A WORKING HOLIDAY
When we said three weeks’ ago that we were having some downtime over the summer break, it would appear that the sectors we work in didn’t get the memo.
Cue the Ministry of Housing, Communities and Local Government’s (MHCLG) release of its Social Housing Green Paper last Monday and Rough Sleeping Strategy on the day after, two more call-ins from the Mayor for schemes refused by Greenwich Council, and the beginning of a three-year programme to review local government boundaries of over three quarters of London boroughs. Since our last issue, City Hall has also released new materials in relation to the new London Plan’s Examination in Public (EiP) alongside ‘Minor Suggested Changes’ to the 520-page document. What holiday?
In this bumper edition, we also cover the latest people moves, explore some local authority development news you may have missed, and travel to New Zealand to unpick their latest bill passed on restrictions on foreign ownership of property and much, much more.
The Mayor has also today approved plans for the Citroen scheme in Hounslow subject to Mayoral call-in back in February, and is a developing story we will no doubt return to next week.
As always, we’d love to hear your feedback and do follow us on Twitter @LDNComms if you don’t already.
CITY HALL PLANNING
While London Assembly members have been enjoying their summer recess, City Hall’s planning and comms teams appear to be working with their usual verve.
- Sadiq has called in two major planning applications rejected by Greenwich council, for Charlton Riverside and Eynsham Drive, showing he is not averse to butting heads with Labour-led London boroughs. The call-ins represent the 10th and 11th in Sadiq’s tenure thus far.
- Only today, Sadiq has also approved plans for 441 homes on a former Citroen car dealership in Brentford, Hounslow – of which 218 will be genuinely affordable.
- Meanwhile, it appears ‘Minor Suggested Changes’ have been made to the London Plan – though these are intended as ‘clarifications’ rather than substantive changes. Additionally, the process of its Examination in Public (EiP) by a Panel of independent inspectors has been clarified somewhat by the publication of new materials by the EiP Panel. The EiP’s next milestone is end-August, by which time the Panel plans to consult the Mayor on a draft list of matters and participants.
LDP II LAUNCH
Following on from our story two months’ ago, the Greater London Authority (GLA) has now announced its 29-strong list of successful bidders for London Development Panel 2 (LDP2) membership. The process was open to developers, house builders, contractors and Registered Providers of Social Housing (RPs). Applicants went through a rigorous process to be appointed to the panel, which is used by UK public sector bodies to bring forward homes on public land in Greater London. 13 of the 29 members were on the previous development panel either individually or as part of a consortium. Also featured amongst the 29 are LCA clients Berkeley Group, Barratt, Lendlease, U+I, Be Living, Stanhope and Quintain.
It has been estimated by the Mayor’s office that procurement opportunities through the panel could come to a total as great as £20bn. Around 12 sites are scheduled to be brought forward through the panel including three Transport for London (TfL) car parks in Harrow, while it has been separately confirmed that Enfield Council will seek panel partners for its £6bn Meridian Water development. The panel is due to expire on 8 August 2022, although the GLA has the option to extend the lifespan of the panel by one more year.
SADIQ UNDER THE MEDIA COSH?
Sadiq’s position on Brexit, his environmental proposals and his handling of Uber have played well with many Londoners – and arguably form the base of his strengths – however a raft of recent media pieces have sought to expose the perceived weaker elements of his Mayoralty. The Evening Standard, for instance, has recently chastised Sadiq for not ‘walking the walk’ on Anti-Semitism as the issue continues to consume the national party and its leadership. Moreover, the Mayor’s housing record – alongside his pledge to be the ‘council estate boy who fixes the Tory housing crisis’ look at threat according to a Financial Times (£) piece written last week. The piece points to draft London Plan figures being revised up from 50,000 homes built each year to 66,000 homes; 39,000 were completed in 2016/17.
Khan’s likely Conservative Mayoral candidate rivals are also only too keen to lend their opinion and devote column inches to Sadiq’s record. On housing, London Assembly member Andrew Boff has been critical of Khan’s permissiveness of tall buildings, allowing a ‘war on the suburbs’, and has had wider suspicions of the GLA’s reporting of affordable housing starts. Elsewhere, fellow Conservative assembly member and Mayoral candidate Shaun Bailey has appeared keener to press the Mayor on his approach towards knife crime. All three shortlisted candidates have also recently called on the Mayor to 'unequivocally condemn' a trip made by Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn to Tunis, that they perceive to be insensitive to London’s Jewish community. Khan will no doubt be forced to make a more strident defence of his record on housing, public safety and in holding Labour to account, as he draws nearer to the end of his first term and with potentially another to follow.
