PLANES, PLANNING, PEOPLE - PROGRESS?
There’s been progress in one way or another this week, on lots of fronts, with Heathrow and other troubled infrastructure projects ploughing ahead against strong headwinds (though the potential future PM doesn’t seem too keen on at least two of them…) and the Mayor issuing two key planning decisions. Meanwhile, lack of progress in other areas is being seriously called into question by many Londoners, who commemorated the second anniversary of the Grenfell fire with sombre marches.
As for the LCA team’s own week? We had barely recovered from LREF before hitting the road again for the London Festival of Architecture.
There is one major story not covered in detail by today’s LDN, but there is no avoiding it. Much of the relevant media attention has focused on the transatlantic tit-for-tat between Donald Trump, Sadiq Khan and now Jeremy Hunt, on who is to blame for the spike in London’s knife crime. Blame-slinging aside, there is no escaping the grim reality that five people – including two teenagers – have been stabbed to death in London, since Friday alone.
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Almost three decades since expansion plans were first floated, Heathrow Airport has revealed its ‘preferred masterplan’ – and appears closer to realising its ambitions for a controversial third runway than it has for many years. This new masterplan is now the subject of a further consultation, which will run until 13 September and inform the airport’s Development Consent Order (DCO) application, to be submitted next year. The masterplan outlines the phased delivery of a new runway, new terminals and other major works starting as early as 2022. Crucially, it also incorporates a host of other plans to manage the proposed expansion’s various impacts. The expansion is expected to result in increased emissions and noise, require the use of some green belt land and the displacement of two existing settlements, giving rise to numerous political and legal challenges. While sustained and vociferous, opposition to the plans by environmental and residents’ groups, the area’s local councils and MPs, as well as the Mayor of London and London Assembly, have so far only slowed down the process. In the past year alone Heathrow won the support of Parliament and defeated multiple High Court challenges.
Meanwhile the frontrunner for the Tory Party leadership (and the UK’s premiership) has been suspiciously silent on this issue. In 2015, then-Mayor of London Boris Johnson had famously promised to lie down in front of bulldozers to prevent the expansion. He then continued to agitate against the project as MP for Uxbridge and South Ruislip. But in his first televised debate yesterday evening, he was equivocal at best. This followed a Times report last week and subsequent statements by fellow Tory MP Andrea Leadsom, who both suggested that he have changed his mind. Could a U-turn from Boris prove the decisive factor?
GLA HOUSING MONITOR
The London Assembly Housing Committee last week published its latest Affordable Housing Monitor. While the Committee ostensibly releases this report on an annual basis, the previous edition was published only seven months ago. In any case, a session on 13 June was dedicated to unpicking the findings. Addressing the Committee, Deputy Mayor for Housing and Residential Development James Murray stuck faithfully to City Hall’s line on housing delivery in London. He asserted that further devolution is needed to enable the delivery of more homes and that Brexit is causing unhelpful uncertainty, but also offered assurances that the target of 116,000 affordable starts supported directly by the Mayor until 2021/22 is still achievable. AMs from all parties – including the Committee’s Labour Chair Tom Copley – expressed concerns about the accessibility, accuracy and level of detail of the data provided by City Hall’s reporting on housing starts and delivery. Insofar as the available numbers offer any clarity, London as a whole is currently producing about half of the 66,000 additional new homes a year it needs – though the Mayor is just about hitting his annual targets for affordable housing starts he directly supports.
SADIQ SIGNETH OFF WITH ONE HAND...
City Hall last week announced that the Mayor’s Office has granted planning permission for a major component of the East Bank regeneration scheme led by the London Legacy Development Corporation (LLDC) on the Queen Elizabeth Olympic Park. The permission specifically covers four buildings, up to 27 storeys tall, which comprise the Stratford Waterfront site. These buildings will host a 550-seat dance theatre for Sadler’s Wells, a complex for the Victoria & Albert Museum, music studios for the BBC and a campus for University of the Arts London’s (UAL) London College of Fashion, as well as ‘up to 600 homes’. Responsibility for final approval of this application was, on this occasion delegated by Sadiq to his Statutory Deputy Mayor Joanne McCartney (who is also Deputy Mayor for Education & Childcare and Labour Assembly Member for Enfield & Haringey) . It is also notable that City Hall’s announcement is tailed by a note that the Mayor has ‘confirmed that at least 50% of new homes across the remaining development sites on the Park – Stratford Waterfront, Pudding Mill and Rick Roberts Way – will be genuinely affordable’. This is perhaps because according to the hybrid application for Stratford Waterfront previously approved by the LLDC’s planning committee in April (the final Mayoral decision has not been published as of writing), this particular site would provide only 35% affordable, all intermediate.
