CLEARING THE AIR
The Mayor’s new Ultra Low Emission Zone is set to be launched next week and City Hall is firing on all cylinders.
This edition covers this major initiative – a key pledge in Sadiq’s 2016 manifesto – as well as a number of other stories on the Greater London Authority (GLA), covering transport infrastructure, housing, as well as the 2020 Mayoral and Assembly elections.
We also examine major property deals, key planning decisions, people moves and political developments across several London boroughs.
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ULEZ LIFTOFF IMMINENT
In April 2003 the then Mayor of London, Ken Livingstone, introduced the congestion charge to Central London. Here was a politician prepared to levy a new tax, barely a year before he stood for re-election. 16 years on, the current Mayor is doing much the same, this time introducing the Ultra Low Emission Zone (ULEZ), which from its introduction on Monday 8 April, will see vehicles which do not meet strict emissions standards charged a daily £12.50 fee to drive within the current congestion zone. As with the congestion charge, the ULEZ has its critics and has undoubtedly exhibited teething problems. However, those who say it’s come along too quickly and without enough warning should perhaps refer to page 63 of Sadiq’s spring 2016 manifesto, which clearly stated he aimed to ‘consult on bringing forward the Ultra-Low Emission Zone and expanding it along major arterial routes or a wider section of central London.’ Critics should also consider the negative impact of poor air quality, especially on children. Sadiq may have struggled to show enough progress in other areas – from tackling crime to delivering new infrastructure and housing – but his commitment to launching the ULEZ a year out from the 2020 Mayoral election demonstrates his personal commitment to tackling pollution. How the scheme operates and what difference it makes come May 2020 will be watched with interest.
£200m FOR AFFORDABLE HOUSING
The Mayor has announced the allocation of an additional £200m to ‘protect affordable homebuilding through Brexit’. The funds, to be released through the Mayor’s Affordable Homes Programme, are specifically for housing associations and reserved for homes that can be started in 2019. Even more specifically, the money will be allocated to help housing associations ‘switch homes from market sale or shared ownership to homes for rent at social or intermediate rent levels’. The GLA is somewhat less clear on where exactly the money is coming from, with Inside Housing citing Deputy Mayor for Housing James Murray as saying City Hall has ‘been able to identify £200m of budget headroom’. The announcement contains much about the threat of Brexit and insufficient government funding and refers to a letter to the government signed by the GLA, the G15 (a group of the capital’s biggest Housing Associations) and London Councils in February. That aside, the rather sudden announcement of this sizeable funding package suggests that City Hall has real concerns about meeting its affordable housing starts targets, which are conspicuous in their absence from the Mayor’s press release. The Mayor has committed to starting at least 14,000 affordable homes in 2018/19, rising to 17,000 in 2019/20.
Sadiq, apparently unfazed by TfL’s financial situation or the delays to Crossrail has issued a call to ‘transfer responsibility’ for rail infrastructure from Network Rail to TfL. He argued this could ‘pave the way’ towards transforming existing suburban rail lines into a ‘metro-style service’ for south and southeast London. Sadiq suggests the plan, which will no doubt appeal to voters south of the river, would also see the necessary funding ‘devolved’ to TfL from Network Rail. Only today, Parliament’s Public Accounts Committee released its report on Crossrail, while the results of the National Audit office’s investigation is expected in late April or early May. Amongst other conclusions, the report found that the collective‘fixation’ of the DfT, TfL and Crossrail on the December 2018 delivery date ‘led to warning signs that the programme was in trouble being missed or ignored’.
Meanwhile, TfL has announced Grainger as its preferred partner for the construction and management of its build to rent portfolio. TfL will hold 49% to Grainger’s 51% in the partnership, which is intended to build 3,000 homes clustered around eight TfL stations across the city. TfL has said that at least 40% of these will be affordable, suggesting that it will have to deliver more than 50%
STANHOPE WATERLOO WIN
The Guy’s and St Thomas’ Charity has announced that it has selected a joint venture between Stanhope and The Baupost Group as the preferred bidder for the purchase of a 1.5m sq ft site in Waterloo, which is understood to have a price tag of at least £200m. The charity has drawn up a masterplan for the redevelopment of the site as a ‘commercially-led, mixed use scheme’. Aside from making space for new offices and homes, the masterplan also commits the buyer to letting 350,000 sq ft for a new outpatients facility and clinical office space to the Guy’s and St Thomas’ NHS Foundation Trust, which runs the adjacent hospital.
