LONDON’S INS AND OUTS
In the shadow of ongoing political churn in Whitehall and Westminster over the draft EU withdrawal agreement, this week’s edition features some high-profile resignations and appointments in the spheres of politics and development.
We also cover a number of major planning and development stories, from Westminster City Council’s new draft City Plan, to the revived Bishopsgate Goodsyard proposals and two new Mayoral call-ins.
Aside from the above, we look at the use of the Community Infrastructure Levy (CIL) by London’s local authorities, as well as some of the latest news from the London Assembly, the wider property development sector, and the capital’s seemingly endless transport woes.
As always, we’d love to hear your feedback and do follow us on Twitter @LDNComms if you don’t already.
JOHNSON WITHDRAWAL SYNDROME?
Jo Johnson MP, Transport Minister and – lest we forget – Minister for London – resigned from the Cabinet on 9 November. In leaving his role, Boris Johnson’s Remain-supporting brother vocally rejected the ‘false choice between the PM’s deal and ‘no deal’ chaos’ and threw his weight behind calls for a second referendum. Johnson’s is the 14th ministerial resignation in just over a year and was announced only days before Theresa May began briefing Cabinet members on a proposed draft withdrawal agreement put together by No10 and the EU’s negotiating teams. The agreement is expected to be finalised this week. May has spent the last 48 hours fighting to secure ministers’ approval in a series of one-to-one meetings and – as of the writing of this newsletter – in a formal Cabinet Meeting, with speculation raging about more potential resignations or even a mutiny by backbenchers. In the wake of Johnson’s resignation, it was suggested by fellow Tory MP Dominic Grieve that there is a ‘sea change’ in the mood amongst backbenchers and that, aside from the more obvious possibility that many Brexiteers will rebel, more Remain-supporting ministers could resign over the PM’s proposals.
Parliamentary Under Secretary of State for Transport Jesse Norman MP has been promoted to Minister of State for Transport – though his areas of responsibility appear unchanged from those he held previously, and it remains unclear whether he will take on Johnson’s rail brief. Meanwhile Nick Hurd, MP for Ruislip, Northwood and Pinner in north London, has been appointed Minister for London on top of his current brief as Home Office Minister for Police and Fire Services. Hurd is the 6th Minister for London since 2009, when the late Tessa Jowell held the post.
WESTMINSTER CITY PLAN PUBLISHED
Westminster City Council published their new Local Plan – or City Plan, as this particular London borough brands its keystone spatial planning policy - for 2019-2040 at an event earlier this week. The Plan’s publication follows a gruelling two years of debate and revision and this final draft has clearly been informed by events over recent months. The May local elections (which saw Labour gain ground in the borough), and the negative publicity surrounding the conduct of a former planning committee chair appear to have compelled the council’s Tory leadership to reconsider its approach to development, housing and planning more generally, recognising that it has been losing support from Conservative voters. As for the contents of the Plan itself, key points include:
- An ambitious target of 1,495 new homes per year (almost 50% more than in the Mayor’s new draft London Plan), for a total of 29,900 homes total between 2019 and 2040;
- A 35% affordable housing requirement for new developments, broadly in alignment with the new London Plan, though with a preferred split of 60% intermediate and 40% social or affordable rent;
- Measures restricting the development of so-called ‘mega mansions’ by setting floor space and bedroom number caps on new homes;
- Restrictions to the heights of new buildings with a maximum of 20 storeys in Paddington and 12 in Victoria;
- Commitments to protect and invest in key commercial districts, including the wider West End and Oxford Street District.
The Plan will now go through consultation, which will close on 21st December 2018. Meanwhile, the council’s plans for Oxford Street are also being consulted until 16 December.
The joint venture between Hammerson and Ballymore has unveiled significantly amended plans for the long awaited redevelopment of Bishopsgate Goodsyard in the Shoreditch High Street area. The new plans released for consultation foresee a much smaller residential component and significantly scaled down heights compared to those submitted in 2014, which were opposed by Hackney and Tower Hamlets. The original plans also faced resistance from both Boris and Sadiq’s administrations, even after a first round of amendments submitted in 2015. That scheme, featuring towers of up to 46 storeys and 1,356 homes, has now given way to a maximum height of 29 storeys and a total of 250 homes, with what appears to be more than twice as much floor space dedicated to offices, affordable workspace, and a new hotel, as well public space. The plans also incorporate a boosted proportion – if not absolute number of – affordable homes, from 15.8% to 35%, which translates into roughly 230 vs 90 homes. The new scheme is expected to be re-submitted to the GLA early next year, as a further amendment to the previous application.
