Recurring themes from London's political and planning spheres seem to dominate this week’s issue of LDN - and look set to remain hanging in the summer air as business begins to wind down (even for our MPs, as hard as some may try to convince us otherwise).
Communities Secretary James Brokenshire has made his first intervention on the draft new London Plan, asserting that London’s increased annual housing target of 66,000 is too low. Khan also remains at war with Westminster City Council and we cover the latest skirmishes. Meanwhile, Earl’s Court and the Haringey Development Vehicle (HDV) – two of London’s biggest regeneration projects, long mired in controversy – continue to generate headlines, if not homes.
Elsewhere, we cover Labour’s latest internal strife as it plays out across the capital's Constituency Labour Parties (CLP), supermarket Lidl’s plans to embark on a new house building programme, and London Councils’ announcement that a new not-for-profit modular housing programme for the capital’s homeless has advanced to procurement phase.
Please note that LDN is taking a couple of weeks off – we will be back on 22 August for a bumper edition on what’s happened across London over the summer break.
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BROKENSHIRE SHOWS HIS TEETH
The Communities Secretary has broken his silence on Sadiq’s draft new London Plan, even as it heads for its Examination in Public (EiP) by independent inspectors this autumn. In a public letter, James Brokenshire welcomes the increase of the draft Plan’s annual housing delivery target from 42,000 to 65,000, but states that he is ‘not convinced’ this is enough, before listing a number of other areas where he wants to see amendments. Echoing a frequent complaint of Conservative London Assembly Members, he further takes City Hall to task on the availability and transparency of its housing delivery figures. Brokenshire says that Sadiq needs to ‘bring forward a revised London Plan that has regard to new national policies at the earliest opportunity’ and threatens to use statutory powers to ‘direct the review’ and even ‘intervene before the Plan is published’. The Evening Standard carries City Hall’s response, which repeats regular talking points on the effects of austerity, the need for deeper devolution and Sadiq’s against-the-odds success in increasing housing delivery last year. But neither the letter, nor the response tell us how this in actual fact will influence the final form and implementation of the new plan.
CITY OF CAN'T WALK, CAN'T CYCLE, CAN'T PARK?
The Evening Standard reports that in Sadiq's latest offensive on the Oxford Street pedestrianisation, the Mayor may attempt to force Westminster to pay back £8 million of TfL funds spent on the plans to date - but also that he and council leader Nickie Aiken are set for ‘crisis talks’ in August. Meanwhile, Westminster has secured an injunction and judicial review against TfL’s plans for the CS11 ‘Cycle Superhighway’ (the review is set for 6 September). But as reported by the Ham&High, the judge delivering the ruling urged both sides to work it out, outside the courts. Finally, following a pilot project Westminster is consulting on expanding plans to double parking surcharges for older cars in a number of areas, in a bid to deter polluting vehicles from the city centre.
LONDON LABOUR LATEST
There have been a few recent political flashpoints in the capital for Labour at local membership level. Firstly, a motion was passed unanimously by Vauxhall Constituency Labour Party (CLP) for local MP Kate Hoey to be suspended from the Parliamentary Labour Party. The motion primarily relates to her decision to side with the Government in voting down an amendment to a clause of the Government’s Trade Bill, which would have required the UK to enter into the EU Customs Union after Brexit. The motion suggests that, had Hoey supported the amendment, it could have triggered an immediate general election that Labour ‘is widely expected to win’. Secondly, there has also been news that Hampstead & Kilburn CLP has backed a motion put forward by its Kilburn branch to reinstate Councillor Abdirazak Abdi to Brent Council’s Planning Committee, following allegations he was removed after taking a different view on planning applications not in line with the leadership. Finally, a senior member of Jeremy Corbyn’s Islington North CLP has resigned their membership over growing unease concerning anti-Semitism within the party.
Of wider significance to both local and Labour-led councils, the contents of the party’s Democracy Review, which began last September, have been leaked to HuffPost. While the report is too lengthy to be detailed here, proposals put forward in Section 20 (‘Local Government’) are of particular interest and allow for the election of Council Leaders to be widened to the membership. This could have implications for how the makeup of Labour councils are decided in London - and nationally - if approved at Labour Party Conference this September.
LIDL PLAN LOTTA HOUSING
The discount supermarket giant has announced plans to scale up its house building programme in the capital to develop more than 3,000 homes as part of a bid to secure planning permission for more stores. Lidl is following the wider trend of other supermarkets that have already made their own forays into the market, such as Tesco, whose first mixed-use venture in Streatham back in 2013 included building 250 apartments on the ‘air space’ above its superstore. According to one estimate there is enough spare air above retail space in the capital to build a minimum of 150,000 homes. It remains to be seen if developing homes above existing Lidl sites will be part of the supermarket’s overall strategy. As major food retailers are facing the financial headwinds carried by shifting consumer attitudes, increasing business rates and Brexit, building homes could help buffer any losses the sector faces in future, and guarantee a more reliable income stream.
ON THE NPPF
The Communities Secretary’s letter to Sadiq - covered above - references the revised National Planning Policy Framework (NPPF), released last week. It reflects how the new NPPF sets a higher bar for assessing local housing needs, measuring local authorities’ performance in delivering homes against it, while enabling the government to intervene where councils do not deliver. But it remains to be seen whether the new ‘housing delivery test’ for local authorities (due this November) and a new standardised method of calculating housing need (coming this January) actually make any difference. After all, local government finance, broader market trends and the local politics of planning remain broadly unchanged. The government may now more vigorously wag its finger at councils for building insufficient homes. But say a council cannot build enough homes for lack of money. Or perhaps developers steer clear of an given council's high requirements for affordable homes and other contributions. Or local NIMBYist opposition simply blocks new developments. Will a Tory government actually shell out more funds? Will it tell developers where to build? Or will it take on the ‘usual suspects’ – often their own voters – who oppose development?
