CONNECTIONS, SELECTIONS, ELECTIONS
A first look at the new TfL budget and Crossrail update, progress on Enfield’s £6bn Meridian Water regeneration scheme and a new resi deal for Westfield in Stratford are but a few of this week’s big London stories covered below.
There’s also a politics update for those following the London Assembly, news of recent and upcoming by-elections and a cultural journey across the capital.
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After months of speculation, it has been confirmed that Victoria Coach Station will not be moving to Royal Oak station in Bayswater. Both local residents and councillors had opposed the proposal, claiming the move would increase congestion and pollution in an area with multiple schools. The decision was confirmed in a letter from Sadiq to local politicians Karen Buck MP, Assembly Member Tony Devenish and Westminster councillors, in which the Mayor explained that following investigation, it became apparent that the Royal Oak site ‘presented significant challenges’ in terms of its ‘day to day’ and ‘viability’. TfL is now understood to be refocusing its efforts on other locations and options for the coach station and looking at ‘alternative mixed-use proposals’ for the Royal Oak site.
100% AFFORDABLE AT MERIDIAN WATER
Enfield Council (an LCA client) is now looking for partners to bring forward the first 100% affordable housing scheme at Meridian Water, alongside new workspaces. The procurement for the site, known as Meridian Two, was launched at an event with the Council Leader, Nesil Caliskan, this morning. It is the second Meridian Water site to be procured using the Greater London Authority’s Development Panel 2 and will see 200-250 new affordable homes and workspaces built.
As reported previously, left-of-centre candidates now dominate the London Labour Regional Board. More recent reports suggest that the regional candidate selection committee is now similarly dominated by left-leaning members. Meanwhile, the Labour National Executive Committee (NEC) has also voted to change the rules for selecting Assembly candidates. The impact of this is that that sitting Labour AMs (both Londonwide and constituency) may find it harder to secure re-selection. According to media reports, unnamed ‘City Hall sources’ are concerned that leftist firebrands could unseat experienced, ‘moderate’ Labour AMs and demand a radical election manifesto. Sadiq, himself a ‘moderate’, has largely managed to stay above Labour’s internal strife to date but these latest developments could make that harder, especially when it comes to policy development for 2020-2024.
Meanwhile, the Conservatives are gradually advancing with their own selections for London Assembly posts. Neil Garratt was selected in late February to contest the Croydon and Sutton constituency (which will be vacated by Steve O’Connell when he steps down this May) and Gregory Stafford has this week been selected as the party’s candidate for the Ealing & Hillingdon constituency (which is currently held by Labour’s Dr Onkar Sahota). Stafford is currently a Tory Councillor for Hanger Hill and Leader of the Opposition on Ealing Council.
- The Norbury and Pollards Hill by-election in Croydon on 14 March saw the Labour party hold the seat, with their candidate Leila Ben-Hassel receiving 64.5% of the vote, an estimated 3.3% swing away from the party.
- The by-election for former Lambeth Leader Lib Peck’s seat in Thornton ward has been set for 11 April.
- The Liberal Democrat Leader and MP for Twickenham, Sir Vince Cable, announced last week that he will step down as party Leader after the May local elections this year – though he will stay on as an MP. This is despite the fact that he had said in September he would stand down only ‘once Brexit is resolved or stopped’.
- Meanwhile, Conservative MP for Grantham and Stamford Nick Boles has resigned from his local Conservative Association, though not the party, over Brexit. Many LDN readers will recall Boles previously served as a Planning Minister, but he has also more recently been an instrumental figure in a cross-party group which has campaigned to secure an extension to Article 50 beyond 29 March, block a no-deal Brexit, and promote a solution to the present impasse dubbed ‘common market 2.0’.
- Haringey Council’s cabinet member for finance, Patrick Berryman, has resigned from his post (while remaining Labour Councillor for Bounds Green ward). His letter of resignation claims that much of the Cabinet’s decision-making has ‘lacked proper process’, that Haringey Labour’s manifesto pledges have been ‘watered down or ignored’ and that ‘financially risky and imprudent’ choices have been made without his input. Berryman criticizes the dismissal of two cabinet colleagues on New Years’ Eve by Council Leader Ejiofor – asserting that they were ‘arbitrarily sacked’.
