EVERYTHING UNDER THE SUN
Recent developments are a reminder of how our city can be brutal and beautiful, busy and blocked, all at the same time.
A terrorist attack in Lambeth has given us pause. Meanwhile, doubts over the future of HS2 and Heathrow expansion, as well as lengthy planning battles over estate regeneration, also illustrate that not everything runs smoothly.
But nothing really stops London. Mayoral candidates are out and about banging their respective drums in the leadup to 7 May, while London’s Councils and NHS Trusts are pushing forward with sizeable redevelopment plans. London’s new Deputy Mayor for Housing better get his feet under the table quickly!
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Sunday saw yet another terror-related attack in London, the eleventh to occur in the past decade. Sudesh Amman, aged 20, injured three people with a knife on Streatham High Road, before he was shot dead by police. Much like the perpetrator of the last such attack at Fishmonger’s Hall in December, Amman had been convicted of terror offences. He had been released from prison just days earlier – after serving half of his sentence – and was still under police surveillance and various restrictions. The Mayor has called for reassurances that those convicted of terror-related crimes are being ‘properly punished and reformed’ and blamed Government policies for an attack that was ‘preventable and foreseeable’. The Government has in turn pledged to push through legislation that will ensure convicted terrorists stay in prison for longer, among other measures. There is not nearly enough space here to fully cover the complex debates surrounding radicalisation and terrorism in the UK, but one point is worth underlining: Amman was no stranger to this city. He was raised and schooled in Harrow, jailed in Greenwich and died in Lambeth.
James Murray’s election to parliament in December left his position of Deputy Mayor for Housing and Residential Development vacant – and filled on an interim basis by Jules Pipe, the Deputy Mayor for Regeneration, Planning and Skills. Last Friday, Sadiq announced Tom Copley, currently a Labour Assembly Member (Londonwide) and Lewisham Councillor (Sydenham ward), as his pick to replace Murray on a full-time basis. Copley will very much be in his element in this new role; in the Assembly he is the Labour Group’s Housing Spokesperson, the Chair of the Housing Committee and the lead author of numerous reports on everything from permitted development to homelessness. Over in Lewisham, he is the Vice-Chair of Planning. And as underlined by the Mayor’s announcement, Copley has ‘rightly earned his reputation as a relentless campaigner’ – Sadiq should know, as a motion co-signed by Copley and Green Party AM Sian Berry played no small part in bringing estate regeneration ballots to the forefront of City Hall’s housing policy. Copley will be stepping down from his Assembly and Council roles in due course, but City Hall has not clarified when exactly he will be taking up his new job (promising the details ‘shortly’).
...AND OTHER PEOPLE MOVES
- Landsec has announced that Mark Allan will start as its new CEO from 1 May. Current CEO and Director Robert Noel will step down on 31 March, with current CFO Martin Greenslade taking on the role of acting CEO in the interim period.
- The City of London Corporation has appointed its current Assistant Director of Design Gwyn Richards as its interim chief planning officer. Richards will replace Annie Hampson OBE upon her retirement in March 2020.
- Development Director Kiran Pawar has left HB Reavis after three years and will be joining IV Real Estate.
- James Clark, Head of Housing Strategy at the Greater London Authority, will be moving over to MHCLG as Deputy Director for Housing Strategy.
Plans to redevelop the Winstanley and York Road Estates in Battersea have been given the green light by Wandsworth Council. A joint venture between the Council and Taylor Wimpey has been granted outline planning permission to demolish existing buildings containing 759 homes, to deliver 2,550 homes in their place, as well as a new public park, leisure and community centre, library, children’s centre and nursery. According to these plans, 35% of the new homes will be affordable, including 484 homes for social rent (compared to 527 currently on the estate, as highlighted by Planning Resource). Detailed permission for 502 homes (including 264 affordable homes) on the site was also granted. The application will now be considered by the Mayor who may take issue with the net loss of social housing – and as underlined by Inside Housing, things are very likely to get political, considering Sadiq (a former Tooting MP) has been critical of planning decisions made by ‘Thatcher’s favourite borough’ in the past. Even if all goes according to plan, the redevelopment of the estates would be complete no earlier than the 2030s.
