RESULTS, REFLECTIONS AND NOW, RECUPERATION
It was only a few days ago that we wrote to you all with our initial take on the election results and what they meant for London.
Since then we have been doing some more analysis on what the new political landscape looks like and tomorrow, Thursday, you get an extra Christmas present from us with a special London focused General Election briefing, which should be in your inbox by lunch time.
Meanwhile, read on below to find out who takes on the Minister for London role, when you might finally get to ride Crossrail and what’s next for the new London Plan.
The LDN editorial team will be taking a restorative break over the Christmas holiday and we hope all our readers are looking forward to some downtime too! We will be back on Wednesday 8 January, refreshed and ready for yet another election campaign in the lead-up to the May 2020 London Mayoral and Assembly Elections.
Until then Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year - thanks for reading in 2019!
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CAR GIANT VINDICATED
In news many may have missed amidst the melee of the election results on Friday morning, the Old Oak and Park Royal Development Corporation (OPDC) announced that it is changing its strategy for bringing forward their regeneration plans. More specifically, and in what is a great result for LCA client Car Giant, the OPDC has confirmed that it is scrapping all proposals for development on Car Giant’s land, cancelling its planned compulsory purchase and no longer progressing with its bid for £250m from the Government’s Housing Infrastructure Fund. The news, welcomed by Car Giant, follows a report from the Inspector reviewing the OPDC Draft Local Plan issued back in September which ruled that the Corporation’s plans for the Car Giant site were unviable and that the site should be removed from the Plan. The OPDC now says it will focus on other development sites in collaboration with Network Rail and HS2, the largest public sector land-owners in the area. With the Car Giant land also set to be retained as Strategic Industrial Land, owner Geoff Warren immediately confirmed major expansion plans to further grow the company’s mega car processing plant and set up a new Electrical Vehicle Centre to help Londoners make the shift away from fossil-fuelled vehicles.
LONDON PLAN LATEST
With the General Election now done and dusted (more analysis on its outcome below), the Greater London Authority (GLA) is decidedly back in business. The Mayor has already quietly issued his ‘intend to publish’ draft of the London Plan following its Examination in Public (EiP) by a Panel of Inspectors, who issued their report and recommendations in October. The Mayor has accepted, wholly or in part, most of these. His concessions include a reduced new homes target (from 65,000 to 52,000 a year) and scaled down ambitions for the delivery of new homes on small sites. But the Mayor also pushes back on 15 recommendations. He insists on retaining strict protections on Green Belt and Metropolitan Open Land; he defends his total ban on fracking; he stands by his policies encouraging mixed-use development on Strategic Industrial Land; and he also seeks to maintain a nuanced approach to airport expansion. It is now down to the Communities Secretary to approve this latest draft, or direct changes, before it goes to the London Assembly for final discussion and in all likelihood, ratification.
IN THE ASSEMBLY
Meanwhile, the Mayor’s draft Budget for 2020/21 is now running a gauntlet of no less than eight Assembly scrutiny sessions spearheaded by the Budget Performance & Scrutiny Committee. There are three this week, looking at an early draft of the Group Budget as a whole as well as the budgets for the London Legacy Development Corporation (LLDC), London Fire Brigade and Metropolitan Police Service. There is also what is sure to be a boisterous Mayor’s Question Time session on Thursday. Congratulations are of course in order for two Assembly Members: Labour AM for Lambeth and Southwark Florence Eshalomi was elected MP for Vauxhall, while Conservative AM for Bexley and Bromley Gareth Bacon was elected MP for Orpington. It has been confirmed that neither will contest the London Assembly elections in May next year but will retain their Assembly seats until then. Bacon has already stood down as leader of the GLA Conservatives and has been replaced in this capacity by AM Susan Hall. Separately, the Assembly Planning Committee has published a letter to the Mayor on his ‘call-in’ powers for planning applications, recommending that he discourage the practice of applicants actively requesting call-ins, change the rules regarding site visits and hearings, and ensure that ‘called-in’ applications meet relevant criteria. The Mayor has been asked to respond by 7 February.