A suspected terrorist attack has led to a renewal of calls for the pedestrianisation of streets around the Houses of Parliament. The incident involved a person now in custody driving a car into pedestrians and cyclists, but thankfully has not resulted in any fatalities. It has however reignited calls for additional security measures and traffic restrictions in areas of central London with heavy footfall. Metropolitan Police Commissioner Cressida Dick indicated that, as vehicles have ‘become a weapon of choice’ for terrorists, barring them from streets around Parliament should be on the table, alongside other potential measures. Sadiq has also weighed in, agreeing in principle to ‘part-pedestrianising Parliament Square’. But similar proposals were shelved a decade ago by Boris Johnson, while Sadiq himself has more recently had considerable trouble pushing through plans for pedestrianising Oxford Street. Talks are now reportedly underway between the appropriate authorities.
The City of London Corporation has announced the launch of a major transformation programme encompassing its three historic wholesale food markets: Billingsgate in Tower Hamlets (which specialises in fish), Smithfield in the City of London (for all things meat and poultry) and New Spitalfields in Waltham Forest (for a more floral mix of flowers, fruit, and vegetables). The programme, which follows a strategic review undertaken by GVA, will produce a feasibility study and carry out an extensive consultation involving all relevant stakeholders to assess plans for consolidating the three markets and relocating them to a single site. The proposals will also reportedly need MPs’ approval, meaning that relevant legislation should also be submitted to Parliament in due course. Lambert Smith Hampton has meanwhile been appointed to identify and, subject to a robust business case, acquire a suitable site of about 100 acres.
In a little less than three weeks, Kingston Council’s Strategic Housing and Planning Committee will consider how the borough can fulfil a commitment to balloting the Cambridge Road Estate’s residents on major regeneration plans. The council’s Liberal Democrat Leadership has said the ballot will be binding and will only take place once there are concrete plans and designs to share with residents – but residents appear to still know little about the scheme. The plans, their political context under the direction of the Mayor of London's Good Practice Guide to Estate Regeneration, and their potential implications are discussed in a new blog scheduled to go live on our website shortly.
WITH A FINE COMB
While most councillors have taken their leave from town halls across London, some municipal activity nevertheless continues, and it has been interesting to see councillors in some boroughs exercising their powers of scrutiny over decisions made by their own party, or their opposites. We offer a brief digest on some of these below:
Happening just prior to our last issue, City of Westminster Council’s Labour opposition was successful in calling in a cabinet decision, which opted for the demolition and redevelopment of the Ebury Estate, for further scrutiny by the Housing, Finance and Customer Services Policy and Scrutiny Committee. Labour councillors Adam Hug, Pancho Lewis and Matt Noble, who all sit on the committee, requested the decision be called in but the committee nevertheless decided to give the plans the go-ahead and they now look set to be voted through at the next full council meeting in November.
Meanwhile, Property Week has noted that Labour-led Hammersmith & Fulham Council has launched an investigation into the actions of the previous Conservative administration to sell the Earls Court site back in 2012. It is understood by the publication that council leader Stephen Cowan aims to have the conditional land sale agreement made under the Tory administration overturned in the courts. It also reports that Cowan has received legal advice convincing him that the original conditional deal to sell the land to Capco could be overturned. A special motion on the matter was passed at full council on 18 July.
THE STATE OF HOUSING IN LONDON
On 31 July, City Hall published its annual Housing in London report, which forms a significant part of the evidence base for the Mayor's Housing Strategy and other linked policies. Its analysis of key trends paints a positive city-wide picture in some respects, such as a fairly steadily growing housing stock and declining number of rough sleepers over the past few decades. But it also found that many homes remain uncomfortably overcrowded and that tackling homelessness remains a complex undertaking. Indeed, other recent research sheds light on especially challenging areas for the capital. Earlier this August, the BBC found that temporary housing costs for 31 London Boroughs rose from £460m to £690m in the past four years (the City of London Corporation and Newham Council appeared not to respond, or declined to disclose the necessary information to the BBC’s FOI requests). At around the same time, several media outlets publicised analysis of the Annual Survey of Hours and Earnings and the Index of Private Housing Rental Prices by Shelter. It found that rents have grown considerably faster than wages across England since 2011 – with the greatest discrepancy seen in the Barking and Dagenham, where average rents increased by 42% between 2011 and 2017, compared to a 2% increase in average household wages.