TfL BUDGET ALLOCATIONS
Earlier today, TfL published the Agenda and Papers for its next Board Meeting, which is to take place on Wednesday 27 March. Crucially, this includes TfL’s draft Budget for 2019/20 and a Crossrail update. TfL’s press release is upbeat, highlighting progress towards ‘breaking even’ in 2022/23 and triumphantly announcing that ‘tight financial management’ means that it will ‘halve our projected operating deficit to £500m for 2018/19’. But the documents actually underline TfL and City Hall’s concerns about TfL’s finances, particularly in connection to the financial impact of Crossrail’s delayed delivery, sustained cuts to TfL’s operational funding from the Government and an uncertain economic environment. The LCA team is still working its way through the budget and the rest of the 254-page pack, so for the time being, we leave you with a headline assessment by the London School of Economics’ Professor Tony Travers, as cited by the BBC earlier today: ‘Behind the upbeat headlines, TfL finances are still on a knife edge.’
GLA LOAN QUESTIONED
The Mayor has taken flak in the press over a decision to extend a £21.8m loan from the Homes for Londoners Land Fund to American property developer Anthology to build 250+ homes on a former NHS site in Lambeth. City AM cites Caroline Pidgeon, Liberal Democrat AM, as saying that ‘allowing huge publicly funded loans to be made to private developers with so little public scrutiny is a recipe for future disasters’. The newspaper also cites an anonymous source as expressing unspecified doubts about the developer’s affordable housing offer (and claiming there is ‘tension between Lambeth Council and the developer’). City AM also pointedly underlines that the firm has not yet submitted a planning application for its scheme. However, the same article explains that this is a repayable loan – not a grant – which furthermore comes with various conditions, including but not limited to a 50% affordable homes offer. For more details, see the actual decision published back in December here.
POTENTIAL HOME OFFICE LOCATIONS
Croydon’s Whitgift Shopping Centre may become the headquarters of the Home Office, under plans to relocate the government department to the borough and continue to move civil servants from central London. However the redevelopment of the shopping centre, set to become Westfield Croydon, has been delayed and according to the developer is under review. If this location is selected, then owners Unibail-Rodamco-Westfield (URW) will have to revise their current plans for 500,000 sq ft of retail space and 600 new homes. Adaptation of the site for the Home Office would require a ‘bespoke’ design, particularly given the requirement that it include an immigration centre. The department currently has an office in Croydon, the lease for which expires in 2024, and is reportedly in talks with other landowners in the borough regarding the potential pre-let of office schemes.
WESTFIELD STRATFORD RESI
Meanwhile, URW is set to realise its first foray into housing, announcing the signing of a conditional agreement with pension fund PSP Investments and developer QuadReal Property Group. This will enable it to proceed with the construction of a £670m, 1,200-home build to rent development next to its Stratford shopping centre. The scheme, called Cherry Park Development, will also include a gym and pool as well as workspace and public areas. PSP and QuadReal will each take a 37.5% share in the Cherry Park Partnership, while URW will retain a 25% share and act as the development and asset manager. The project has already received planning approval from the London Legacy Development Corporation (LLDC) and construction is expected to start later this year, with the development due to be completed after 2023.
SLIPPED IN WITH THE SPRING STATEMENT
We noted in last week’s edition that the Ministry of Housing, Communities and Local Government (MHCLG) made several key announcements in a Written Ministerial Statement issued almost at the same time as the Chancellor’s Spring Statement. In brief, these include:
- A preliminary response to Sir Oliver Letwin’s review of build out rates, in which the Secretary of State welcomed its key findings and recommendations and promised that his department will ‘shortly’ publish ‘additional planning guidance on housing diversification’ and, later this year, publish an Accelerated Planning Green Paper.
- A similarly headline overview of the government’s intentions for reforms to support high streets, in the coming weeks and months. These include measures to provide a greater degree of clarity in defining certain commercial and retail use classes (but also flexibility to enable shifting between these), a toolkit to help local planning authorities reshape their high streets (including through the use of compulsory purchases) and an imminent ‘package of permitted development right measures in the spring’.