BUILDING LONDON SUMMIT
LCA attended last week’s Building London Summit, an annual fixture for the capital’s built environment sector, convened by business association London First. With three months to go to 7 May, we were hoping that the event would provide us and the wider audience with some insight into what the Mayoral candidates are planning, but we left with more questions than answers. The Conservatives’ Shaun Bailey, Lib Dems’ Siobhan Benita, Green Party’s Sian Berry, and independent candidate Rory Stewart gave attendees only the vaguest impressions of their intentions for the built environment, with no major new policy pledges – and nothing in the form of a comprehensive vision for planning, housing and infrastructure. As for Sadiq, he wasn’t there. Former Deputy Mayor for Housing James Murray stood in as his surrogate, with his interventions largely limited to defending City Hall’s policies and performance since 2016. We can charitably conclude that the snap General Election disrupted the candidates’ campaigns and manifesto-writing, but the clock is now ticking.
MAKING A SPLASH
All the above aside, this past week has seen a burst of media appearances and pledges. Conservative candidate Shaun Bailey has promised to use the money from a new hotel levy to fund art galleries in a wide-ranging interview with the Standard (he first proposed the levy back in May 2019, but had then said he would use the proceeds to fund more police officers). In a Brexit day speech, Lib Dem Siobhan Benita mentioned she would establish a new international trade team in City Hall, ‘focused on forging business links between London and other major cities across the globe’ (which does however sound like the existing London & Partners agency’s brief), as well as safeguard the capital’s links with European cities and universities. Similarly keen to preserve London’s European connections, Rory Stewart has pledged £15m to set up a mayoral scholarship enabling 5,000 students from London universities to spend time studying in Europe (a regional alternative to the Erasmus scheme whose continuation was voted down by MPs earlier this month). Stewart also promised to invest mayoral funds in more UK border staff to make it quicker for EU citizens to get through immigration queues at London airports and the Eurostar channel tunnel terminal.
SPEAKING OF STEWART
It is also worth noting that Stewart has received considerable coverage from national mainstream media – giving him considerably more exposure that his party-backed counterparts. Following the Streatham attack, Stewart spoke on Talk Radio, Channel 4 News, and the Victoria Derbyshire show, with his former Prisons Minister hat on, detailing proposals for preventing similar attacks in the future. As noted by veteran London correspondent Dave Hill, the media’s fascination with Stewart must be very frustrating for his opponents and particularly ‘maddening’ for the Conservatives. Stewart’s campaign has meanwhile launched a new logo and website – the third iteration of these, by our count, since he declared he would run last October
As for Sadiq Khan, his big move this week has been to publish his tax return and urge other candidates to do likewise ‘in the interests of transparency’. So far only Rory Stewart and Sian Berry have done so (the latter tweeting that her income is already detailed in her declaration of interests). Shaun Bailey has said that he will publish his own tax return shortly and Siobhan Benita has also pledged to publish hers as well as use part of her salary if elected to fund a ‘Young Mayor of London’. But Benita and Stewart also questioned Khan’s commitment to transparency more generally, arguing that he’ll have to do more than publish his tax returns to convince Londoners he is focused on his job (and delivering on his promises).
HS2 V HEATHROW
Whoever our new Mayor is, come May, he or she will still be beholden to central Government for news on the future of the capital’s major infrastructure projects. Boris has once again deferred a final decision on HS2 though there are plenty of rumours swirling about which way it will go. If you need a primer, the Financial Times has published a handy roundup of the arguments for and against. Meanwhile, Heathrow’s biggest shareholder Ferrovial has said it might not invest in the expansion (and implied it might even sell its 25% share in the airport) if it does not see ‘adequate returns’ on its investment, even as Easyjet, JetBlue, Virgin Atlantic, other businesses and unions have teamed up to demand that Johnson end ‘decades of dithering’ over the Heathrow expansion. Some have speculated that the government may be considering a devilish political trade-off between the two projects. For now, we wait.