…AND CALLETH IN WITH THE OTHER (#16)
Meanwhile, only two days before the East Bank decision, City Hall called in the application for a mixed-use scheme in Wandsworth, after the Conservative-led council resolved to refuse planning permission. The application for the redevelopment of ‘9, 11 and 19 Osiers Road’, by developer Holybrook Limited, entails the construction of three buildings of up to 14 storeys on brownfield land, providing 168 homes (39% affordable, split 50/50 intermediate shared ownership and affordable rented) and 3,805 sq.m. of flexible commercial space. It would appear that while Wandsworth’s refusal focused on the density and height of the scheme, GLA planning officers are quite content with this aspect of the proposed development, which they characterise as ‘well designed’ in their Stage 2 report. In his letter notifying Wandsworth that he is calling in the scheme, Deputy Mayor for Planning, Regeneration and Skills Jules Pipe points to affordable housing as the key issue at stake. Pipe asserts that there is ‘a significant undersupply of affordable housing in the pipeline’ in Wandsworth and that ‘the proposed development has potential to make an important contribution’ to the supply of new homes. This is the 16th call-in of a major planning application in the first three years of Sadiq’s tenure.
Survivors, the families of the 72 victims, campaign groups, firefighters and many hundreds of others marched through the capital on 14 June to mark the second anniversary of the Grenfell fire. Campaigners projected messages onto several high rise buildings across England, highlighting the fire risks still faced by residents of many tower blocks ‘This building still hasn’t kept its promises’ was also beamed onto the Houses of Parliament. According to the Government’s latest statistics, published on a monthly basis, there are still 328 high rise residential and publicly-owned buildings, 102 social sector residential buildings and 163 private sector residential buildings in England ‘with ACM cladding systems unlikely to meet Building Regulations' which have 'yet to be remediated’.
- Architect Sir Nicholas Grimshaw has announced he will be stepping down as Chair of the practice he founded in 1980. He will be succeeded by Andrew Whalley, who has himself been with the practice for 33 years and has served as Deputy Chairman for the last eight.
- LDA Design Managing Director Colin Goodrum is to be succeeded by landscape architect Mike Foster, who has been with the firm for 18 years.
- Gary Yardley has announced he is stepping down from his roles as Managing Director, Chief Investment Officer and board director of CapCo, a major landowner in the Covent Garden area and developer of the Earls Court scheme. He will leave the company by the end of the month and Group Development Director Mike Hood will step up to lead on Earls Court. It has not been confirmed who will replace Yardley on the board.
CHUKA CHUCKS CHANGE UK
Former Labour and Change UK MP Chuka Umunna has now joined the Liberal Democrats, boosting the number of Lib Dem MPs in the Commons to 12. The MP for Streatham was one of six Labour MPs who resigned from the Labour Party in February 2019, in protest over the party’s stance on Brexit. They then came together with three former Conservative MPs to form Change UK, (previously known as The Independent Group). Following Change UK's poor showing at the European Parliament elections in May, in which they received just 3% of the vote, Umunna and five other of its MPs slit from the party. Having been speedily appointed as his new party’s Treasury and Business spokesman, it has been speculated that the new Lib Dem MP, whose seat is currently Streatham in Lambeth, could stand at the next general election in current leader Sir Vince Cable’s seat of Twickenham in Richmond, when he retires. As for Change UK, the party is now down to five MPs, under the leadership of former Conservative MP Anna Soubry, and once again in the process of changing its name, this time to The Independent Group for Change following legal challenge from petitions website Change.org.