LONDON ASSEMBLY LATEST
With just over a year to go until the London Assembly elections, LCA is closely monitoring candidate selection processes. The Conservatives seem to have announced all of their constituency and list candidates. Most recently, Eltham North (Greenwich) Councillor Charlie Davis was selected to run for the Greenwich & Lewisham seat, while Brunswick Park (Barnet) Councillor Roberto Weeden-Sanz was picked to contest Barnet & Camden (both of which are currently held by Labour). The Women’s Equality Party also revealed their candidate list this week. The Green Party and the Lib Dems announced most of their candidates months ago. As for Labour, which currently holds 12 of 25 seats on the Assembly, its selection process is still shrouded in mystery. We do know five Labour incumbents will not be standing again, including AM for Brent & Harrow Navin Shah, who confirmed only this week that he will not run for re-election after 12 years on the Assembly. Meanwhile, we were saddened to hear this week of the passing of Samantha Heath, a former Labour AM (2000-2004) and Wandsworth councillor (1994-2002), more recently CEO of the London Sustainability Exchange (LSX). Sam will be sorely missed. LCA will be making a donation in her memory to the work of LSX
VOTES OF NO CONFIDENCE
Two MPs from the wider London area have this week suffered votes of no confidence by their local parties. Conservative MP Dominic Grieve, a Remainer, lost a vote of confidence by 182 to 132 votes by his local association in his constituency of Beaconsfield, just beyond the border of Hillingdon. Closer to home, MP for Ealing Southall Virendra Sharma has become the seventh Labour MP to lose a vote of no confidence. The motion against Sharma was tabled as he had reportedly failed to attend a meeting of the local party for almost two years. Sharma, however, is adamant that the loss of the vote was ‘motivated by religious and racial grounds’ – a claim which according to relevant press coverage has been contested by local party chair and London Assembly Member Dr Onkar Sahota.
TOUCH THE SKY
The City of London’s Planning and Transport Committee yesterday approved controversial plans for the ‘Tulip’, voting 18 to 7 in their favour. Officers had recommended the scheme for approval. The new tower is designed by Foster + Partners on behalf of owners J Safra Group (and is located at 20 Bury Street, literally a stone’s throw from the Gherkin). The development is primarily a visitors’ attraction, centred on a ‘viewing platform with rotating pods’, a restaurant and sky bar. It will also provide amenities such as a publicly accessible rooftop terrace, education facilities, and a new pocket park at street level. If and when it is built, the 305.3-metre edifice would be the second tallest building in Western Europe, after the Shard. Due to its height, the building has been referred to the Mayor, whose planning officers had previously expressed doubts about its design. The proposals have meanwhile been forcefully opposed by groups including Historic England and Historic Royal Palaces. If greenlit by Sadiq, the project’s construction could potentially begin as early as 2020 allowing for completion by 2025.
There’s been a lot of movement of late at Lewisham Town Hall. It was announced on Monday that Mayor Damien Egan had nominated Downham Ward Councillor André Bourne as Cabinet Member responsible for Culture, Leisure, Sports & Night Time Economy. Prior to this appointment, this brief was shared by Councillors Brenda Dacres and Sophie McGeevor, who hold the Cabinet Member portfolio for Parks, Neighbourhoods and Transport as a job share. Meanwhile, two Lewisham Labour Councillors have resigned, triggering by-elections scheduled for 2 May: Whitefood ward Councillor Janet Daby, who also sits in Parliament as the Labour MP for Lewisham East, resigned from the council after nine years to focus on national politics. Daby last year won the constituency by-election triggered by the resignation of Heidi Alexander, following her appointment as Sadiq’s Deputy Mayor for Transport. Meanwhile, Evelyn ward Councillor Alex Feis-Bryce has also resigned, citing work commitments. Feis-Bryce is Chief Executive of Rights Info, a human rights charity. London political wonks will be closely watching the by-elections for the Whitefoot and Evelyn wards, whose result may well break Labour’s 100% control of the council – though Labour held both wards in May 2018, with comfortable majorities in both.
- Lesley Seary is set to retire after eight years as CEO at Islington Council next month. An interim chief executive will be appointed whilst her successor is selected. Apart from continuing to support her beloved Chelsea FC, she intends to take up a range of non executive roles.
- Jackie Belton, former Strategic Director of Corporate Services at Lambeth Council, has been recommended for the role of Chief Executive at Bexley Council. Her appointment is expected to be approved at a meeting of the Council on 17 April.