…AND OTHER MAYORAL CALL-INS
Meanwhile, Sadiq has quietly called in two further projects for City Hall to consider as the planning authority (the tenth and eleventh during his tenure). Both are in Tory boroughs which were minded to refuse them. And in both cases, the Mayor has cited their under-delivery of new affordable homes against London Plan targets as one of the justifications for his decision.
- The Kensington Forum Hotel’s redevelopment plans foresee a 749-bed hotel, 340 serviced apartments and 46 homes (of which 43% will be affordable - 11 social rented and 9 intermediate) in a building up to 30 storeys. The application from developers Rockwell and investors Queensgate was rejected by Kensington & Chelsea’s planning committee this September, mainly due to dissatisfaction with its proposed height, massing and design. In his call in decision the Mayor said that the proposed development has the potential to make an important contribution to the London’s tourist economy, employment opportunities and affordable housing stock.
- Plans from developers Meadow Residential for the redevelopment of Pentavia Retail Park in Barnet propose the demolition of existing buildings on the site and their replacement with 717 new Build to Rent homes (35% of which would be at Discount Market Rate, i.e. at 80% of market rates) in 18 buildings of up to 15 storeys, as well as the reprovision of some commercial space. The plans were rejected by Barnet mainly on grounds of height and scale, as well as unsatisfactory levels of affordable housing. The Mayor’s relevant decision suggests he is more confident than the council that the development has the potential to contribute to London’s affordable housing supply. But GLA officers’ assessment of the scheme suggests that City Hall will seek an enhanced affordable offer.
- Redrow Executive Chairman – also the company’s founder and co-owner – Steve Morgan is to step down from his position in March. He will be succeeded by Chief Executive John Tutte.
- Meanwhile, Persimmon Chief Executive Jeff Fairburn is stepping down by ‘mutual agreement and at the request of the company’. As of 31 December, David Jenkinson, currently the company’s Managing Director, will take over as Interim Chief Executive.
- Croydon Labour Councillors Paul Scott and Muhammad Ali have resigned from their positions as Chair and Vice Chair of the Council’s planning committee. Unusually, the decision was not trailled in the relevant committee meeting’s agenda, but as attested by the meeting’s webcast, fellow councillors barely skipped a beat in appointing Councillor Toni Letts as Chair and (re)appointing Scott as… Vice Chair. Scott meanwhile remains Croydon’s Cabinet Member for Environment, Transport & Regeneration (in a Job Share with Councillor Stuart King).
- Ealing Labour has held Dormers Wells ward in a by-election won by Mohinder Kaur Midha with 1,868 votes and a comfortable majority of 437 votes. The by-election was triggered by the passing of Councillor Tej Ram Bagha in September.
FROM THE ASSEMBLY
The past week has seen announcements by two London Assembly committees – both chaired by opposition Members – in the news. Liberal Democrat AM Caroline Pidgeon, Chair of the Transport Committee, has called Khan’s response to enquiries about Crossrail’s delays ‘most unsatisfactory’. Pidgeon suggested that Khan knew of the delays well before he informed the Assembly of them. Meanwhile, Green Party AM Sian Berry, who heads up the Housing Committee, has published a report which recommends that the Mayor oversee the creation of a social housing commissioner, or czar, to promote the views of residents, in the wake of the Grenfell disaster. The report further suggests that City Hall actively supports the Government’s proposed assessment of social landlords’ performance and ensures that the future allocation of GLA funding to social landlords is based on improvements made in terms of transparency and management.
COMMUNITY INFRASTRUCTURE LEVY
Recent research by the Local Government Chronicle (LGC) and the Association for Consultancy and Engineering (ACE) has highlighted regional disparities in England with regards to Community Infrastructure Levy (CIL) collecting and spending. The study found that a mere 47% of councils across England collect the funds – and while two thirds of London’s 32 boroughs levy a CIL, only one third of all 40 eligible councils in the East Midlands do so. The research also found that 69% of all CIL collected between 2014 and July 2018 in England was raised in London and the south-east. But while London boroughs collected £176 million in that period, according to the study, £132 million of this remains unspent. The GLA collected just under £500 million from the Mayor’s Community Infrastructure Levy (MCIL), all of which has been spent on Crossrail, for which the MCIL was specifically created. A new ‘MCIL2’ is set to be introduced in April 2019 following an independent examination, superseding the current MCIL (or MCIL1), with the aim of raising £4.5 billion of funding for the yet to be finally approved Crossrail 2.