After many months of almost constant bad press, key rail projects in London have shown some progress. Crossrail has surpassed a major hurdle in carrying out its first testing of multiple trains running in close formation. Rolling out the Elizabeth Line’s complex signalling system has been one of the project’s biggest technical challenges, so this is welcome news. However, more recent news that Crossrail contractor Kier Group is to cut 1,200 jobs and sell (or shut down) several subsidiaries in a cost-cutting drive has again raised the level of concern surrounding the project. Meanwhile, back to more positive news, the London Underground's Northern Line extension, which will see an additional branch of the line running from Kennington to Battersea Power Station, has also reported an important milestone. An engineering train has, for the first time, travelled across the entire 3.2km length of the extension. With tunnels and rail now fully in place, works will focus on fitting out the two new stations at Nine Elms and Battersea Power Station , as well as installing power supply and signalling systems.
For its part, HS2 has not fared quite as well. While the launch of the Power Up The North campaign two weeks ago saw Northern newspapers and businesses broadcast their support for the project, Boris Johnson has suggested he would – assuming he succeeds in taking up residence at No10 Downing Street – order an ominous-sounding ‘independent review’ of the project.
A SUMMER OF PROTESTS?
The RMT trade union has started a five day strike to protest South Western Rail’s (SWR) plans to remove guards from their services. The industrial action affecting a number of routes began yesterday and will run until 22 June, affecting thousands of commuters who travel in and out of Waterloo on SWR services every day. However, the union is also threatening two further strikes, one over pay and the other over job losses, which could affect Transort for London (TfL) services throughout the summer. It is expected that confirmation of these will be received in the coming days. Meanwhile, on 15 June Extinction Rebellion protestors, stopped traffic in Lewisham during rush hour to raise awareness of the dangerously high levels of air pollution in the area. The group had also previously threatened to use drones to disrupt flights at Heathrow airport over the summer, but have now called off the action.
LCA CLIENTS AT THE LONDON FESTIVAL OF ARCHITECTURE
LCA client the Northbank BID is hosting a panel discussion on practical approaches to improving London’s air quality on 25 June, as part of the London Festival of Architecture (and with the support of King’s College London). Hattie Hartman, Sustainability Editor of The Architects’ Journal, will be chairing an panel including Ben Rogers, Director of Centre for London; Ines Marques, a designer from The Future of Walking; Dr Ian Mudway, Lecturer in Respiratory Toxicology at King’s College; Alison Gregory, Environment & Sustainability Manager at the Northbank BID; and Westminster’s Cabinet Member for Environment and City Management, Councillor Tim Mitchell. Click here to find out more and register.
Another client, architectural practice Stride Treglown, has unveiled a striking new installation as part of the Festival. The Redivider pavilion has been developed by a team of four architects working in collaboration with Robert Bird Group, Huxlo, Marazzi UK and BAM. It challenges visitors to explore emotions associated with social media, translating the digital world into a physical experience. Visitors can experience this interactive installation at the Marlborough Sports Garden on Union Street (SE1 1SD) until 27 June – and if you drop by between 12:00-2:00pm tomorrow, you will also have the opportunity to meet its makers!
LOOKING BACK AT LREF
Last week, the NLA and our client Pipers hosted the London Real Estate Forum, where over 2,500 delegates attended more than 80 panel events, project presentations and lectures. This year’s two-day conference was centred around ‘People, not property’, with broadcaster, ‘fashionista’ and disability activist Sinead Burke setting the tone on the opening night by challenging the development community to work harder and improve diversity and accessibility within the industry. While the conference covered many of the usual themes, it was refreshing to see that a lot of this year’s focus was on mental health, with the Crown Estate’s Henrietta Fraser memorably asserting that the health and well-being of workers has moved on from being a ‘HR note to a bottom line issue’. Well said.
LCA CULTURE CLUB
Our very own Chairman, Robert Gordon Clark, is in the premiere of Six Bad Poets, a ‘farce in verse’ play written by award-winning writer and poet Christopher Reid. It runs this week at arelatively new professional venue, the Playground Theatre on Latimer Road from Thursday 20 to Saturday 22 June. Robert is playing Charles Prime, ‘an old forgotten poet’ back in town, fresh from two failed marriages and a spell in gaol. In his own words: ‘This show is very London, very funny and having seen a staged reading of it last year, I was delighted to be cast in the premiere..’
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