The latest government data published earlier this month, showing monthly visitor figures for London’s museums, makes for mixed reading. The findings indicate that monthly visitor attendance at the National Portrait Gallery in June 2018, compared to June 2016 was 53% lower (131,814 to 61,449). Meanwhile, visitor attendance at the British Museum earlier this June was its worst June month since 2012. That said, visitor numbers at the Victoria & Albert Museum appear more robust, as are those observed at the Tate Modern. Indeed, the taste of discerning audiences ebb and flow, and one might reasonably suggest that a cultural shift towards celebrating pop culture alongside more immersive experiences has helped boost figures observed at the V&A (see current exhibition on Frida Kahlo) and Tate Modern alike. However it remains to be seen if the latest figures reported from the National Portrait Gallery represent a blip, or a wider change in how tourists at home and abroad consume art.
THE MINISTRY THAT DIDN’T GO ON HOLIDAY
MHCLG has certainly had some of the busiest civil servants around this summer, working double-time to avoid any further delay to its long-awaited publication of the Social Housing Green Paper. The paper was finally unveiled by Communities Secretary James Brokenshire last Tuesday (14 August), centering on the theme of rebalancing the relationship between residents and landlords. The paper states it will achieve this by ensuring homes are safe and decent, supporting effective resolution of complaints, tackling the stigma attached to social housing and strengthening the Regulator of Social Housing (the consultation on proposals will run until 6 November). The Paper however fails to allocate any new grant funding for the supply of social housing. Brokenshire also announced a £100m investment programme over the next two years to end homelessness by 2027 the day before, as part of the department’s Rough Sleeping Strategy and a key party manifesto promise.
While the summertime publication of both documents could be explained by Brokenshire wanting to get fully up-to-speed with his departmental priorities and put his own stamp on them, their reception from London stakeholders appear to be lukewarm. On the Rough Sleeping Strategy, shadow housing minister and Labour MP for Croydon Central Sarah Jones said that she was ‘shocked’ that the £100m was not new money but instead reprioritised within the MHCLG budget. Meanwhile, London Councils executive member for housing and planning Councillor Darren Rodwell has called on the government to ‘act with more urgency’ on the green paper’s proposals on giving local authorities flexibility to increase social housing stock. Rodwell added: ‘There are more than 54,000 London households living in temporary accommodation and we can’t afford to keep waiting’.
Be prepared for the political landscape of London’s local government to look quite different by the 2022 London Borough Elections. The Local Government Boundary Commission for England announced late last month that it has started a three-year review of 25 out of 32 London boroughs and their wards, on the basis they have not been reviewed in the last five years. Harrow is the first borough under review having started last month, while reviews will also get underway for Brent, Hillingdon, Ealing, Barnet, Haringey, Camden and Enfield before the end of the year. Interestingly, the commission has made an early recommendation that Harrow Council should have eight fewer councillors than at present which, if implemented, would bring its elected members down from 63 to a total of 55. Depending on the re-drawing of boundary lines, this could potentially be critical in determining the electoral outcome of the borough in four years’ time. The Labour Group currently enjoys a majority of only three and limiting the amount of seats in play could make this majority even more slender, or even benefit the Conservatives. The full programme table is available to view here and is scheduled to be completed before the end of 2020.
CROSSRAIL 2 AT ANY PRICE?
While a date for its conclusion was outlined for the end of summer, TfL’s business case for Crossrail 2 is still being scrutinised by an Independent Affordability Review chaired by Mike Gerrard, which launched back in March. A report released at the end of July by business group London First has warned that copying Crossrail 1’s financing model simply won’t do for its sequel. ‘Paying for Crossrail 2’ welcomes the project and its benefits, but suggests that additional sources of funding will have to be found and sets out to identify precisely how a ‘fair and affordable’ funding and financing package for Crossrail 2 could be put together. Its proposals include enabling ‘targeted development in specified areas of green belt’, as well as exploring options for ‘capturing a proportion of value uplift in business rates or stamp duty’ along the Crossrail 2 route. It remains to be seen whether these or similar proposals are reflected in the findings of the review.