HERITAGE AT RISK REGISTER UPDATE
Historic England has added 242 new entries to its Heritage at Risk register, and also removed 318 entries. The register aims to help protect and manage historic sites by identifying and highlighting those most at risk of neglect and degradation. 22 of the new additions are located in London, including the tombs of architects Thomas and Philip Hardwick in Kensington, a drinking fountain in Lincoln’s Inn Fields and the former Savoy Cinema in Brent. London sites taken off the list due to successful restoration most notably include Gunnersbury Park mansion, the former home of the Rothschild family. To mark the register’s 20th anniversary, Historic England has showcased 20 of the most important sites ‘rescued’ after being listed on the register, including the iconic Granary Building in King’s Cross, which is now home to the University of the Arts London.
L&Q is partnering with smaller housing associations across London to unlock small sites through the Build London Partnership programme. The initiative will support SME housing association partners with the development process, from inception to completion, to hand over completed homes at cost. When originally launched this past June, the programme focused on supporting nine Black and Minority Ethnic (BME) housing associations. But L&Q has significantly expanded the scope of the programme, which is now open to all London SME housing associations – and the scheme now has 16 partners. Jointly funded by the L&Q Foundation and the Greater London Authority (GLA), the programme aims to start on 1,000 new affordable homes across the capital by March 2022. The programme will see the L&Q Foundation invest £100m and the GLA contribute an additional £80m. Meanwhile, L&Q has created a brand new team – Strategic Partnerships - to procure land and build the new homes, focusing on small sites and schemes of up to 50 homes.
GVA TO BE ACQUIRED BY AVISON YOUNG
Canadian real estate firm Avison Young and private equity firm EQT have entered an agreement which will see the former acquire planning consultancy GVA for a reported £200 million The move will merge GVA with Avison Young’s existing UK operations, which include offices in London, Manchester, Coventry and the Thames Valley. The merger is expected to result in 19 offices and a 1,600-strong team across the country and is set to be finalised in the first quarter of 2019.
LONDON COUNCILS SUMMIT
Our Executive Chairman Robert Gordon Clark and the LSE’s Professor Tony Travers will be delivering their tenth annual London Councils Summit 2018 political briefing to London’s elected councillors at the Guildhall this Saturday. As in previous years, Robert and Tony will be unpicking the outcomes of the last elections, providing insight into the headline political developments across London’s 33 boroughs in the five months since, as well as discussing the main challenges facing the parties in the next 12 months. But this year, they will also be conducting a live quiz – modelled on BBC’s Pointless game show – to test the political acumen of their illustrious audience. The session will be chaired by Municipal Journal Editor Heather Jameson
Robert and the Professor preparing for Saturday's ‘Pointless’ show (Tony wearing Robert’s glasses in an attempt to look more like Richard Osman)
NORTHBANK BID AIR QUAL EVENT
LCA client the Northbank BID hosted a briefing for businesses on air quality on Tuesday morning. Representatives from Westminster City Council, Cross River Partnership and the GLA reviewed the work being undertaken to reduce the impact of poor air quality in the Northbank area as well as across London. Academics from Kings College London also looked at the current state of air quality in the capital and the practical solutions to improve it as well as reducing personal exposure, and LCA partner Chris Madel chaired a panel session where local businesses asked about steps they could take to improve air quality whilst ensuring that their operations were unaffected. The session was particularly timely given the fast approaching ‘Black Friday’ and the drive from the GLA and local councils to get businesses to more effectively manage the ever increasing number of postal deliveries which have a significant impact on London’s air quality.
The Talks by HB Reavis conference series brings together thought leaders from a range of industries to breach the boundaries of their individual knowledge and experience. LCA attended a Talks event this week, which heard from acclaimed retail and consumer futurist Doug Stephens, who talked about the importance of storytelling and creating immersive experiences for customers in the new age of retail and e-commerce. Liv Boeree, an astrophysicist, philanthropist and Team PokerStars pro told us how she plots her way through life making decisions based on probability, telling the audience ‘The world we live in is a card game. It’s governed by chance and physics’. We also heard from Tom Cassidy, a coach and training specialist who gave us a masterclass on productivity in the workplace. Finally physicist and innovator Gabor Forgacs took to the stage and spoke about the pioneering efforts being made in building organs and living structures through bio-printing. The event also featured stations where attendees could see the power of virtual reality, facial recognition and aroma marketing in action. LCA are proud to be working with HB Reavis across a number of projects and it was wonderful to be part of such a successful event at the Bankside Vaults.
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.
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