- Alice Lester MBE has moved from her role as Head of Planning at Brent Council to become Operational Director for Regeneration, Growth and Employment at the council.
- Workspace Group’s Jamie Hopkins is to leave his role as the firm’s Chief Executive at the end of May. He has cited ‘personal reasons’ for his decision to step down after seven years.
- The Observer’s architecture critic and columnist Rowan Moore is to take a five month sabbatical.
ANOTHER STABBING, ANOTHER SUMMIT
The Government’s week-long Serious Violence Summit began on Monday, in the midst of yet another spate of incidents across London, including a particularly disturbing series of stabbings in Enfield and deaths in Camden and Lambeth over the past few days alone. Joined by Sadiq, Met Police Commissioner Cressida Dick and others, the Prime Minister announced the launch of a consultation on the introduction of a ‘public health approach’ for England, modelled on schemes which have been successfully implemented in both Scotland and Wales. The Government’s renewed focus on crime has been broadly welcomed, but many have been alarmed by Home Office proposals which could see teachers and nurses ‘held accountable’ for failing to raise concerns about children at risk of becoming involved in knife crime. Meanwhile, the Mayor came under fire in the media at the weekend over his ‘soft justice scheme’, created to allow offenders to apologise to their victims face to face. While this has cost £1.3m since its implementation in 2016, figures provided to the media by the GLA COnservatives suggest it helped only 10 people. The Mayor’s Violence Reduction Unit (VRU), announced in September 2018, is now operational but is still focused on the preparatory stages of its work.
OFFICE TO RESI RANKINGS
Last week, Planning Resource issued some fascinating analysis of planning applications statistics, which were published earlier in March by the Ministry for Housing, Communities and Local Government (MHCLG). Among other useful observations, the specialist online news outlet points out that London accounts for 14 of the top 20 local authorities which received, accepted and rejected the highest number of applications for office to residential conversions under permitted development (PD) over the course of 2018. Indicatively:
- Conservative-controlled Barnet council alone saw no less than 36 applications for conversions, of which it allowed 23 – more than any other authority on both counts.
- It is followed on both rankings by Liberal Democrat-led Sutton, which received 33 applications and approved 22.
- Labour-led Brent is a close third on the list of those receiving applications, at 32, but tops the list of those for applications refused, at 19 (tied in the latter with Labour-led Hammersmith & Fulham).
The PD framework has enabled the rapid conversion of many a disused office block into much-needed homes. However, the poor quality of some of those homes and loss of employment space has proven controversial in some areas.
It would appear that Brent Labour Leader Muhammed Butt has recently joined Momentum. Those familiar with North London Labour politics will be aware that Butt has previously clashed with the party’s Corbynite faction on a number of issues and he was one of over 70 Labour Council and Group Leaders who co-signed a public letter condemning the Labour National Executive Committee’s (NEC) intervention against the Haringey Development Vehicle (HDV). Butt’s updated register of interests nevertheless confirms that he is now a paid-up member of Momentum. Furthermore, according to local blogs and social media chatter, Butt attended at least two Momentum events last month: A members’ meeting on nominating Labour candidates for the Brent & Harrow London Assembly constituency, as well a public protest in Willesden Green against Barclay’s bank’s investments in fossil fuels.
SPURS KICK OFF
Following the success of two test events, Tottenham Hotspur are set to officially open their new stadium tonight in a match against Crystal Palace. LCA has been working with the Club for over ten years, first on its training ground in Enfield and then on the stadium project, most recently communicating the stadium’s Local Area Management Plan to the local community. With many from LCA having attended the two test evets, we can tell you that the hype is real – the stadium bowl and the concourse and hospitality areas really are exceptional. It is an incredible stadium and we wish the Club well in their new home.
MUSEUM OF LONDON CALLING ALL EXHIBITION DESIGNERS
We are pleased to have supported our client the Museum of London to announce exciting news that they have officially launched their search for exhibition designers to develop the storytelling and visitor experiences in their new museum at West Smithfield. The chosen exhibition design partner will create the ‘Past Time’ displays for over 2,500 sq m of vast, atmospheric space underneath the General Market building in West Smithfield, which hasn’t been open to the public for decades. The museum is calling for innovative approaches to designing exhibition displays, and will select a shortlist of entrants this summer before announcing the winner. More information can be found here.
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