TRAINS, PLANES AND COVID-19
This week’s edition leads with several major transport stories, including the latest twist in Heathrow's third runway saga and a change of tone for the beleaguered Crossrail 2 project.
We also cover the official launch of Sadiq Khan’s Mayoral (re)election campaign, other news from the 2020 campaign trail and a changing of the guard in Southwark.
Many LDN readers will be particularly interested to hear that both the MIPIM and LREF conferences have been rescheduled – read on for the details – and for anyone interested in the big picture of London past, present and future, we recommend reading a new article by LCA Chairman Robert Gordon Clark for OnLondon.
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LONDON TRANSPORT LATEST
In major news for the capital, the Court of Appeal ruled on 27 February that the Government’s decision to grant approval for the construction of a third runway at Heathrow Airport was unlawful, as it failed to adequately take into account its climate change commitments. The Government has confirmed that it will not challenge the decision, and if it wishes to pursue the project any further, its National Policy Statement (NPS) will need to be reviewed to reflect its signing of the Paris Agreement.
There has been speculation that the Heathrow decision could put other major infrastructure projects at risk – and as if on cue, TV presenter and naturalist Chris Packham launched a legal challenge against HS2, on the basis that ‘essential submissions regarding environmental concerns were ignored’ in the Oakervee Review.
There is slightly better news, however, for Crossrail 2. After the National Infrastructure Commission expressed its support for the project in its Annual Monitoring Report, the Department for Transport revealed that it had approved the business case for the project, confirming that it will be included in the Spending Review, due to take place later this year – although what they mean by ‘include’ in cash terms remains to be seen…
There’s also mixed news on strikes. South Western Railway customers will be relieved to hear that strike action planned for 9, 10, 12, and 13 March has been suspended by the RMT union ‘to allow for further talks’ on a long-running dispute over guards on trains. But trouble is brewing at TfL, where hundreds of Unite members went on strike last Friday and where both the RMT and reportedly ASLEF are balloting thousands of workers on potential strike action over pay and leave allowances. Unite is also threatening a Heathrow baggage handlers’ strikes over the Easter holidays, also over pay. Beyond transport, UCU members began 14 days of strike action at 74 universities – 15 of them in London – last Thursday, in what the union claims is the ‘largest wave of strikes ever seen on UK campuses.’ The university strikes are part of another long-running labour dispute, over pensions, pay and conditions.
As of Monday, a new 20 mph speed limit is in force on all central London roads within the congestion charge zone run by TfL, in a drive to increase road safety. this change is part of Vision Zero, a joint effort by TfL, the Met Police and the Mayor of London to eradicate deaths and serious injuries from London roads by 2041. Some say it will not make much of a difference considering how slowly traffic moves in most of central London already, with the Licensed Taxi Drivers Association saying that ‘most people would love to go as fast as 20mph in the middle of London…average traffic speeds are 6mph’. The facts are quite clear though, you are much less likely to die or be seriously injured if hit by a car going 20mph rather than 30mph. The full list of roads on which the new limit will be enforced can be found here.
END OF AN ERA
Only hours after the last edition of LDN hit your inbox, Councillor Peter John announced he will be stepping down as Leader of Southwark Council and as Chair of London Councils on 25 March. Councillor John has not commented on the reasons for his departure. It is, however, clear that the man who has led Southwark for a full decade and the association of London’s boroughs for two years has made a considerable mark. Fellow Councillors at Southwark gave him a cross-party standing ovation at a Full Council meeting following his announcement and news of his decision has seen well-wishers from across the political spectrum voice their respect for his achievements, from Sadiq Khan, to former Conservative Minister and Mayoral candidate Steve Norris, and former Southwark Liberal Democrat opposition Councillor Ben Johnson. John’s successor at Southwark will be elected at a Full Council on the day he steps down and Camden Council Leader Councillor Georgia Gould of Camden will take over from him as Acting Chair of the London Councils association, until its June AGM.
Plans by Sainsbury’s, A2Dominion and Mount Anvil to redevelop a site next to New Cross Gate station have been scrapped. The proposals conflicted with plans for the extension of the Bakerloo line as the site in question had been identified by TfL as a potential ‘primary worksite’ for the project. A Sainsbury’s spokeswoman said that the lack of certainty around TfL’s plans for the Tube extension meant that the plans for over 1,100 new homes were ‘unfeasible’. Lewisham Council welcomed the news, with Mayor Damien Egan saying that the Council’s priority is ‘safeguarding the Bakerloo Line Extension route’ which he said would be ‘revolutionary’ for the borough. Local residents’ groups also expressed relief as they had argued that the proposals would have put pressure on local transport services, while local heritage groups had said that the proposed towers (the tallest at 33 storeys) would have had an adverse impact on Victorian conservation areas.
Chief Executive of British Land, Chris Grigg, is reportedly preparing to step down.
Meanwhile, Rupert Sebag-Monterfiore, current head of Savills, has been appointed non-executive director of OnTheMarket.
