TO BUILD, BUILD TO INVEST
This week has seen City Hall and the National Infrastructure Commission (NIC) make calls for major infrastructure projects in London to be financed and delivered. The first-ever National Infrastructure Assessment report noted that ‘future growth will not be possible without substantial increases in capacity’ recommending an indicative Government budget of £27.7bn for Crossrail 2 from 2023-24 to 2035-36, of which London should contribute at least half, and that Government should continue to work with the Mayor to reach a funding agreement. Sadiq has also suggested this week that the investment in five key major London infrastructure projects (the Sutton Tram Extension, Crossrail 1 Extension, Bakerloo Line Extension, Crossrail 2 and the Royal Docks) could generate an additional £33.8bn for the Greater London economy in terms of Gross Value Added (GVA), raising it to £725bn per annum by 2050. The Mayor’s press release does not actually provide a specific number for how much money would need to be invested in these projects, but draws on the wider findings of a report from Greenwood Strategic Advisors, commissioned by City Hall titled Mind the Gap: Funding and Financing City Investments in the 21st Century. The report estimates the economic impact of not investing in a number of key infrastructure projects in the capital, including (but not limited to) the five highlighted by Sadiq.
ENTER THE CHEESGRATER II
The City of London Corporation’s planning and transportation committee voted 22-2 in favour of granting permission for the construction of a 56-storey tower at 100 Leadenhall Street. Once completed, ‘The Diamond’ (which has been informally dubbed ‘Cheesegrater II’) will reach 263.4m in height and will be the City of London’s third tallest building once completed (and the fourth in London as a whole). This ranking takes into account planning consent already granted for two taller buildings – the 290m Trellis and 278m 22 Bishopsgate, which is currently under construction.
WCC DEVELOPMENT NEWS
In Westminster, the council’s cabinet provided initial approval to plans to redevelop the Ebury Bridge Estate, agreeing to the full demolition of the 336-home estate to be replaced by 750 homes. All 198 social rent homes in the estate will be re-provided, and 87 new social rent homes will be built alongside 57 at intermediate rent through the proposals – leaving the estate a total of 342 affordable homes. At the cabinet meeting, concerns were raised by a Labour councillor, Churchill ward’s Andrea Mann, about the council’s decision not to ballot residents on the decision in line with the Mayor of London’s Better Homes for Local People estate regeneration guidance – though it should be noted that the project is not being funded by the Mayor, which would be one of the key prerequisites for implementing a ballot under the guidance. The council’s position is underpinned by the findings of a consultation process, which found that 61% of tenants who provided their views were in support of the recommendation to redevelop the estate. Last night, Westminster City Council’s planning committee also approved Landsec’s S73 application for changes to the iconic Piccadilly Lights redevelopment. The plans include changing office space into a rooftop restaurant, greater flexibility with some of the retail offer as well as other design amendments.
… AND BTR LATEST
Build to rent continues to show its promise and robustness in London – and beyond. In London, the past week has seen new major acquisitions by developers intending to build hundreds of new homes to let. A partnership between L&G, PGGM and LGIM Real Assets has acquired a 21,000 sq ft site near the Woolwich Arsenal Overground station, known as ‘Macbean,’ that will see more than 650 new build to rent properties. Meanwhile, all the way across town in Colindale, M&G Real Estate’s UK residential property fund has agreed to buy 186 new built to rent homes from Redrow Homes whilst four bidders are through to the second round to acquire Lone Star’s £2.3bn Quintain; Delancey under its PRS brand Get Living with Oxford Properties, APG & Qatari Diar, Greystar, and LRC Group & Grand City Properties. In other related news, London unsurprisingly continues to be the single biggest region for build to rent, in terms of completions, but it is notable that the UK’s other regions combined have for the first time overtaken the capital According to research by the British Property Federation (BPF) and Savills, the construction of build to rent homes in the regions has already outpaced construction in London over the past year, but the total number of build-to-rent homes in the regions (62,021, including those completed, under construction and in planning) has also, as of end-Q2 2018, surpassed the total number in London for the first time (62,016).
- John Burton, head of development for Westfield UK, has according to industry news portal Building decided he will be leaving the company after more than a decade. Burton has led the delivery of Westfield’s complex retail, housing and leisure development in Croydon, south London.
- Meanwhile, Redrow has named Kevin Parker as new group master planning director – joining the company after more than a decade at Barton Wilmore.
- Environment & Transport Claudia Webbe has been elected unopposed as chair of the Labour party’s disputes panel. Webbe is also a National Executive Committee (NEC) member and is seeking re-election to the body with the backing of Momentum.
- Meanwhile, Krishnan Guru-Murthy has been appointed to the board of trustees at the Royal Botanic Gardens, Kew. This is a non-executive position with a three-year term. In addition, Catherine Dugmore and Nick Baird have both been reappointed for another three years each.
We are delighted to announce that at last week’s IBP Communications Awards, LCA walked away with the prestigious Best Integrated Campaign award, for our work on Wembley Park’s winter campaign - Slideatron. We’re thrilled to be recognised for our work on this important placemaking campaign, and thank Quintain for the opportunity to get involved in such an exciting and unique project.
The LCA team receiving its hard-won award!
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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