Newham Council has appointed Katherine Kerswell as Interim Chief Executive for a period of six months. She will replace Kim Bromley-Derry who announced in June that he intends to retire from the role on 31 August.
The Royal Institute of British Architects (RIBA) has announced that Alan Jones has been elected its new President and will succeed Ben Derbyshire next year.
Political blogs have been abuzz as the Tory party machine has been undergoing a bit of churn over the past few weeks, with several other senior party officers and Special Advisors reportedly on the move. One high-profile case is that of Carrie Symonds, the party’s Director of Communications, who is leaving GCHQ for a job in environmental campaigning.
Meanwhile, in the world of development, Grainger has appointed Tom Henry as National Acquisitions Director. He will be responsible for expanding the company’s major investment plans for the UK private rented sector and build to rent sector. He is due to start early next year.
Finally, we were saddened to hear news late last month of the passing of Councillor Matt Parr at the age of 61. Parr was elected as a Labour councillor in Coldharbour ward on Lambeth Council from 2010 and spent time as Vice-Chair of Scrutiny for Jobs, Homes and Investment during his time on the council. A by-election in the ward will be held on Thursday 13 September.
RAIL AGAINST THE MACHINE
Two notable developments affecting the railways have caught our eye over the summer weeks. Firstly, the media has given notable attention to Network Rail’s plans to sell its £1.4bn portfolio of 5,500 railway arches across England and Wales, and the future of those businesses who occupy them. Hackney-based campaign group Guardians of the Arches has suggested that any potential increases in rent proposed by a new landlord could force SMEs out of business and jeopardise an important element of affordable workspace in London. The group wrote to Transport Minister and Minister for London Jo Johnson with proposals to safeguard tenants earlier this month. Elsewhere, Johnson’s boss Chris Grayling has faced the ire of commuters for suggesting UK rail fares may increase by 3.2% in line with RPI in January. Not only that, but in an attempt to lessen the scale of fare increases Grayling has also alienated the rail unions for suggesting fare hikes could be raised at the lower rate of CPI, if rail staff would accept a downgrade to salary increases by the measurement of inflation. If the status quo is maintained, season ticket commuters from Brighton to London Victoria will likely see their fares increase by £139, and those travelling from Swindon to Paddington seeing their fares rise by as much as £280.
LESSONS FROM NEW ZEALAND?
Earlier this month, New Zealand’s parliament ratified a bill restricting foreigners’ right to own property in the country in an effort to make homes more affordable for locals. Relevant titles in the British press heralded it as a ‘ban on the sale of homes to foreign buyers’. However, the bill does not represent an outright ban. It rather introduces restrictions on how some foreigners can invest in property and especially existing homes. Those not affected by the ban include anyone with residency status or who already owns homes in New Zealand, as well as non-resident Australian and Singaporean nationals (due to existing free-trade agreements). Crucially, a late amendment also ensures overseas buyers will still be able to own up to 60% of units in large (20+ units), new build apartment buildings. Some British media outlets, notably the Guardian, have argued that the UK should take heed of the measure as one potential solution to Britain’s own affordable homes shortage The new law may or may not influence house prices and foreign investment, but it will take at least a few financial cycles to tell if it does investment – for better, or for worse.
THALES SHORTLISTED FOR INNOVATION AWARD
LCA client Thales UK has seen its Ground Transport Systems business shortlisted for the Innovation Award at this year’s London Infrastructure Summit. The awards recognise major achievements and achievers in the infrastructure sector that have supported a mission to make London the best city in the world to do business. Thales’ shortlisted entry is for the Four Lines Modernisation (4LM) project – a complete signalling upgrade across London Underground’s Circle, District, Hammersmith & City and Metropolitan lines, the world’s biggest project of its kind, and incredibly complex. The winners will be revealed at the London Infrastructure Summit Awards next month.
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 email@example.com.
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.