The London Assembly Transport Committee also sat this week to talk Crossrail. Sadiq himself was questioned alongside Deputy Mayor for Transport Heidi Alexander, TfL Commissioner Mike Brown, Crossrail Ltd Chair Tony Meggs, and Crossrail Ltd Chief Executive Mark Wild about the progress of the project – with a particular focus on last month’s disclosure of additional delays and cost hikes. During the session it emerged that this may be worse than expected, as under questioning by Lib Dem AM Caroline Pidgeon, Wild conceded that the 9-12 month testing process, checking the trains running through the central section may not begin until October – it was hoped it would start in February. The knock-on effect is that the final opening date is now more likely Autumn 2021, almost three years after the original opening date of December 2018. Guests did offer the Committee assurances that the project remains under control and that further details regarding opening dates will come forward in early 2020. This news comes just days after the Reading to Paddington section of Crossrail opened to passengers, operating for the moment under the TfL Rail brand.
We have a bumper crop of people moves to report this week:
- Newly re-elected Conservative MP for Croydon South Chris Philp has been appointed as the new Minister for London, succeeding Nick Hurd, who stood down at the election. Philp will also continue as a Parliamentary Under Secretary of State at the Ministry of Justice.
- Another newly re-elected MP, Labour MP for Westminster North Karen Buck, has been appointed as Chair of Sadiq Khan’s 2020 Mayoral campaign. Buck is also working closely with Sadiq’s team on the development of his rent control proposals.
- Claire Dutch, Partner and Head of Planning at Hogan Lovells International LLP has announced she will be joining Ashurst as Co-Head of their planning team.
- Housebuilder Redrow has promoted Mark Parker to Regional Chief Executive of Redrow Greater London. He was previously the company’s Divisional Managing Director for East London.
- Knight Frank has promoted James Clarke to Head of London Sales in its residential team. Clarke previously led the Central London sales team and will begin in this new role from April 2020.
- London Travelwatch has appointed Emma Gibson as its new Director. Gibson joins the capital’s passenger watchdog having previously worked for Greenpeace and Friends of the Earth.
SO WHERE ARE WE HEADED?
Following last week’s conclusive election results (see LCA’s early results briefings here), the path now seems clear for Brexit to be implemented on 31 January. Parliament is back in session, with MPs being sworn in over two days, Labour’s Sir Lindsay Hoyle re-elected as Speaker of the House yesterday, a Queen’s Speech scheduled for tomorrow and the first reading of an amended Withdrawal Agreement Bill (which rules out any further extensions) set for Friday. The Prime Minister has presided over a very limited Cabinet reshuffle – with almost all Cabinet Secretaries still in place. It is rumoured that a more extensive reorganisation, possibly coupled with a rather radical restructuring of Whitehall departments masterminded by Prime Ministerial advisor Dominic Cummings, is due in February, as is the UK’s first post-Brexit Budget. Assuming the Withdrawal Agreement is ratified and enacted as planned, the Spring will see the Government splitting its attention between yet another complex negotiating process with the EU over a future trade relationship and efforts to refine and implement an ambitious but still vague domestic agenda. An agenda which is likely to be keyed towards addressing regional imbalances (real and perceived) and ending (maybe?) the era of austerity, with renewed public spending to boost core public services and kickstart economic growth.
The election has led both the Labour Party and the Liberal Democrats to start the hunt for new leaders. Calls for Jeremy Corbyn to stand down emerged as soon as the exit poll was released and in the days since, senior figures in the party, from Tony Blair to Sadiq Khan, have been severely critical of his tenure at the top. Only today, Emily Thornberry (MP for Islington South and Finsbury) threw her hat into the ring. Rumours are rife that flatmates Rebecca Long-Bailey and Angela Rayner will stand as Leader and Deputy Leader candidates respectively. Despite widespread calls for the next leader to be from outside London, it is assumed that aside from Thornberry, Sir Keir Starmer (MP for Holborn and St Pancras) is also likely to stand. Other possible contenders include Wigan MP Lisa Nandy and MP for Birmingham Yardley Jess Phillips, with former leadership contender Yvette Cooper, MP for Normanton, Pontefract and Castleford, reported to be thinking about it over the Christmas break. The timetable for the leadership contest is expected on 7 January.