Meanwhile, MHCLG has also announced that Councils across England will get ‘an immediate cash boost from a £9.75m fund’ to support a range of ‘locally-led high street spring clean’ campaigns. This mini-boost will help them to buy litter pickers and gloves, provide training for residents on how to remove graffiti or tackle fly-tipping, as well as organise events to encourage participation by volunteers.
NATIONAL PORTRAIT GALLERY
It has been confirmed that the Sackler Trust is to withdraw its £1m donation for the refurbishment of the National Portrait Gallery. This comes after photographer Nan Goldin had threatened to withdraw an exhibition of her work in protest over allegations concerning the Trust’s connections to the ongoing ‘opioid crisis’ in the US. In a joint statement, the Trust and the Gallery said that if it were to have gone ahead, the donation may have worked to ‘deflect’ the Gallery from its ‘important’ work.
- London First, in collaboration with London Councils and Turley, has published the second edition of a report on build to rent in London. Aside from an interesting overview of the sector as it stands, it also offers a comprehensive overview of London boroughs’ policy approach to build to rent.
- A report published by West London Business has suggested that West London is ‘the world’s most connected place’. The report defines connectivity as ‘the ability for people, ideas, information to move across physical or virtual boundaries to do business locally and globally’ and points specifically to the excellent transport links in the area, as well as the ‘immense strength’ of its diverse population.
- It is also worth noting that, over the course of a Monday’s Committee session on the Draft Registration of Overseas Entities Bill in the Lords, peers heard from a representative of international NGO Global Witness which recently published a report on the ownership of property by ‘anonymous companies registered in tax havens’ in England and Wales. The study found that the areas with the highest number of such properties are Westminster with 10,000, Kensington & Chelsea with almost 6,000, Camden with over 2,000 and Tower Hamlets with just under 2,000
POLLINS' MND WALK
Last week, our friend Richard Pollins, who runs ITV London’s news desk, raised over £60,000 for the Motor Neurone Disease Association by completing a 40km walk around London over four days. He went from King’s College Hospital in Denmark Hill to Woodside Park, via landmarks such as The Shard and Trafalgar Square. For those who don’t know Richard, you may wonder why this accomplishment is of significance, given the numerous and often more demanding challenges we all hear about regularly. Well, Richard was born without legs and completed this challenge on crutches, enduring some very wet and windy weather in the process. We at LCA were delighted to have supported his walk, partly to mark the achievement and partly in memory of our old friend Alan Davidson who died last year having suffered from MND for a number of years. If you’d like to contribute, you still can via Richard’s JustGiving page.
LONDON: CENTRE STAGE
Only yesterday, Deputy Mayor for Culture and the Creative Industries Justine Simons launched City Hall’s first Cultural Infrastructure Plan, which aims to protect and expand London’s constellation of cultural venues and infrastructure. The plan was released alongside a Cultural InfrastructureToolbox to help local authorities, cultural institutions, developers and other businesses contribute to this effort, as well as an open-access Cultural Infrastructure Map, which charts London’s existing cultural facilities and locations, from 3,530 pubs to 165 public museums and galleries.
LCA’s past week can attest to the vibrancy of the capital’s great cultural and heritage offer, which has expanded well beyond its old haunts in central London. Last Thursday, our Chairman Robert Gordon Clark attended the opening night of Headlong Theatre’s Richard III, at a newly refurbished stage at Alexandra Palace, a former LCA client. Robert then visited an exhibition of the work of Anish Kapoor at the remodelled Pitzhanger Manor in Ealing, another former LCA client. On Monday, Robert, along with our Managing Director Jonny Popper and Board Director Chris Madel, attended the press night for the Devil You Know Theatre Company’s political drama, The Rubenstein Kiss, at the Southwark Playhouse, a production which our Chairman has personally supported.
LCA CLIENTS IN RIBA AWARDS
This week the Royal Institute of British Architects (RIBA) announced the shortlist of projects considered for their annual London Awards. We were very proud to see a number of our past and present clients’ projects make the shortlist – including Coal Drops Yard at King’s Cross, Alexandra Palace and Television Centre. The full list can be seen here. We wish them all good luck!
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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