WEST LONDON NHS MERGER
NHS England has approved the merger of the Royal Brompton and Harefield Foundation Trust with Guy’s and St Thomas’. The merger will entail the relocation of the entirety of Royal Brompton’s services from its current site in Chelsea to Guy’s Westminster Bridge facilities. While warmly welcomed by the Royal Brompton & Harefield NHS Foundation Trust, the plans have been greeted with scepticism in other quarters, with the Imperial College Healthcare Trust and Chelsea and Westminster Hospital Foundation Trust arguing that the services should stay a bit closer to their current home. According to the Naylor review, the Chelsea site could be worth up to £1bn if sold for redevelopment. The Health Services Journal reports that the plans were first floated in 2017 and the merger may now, with the blessing of NHS England, be complete by April 2021.
NATIONAL PLANNING LATEST
The Government-appointed Building Better, Building Beautiful Commission last week published its report, ‘Living with beauty’. It makes 130 recommendations, including a ‘fast track for beauty’ which would allow ‘developments which improve their local area […] to make more speedy progress through the planning system’ as well as the introduction of minimum standards for permitted development rights. The Government will issue its response ‘in due course’ – watch this space, as it is likely to include some important clues about its intentions for planning reform.
Meanwhile, the High Court has ruled that unincorporated associations, including neighbourhood forums, can bring judicial reviews or statutory challenges against decisions made by public authorities. The ruling stemmed from a case in Leeds, in which the Aireborough Neighbourhood Development Forum sought to challenge Leeds City Council’s adoption of its Site Allocation Plan (SAP). The Council had argued that the Forum could not legally challenge the adoption on the basis that it is an unincorporated association. The hearing will take place later this month
IN OTHER NEWS
It’s been a week of symbolic gestures in London politics – and not just in the context of the 2020 Mayoral race. In City Hall, one of several motions submitted for Members’ consideration at tomorrow’s Plenary session of the London Assembly ‘calls on the Chair of the Assembly and the Mayor to write jointly to the College of Arms to apply to have the [now defunct] Greater London Council’s coat of arms transferred to the Greater London Authority’ on the occasion of its 20th anniversary. The motion, supported by outgoing AMs Tom Copley (Labour) and Tony Arbour (Conservative), is non-binding.
Labour-led Hammersmith & Fulham Council has meanwhile announced its intention to twin with a town in each of the 27 EU member countries (it is already twinned with five), as well as to launch an annual festival of art, culture and cuisines to be held on Europe Day (9 May), and to continue flying the EU flag over its town hall indefinitely – all in an effort to reiterate ‘its commitment to its EU citizens and to European cooperation.’
LONDON MEANS BUSINESS
With Brexit-induced uncertainty somewhat allayed, at least for now, London seems to be back to its busy, bustling old self. Space, especially office and events space, remains at a premium and the past week has seen a couple of developments which have caught our eye. Independent hospitality company Green & Fortune has clinched a £15m contract as exclusive operator of all hospitality and retail catering services at Central Hall Westminster, central London’s largest conference venue. Meanwhile, online retail giant Amazon is reportedly on the lookout for 200,000 sq ft of additional office space. Stay busy London.
AND SO DO WE!
And if we sense London is busy, it’s in no small part because we certainly are. This month alone we are organising 14 consultation events, on a variety of development projects across seven London boroughs. These range from mixed use, residential-led schemes in in the King’s Cross and Royal Docks areas, to shopping centre redevelopment plans north of the Thames, and a major NHS programme project to the south. Most of these are supported by our dedicated in-house design team, who have prepared the necessary print and digital consultation materials to support our community engagement.
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