As for the Lib Dems, the loss of Jo Swinson’s East Dunbartonshire seat was yet another blow for the party on a night when their net total of seats fell. Interim joint leaders Ed Davey, MP for Kingston and Surbiton and Baroness Sal Brinton have both been tipped as potential for the permanent post, as have MP for Oxford West and Abingdon Layla Moran and MP for Bath Wera Hobhouse, while new MP for St Albans Daisy Cooper has not ruled herself out of the race.
Prominent figures from around the capital have been quick off the mark to lobby the new Government:
- Chief Executive of London First Jasmine Whitbread expressed her hope that the Prime Minister would resume the commitment to ‘vital infrastructure schemes’ and champion ‘an open forward-looking Britain’ he did during his time as Mayor of London.
- Peter Bishop, Chief Executive of the London Chamber of Commerce and Industry (LCCI), welcomed the ‘clear result’ of the election and urged the new government ‘to agree a realistic transition period in order to negotiate a future trading arrangement with Europe’.
- The City of London Corporation’s Catherine McGuinness writes in City A.M. that the three priorities for the City are now ‘Brexit, infrastructure, and access to talent’.
- Centre for London’s Ben Rogers has also published a piece about London’s place in the new government’s agenda.
- OnLondon’s Dave Hill urges the government to ensure that London is not neglected amidst their plans to woo their new voters in the North and Midlands.
THE VIEW FROM THE MARKET
Whatever one’s personal politics, it is clear that the election result has been welcomed by the markets – and not least the property sector. Companies including Berkeley Group, Persimmon, Savills, Taylor Wimpey and even Foxtons were among the ‘top risers’ on the London Stock Exchange on Friday morning. A number of widely-reported property stories over the weekend also reflect this enthusiasm, as well as the London market’s strong fundamentals: The Sunday Times report that Berkeley Group has closed a deal on a Morrisons site in Camden for £120m; an Estates Gazette spread showcases Hong Kong-based Tenacity Group’s plans for a new 33-storey tower in the City; and an unnamed ‘super-rich European family’ has, according to the Guardian, bought a house in central London for £65m, ‘saying their decision was a direct result of Boris Johnson’s election victory.’ Looking ahead, Rightmove’s latest House Price Index, released on Monday, predicts a 2% rise in the price of property coming to market in 2020 nationwide (with a more ‘modest’ but still notable rise of 1% in London).
It would have been easy to miss but five new ward councillors were also elected on 12 December, producing four holds for Labour and one gain for the Conservatives.
- In Camden, Gail McAnena-Wood was elected as the new Labour councillor for Haverstock ward with a majority of 2,334.
- Labour’s Gulcin Ozdemir was elected as a councillor for St George’s ward in Islington with a majority of 417.
- Clissold ward in Hackney also returned a Labour councillor. Kofo David achieved a 2,187 vote majority.
- In Hounslow, Labour’s Balraj Sarai held Heston West ward with majority of 2,128 and Conservative candidate Kuldeep Tak took Feltham North ward from Labour with a majority of only 50.
IT’S THE TAKING PART THAT COUNTS
Whoever you voted for last Thursday, we hope you went out and voted! The LCA team took to social media to show off their dedication to democratic participation, posting snaps from polling stations across London and the Home Counties. Check out some of the highlights below and make sure to follow us, so you don’t miss a beat @LDNComms
SOMETHING FOR THE WHOLE FAMILY
Planning to spend the weekend in London with the family? Why not head to King’s Cross’ Canopy Christmas Market (Dec 20-22), for an action-packed, fun weekend. Kids can take part in a whole array of festive free workshops – make baubles with The Design Museum, screen print an advent calendar, create a Christmas song using Artificial Intelligence with the Alan Turing Institute, sing-a-long with the karaoke Christmas band and more. While you’re there why not pick up some last-minute gifts, or a special something for the Christmas table at Canopy Market Larder or visit some of the great shops in Coal Drops Yard.
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