UNPICKING THE KNOTS
While the Haringey Development Vehicle (HDV) joint venture between Haringey Council and Lendlease is finished as we know it, the ensuing legal proceedings and financial recovery may only be getting started. On the day before the council’s decision to terminate the HDV over two weeks’ ago, Lendlease Europe chief executive Dan Labbad wrote to council leader Joseph Ejiofor and chief executive Zina Etheridge to spell out what the financial consequences would be. Labbad noted that ‘if the council proceeds to seek to abandon HDV, that will expose the council to a significant loss of profits claim as well as a restitutionary claim for Lendlease’s costs’. In the letter he also specified that Lendlease’s costs to date were in excess of the council’s own estimates (£5m versus £520,275) as they appeared in cabinet papers on 17 July.
Separately, in relation to the Earl's Court regeneration project, Capco has denied claims made by Hammersmith & Fulham Council that the developer had agreed it would return the West Kensington and Gibbs Green estates to the council five months’ ago. The claims were made by council leader Stephen Cowan in a letter to estate residents relating to remarks made by Capco chief executive Ian Hawksworth at a private Town Hall meeting. In a statement, Capco has said that while they are engaging with the council in relation to future plans for the estates and that the 2013 Conditional Land Sale Agreement ‘remains in place’.
It was announced last week that MPs Mike Amesbury (Lab, Weaver Vale) and Jo Platt (Lab, Leigh) have been discharged from the Housing, Communities and Local Government Committee. They are to be replaced by MPs Tanmanjeet Singh Dhesi (Lab, Slough) and Teresa Pearce (Lab, Erith and Thamesmead). It is notable that Pearce has previously served as Shadow Secretary of State for Communities and Local Government (October 2016 to May 2017) and Shadow Minister for Housing (September 2015 to October 2016).
Meanwhile, the Royal Academy (RA) has announced that its Secretary and Chief Executive Charles Saumarez Smith is to step down at the end of 2018. He has been in the role for 11 years, in which time he notably oversaw the £56m redevelopment of the RA’s Mayfair home, a three-year project unveiled earlier this year. As for his next steps, Saumarez Smith has been appointed senior director at contemporary art gallery Blain Southern.
LONDON COUNCILS GET MODULAR
LDN has previously covered the earlier stages of efforts by London Councils (LC) to foster a new collaborative approach to tackling homelessness, focusing on modular housing. It is worth noting that the project has now not only grown legs, but is taking its first steps – having recently launched a new OJEU Procurement for the Design & Manufacture of the Modular Homes. The vehicle for this project is PLACE (Pan-London Accommodation Collaborative Enterprise) Ltd, a not-for-profit company launched this past May, which is hosted by the London Borough of Tower Hamlets and supported by LC and the GLA. It acts as the procurement and ownership organisation for the scheme, which aspires to have its first modular housing on site by 2021 – as part of an initial target for 200 homes across London. Aside from its hoped-for impact on providing a cost-effective model for providing quality housing to the families which most need it, the scheme represents a key testing ground for London boroughs’ wider return to housebuilding at scale.
NEXT UP: A PLAGUE OF LOCUSTS?
It's been quite a week for all sorts of rail fails and meteorological unpleasantness. Commuters were treated to yet another 24-hour railworkers' strike, part of a ‘summer of strikes’ spearheaded by the RMT union as part of ongoing opposition to South Western Railway's (SWR's) plans for station guards and driverless trains. Commuters using the Waterloo-to-Portsmouth line not only had to contend with cancellations and delays but also a power failure, which knocked out even more services. Meanwhile, the heatwave which fostered grassland fires in Wanstead Flats and Woolwich Common gave way to torrential rains, which in East London overwhelmed water mains - flooding the Stratford Centre for more than 24 hours and keeping dozens of shops closed.
MERIDIAN WATER ‘BACK ON TRACK’
Last week, LCA supported Enfield Council in announcing a series of in-principle Cabinet decisions setting out a clear direction for the accelerated delivery of Meridian Water. This marks the end of the procurement process for a single ‘Master Developer’ in favour of the Borough itself taking lead responsibility for developing the masterplan, setting relevant strategies and a new phasing plan for delivering 10,000 new homes and unlocking thousands of new jobs on the site. Development partners will be sought for nearly 1,000 new homes on the first two housing sites, with procurement for the site around the new train station to begin immediately after the summer through the GLA’s London Development Panel. A development partner will also be sought for the first major employment site, while a new employment strategy has been endorsed to secure jobs and meanwhile uses for council-owned land. Lastly, the Cabinet agreed progressing the business case for £120m of funding through the Housing Infrastructure Fund, as part of the GLA’s bid. If secured in full, the funds will connect all parts of Meridian Water to its new train station and improve the frequency of train services. You can read the full announcement here.
MET LEADS THE WAY
Emma Kent, Director, Construction at the Metropolitan Police Service Property Services Department (one of LCA’s longest standing clients) has been named in Management Today’s list of 35 top women under 35. The list shines a light on the country’s top young female executives and Emma, who joined the MPS this January, is one of only three in the list currently working for public sector organisations. She is responsible for around 30 projects with contract values of over £400m, as part of the drive by London’s police to modernise their property portfolio and generate savings. Projects range from major construction and refurbishment projects at Hendon, Charing Cross and Hammersmith to the creation of the Counter Terrorism and Organised Crime Hub announced earlier this year at Empress State Building at Earls Court.
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