And Stuart Grant, Managing Director of Stanhope Plc, has decided to leave the company to set up his own real estate investment and asset management firm, CoreLife Investors.
THE RENT IS TOO DAMN HIGH
‘I am making the Mayoral Election on 7 May a referendum on rent controls’ said Sadiq Khan yesterday, at the official launch of his election campaign in Hackney. It seems the Mayor is taking a lead from the likes of Vote Leave in focusing his campaign on simple, stark, and popular messages. Indeed, according to polling, the idea of rent controls has considerable support across pretty much all demographics in the capital. Of course, simple messages and good polling do not a policy make. First, as Khan has repeatedly admitted, he doesn’t have the powers to implement rent controls. Second, he says that the Prime Minister will simply ‘have to’ give him the requisite powers if he is re-elected, but his plan for achieving this apparently rests on Boris Johnson giving in ‘because if he refuses to do so he will be denying the express democratic will of millions of Londoners’. Third, Khan’s language might actually risk alienating some voters, who may take issue with being told this is a single-issue election (implying that, for example, crime and transport are somehow incidental). That said, Khan has promised a detailed manifesto on those and other thorny issues. Perhaps his manifesto will also tell us more about what his rent control policy might actually look like - the ‘blueprint’ he published last year offers a few hints but little certainty.
IN OTHER NEWS FROM THE CAMPAIGN TRAIL
As for other contenders for the Mayoralty this week, Conservative candidate Shaun Bailey has continued to criticise the Mayor’s approach to tackling crime, writing in The Telegraph that if elected he will create a 150-strong ‘burglary flying squad’ to tackle this particular problem. He has also pledged to increase the Met’s capacity to a whopping 40,000 officers (currently at about 31,500), which he has said that he will fund through a ‘tourist tax’.
Lib Dem Siobhan Benita has focused on the importance of tackling climate change, saying that every ‘single policy coming out of City Hall should be done through a green lens’, calling the Silvertown Tunnel an ‘environmental betrayal’.
Meanwhile, Independent candidate Rory Stewart has criticised the BBC after he was left out of a report on knife crime that featured the ‘main’ (i.e. Labour, Lib Dem, Conservative and Green) mayoral candidates. Which is interesting, considering Stewart has arguably received more national media coverage than most of the other candidates in recent weeks. He will surely find some consolation in a lengthy GQ interview published on Monday, in which he discusses some of his policies, the ‘Come Kip With Me’ initiative and his candid views of the Mayor; he notes that Khan is seen on ‘red carpets’ but not ‘at the tape when someone’s been stabbed’.
On Saturday, London National Park City hosted a mayoral hustings at UCL, providing an opportunity to question candidates on how they would make London ‘greener, healthier, and wilder’. While all the main candidates were invited, Sadiq Khan (again) declined to attend, and Rory Stewart and Shaun Bailey both initially accepted the invitation before later pulling out. This left an all-female panel composed of Benita, the Greens’ Sian Berry, Independent candidate Rosalind Readhead, and Women’s Equality Party candidate Mandu Reid on stage. The candidates present noted their disappointment at their opponents’ no-show, with Berry in particular saying that Khan should have attended so that they could ‘hold him to account’ on environmental issues.
In the next few weeks, the candidates are expected to attend several other pre-election events (many of which the LCA Research Team will be attending) including the following:
THE CORONAVIRUS EFFECT
MIPIM Cannes has been formally rescheduled to 2-5 June and the Knight Frank Cycle to MIPIM has also been postponed, both due to due to concerns related to the coronavirus (Covid-19). LCA is meanwhile working hard to ensure that our clients and staff are as prepared as they can be for possible disruption related to the virus. We are also pleased to see that following a COBRA meeting, the Government has finally unveiled its ‘action plan’ for handling the outbreak.
Business and politics aside, what matters most is your well-being: stay informed on how to stay safe using reliable sources like the WHO, NHS and BBC.
LREF IN SEPTEMBER
While it may now appear extremely prescient, it was for entirely separate reasons that New London Architecture (NLA) had previously decided on a change of date and venue for the London Real Estate Forum. This annual fixture of London’s property sector calendar, traditionally held in June, will now be taking place on 9-10 September at the Barbican Centre. If anything, LREF is now better placed to set the agenda for the sector, avoiding clashes with other scheduled events and with a bit more time to spare for digesting the results of the May elections – though as reported by The Guardian over the weekend, the Government may well delay the local authority, mayoral and police and crime commissioner elections ‘if the coronavirus outbreak continues to escalate.’
HISTORIC ENGLAND ON TOWERS AND DINOSAURS
Historic England has only today launched a consultation on its new draft Advice Note for the planning and design of tall buildings, which has been updated ‘in response to recent changes in the National Planning Policy Framework (NPPF)’ and ‘recent good practice.’ Planners, designers and developers of tall buildings should indeed take note, as the organisation is the Government's statutory adviser on the historic environment and invariably weighs in on planning applications.
Separately, Historic England has added Crystal Palace Park’s Grade I listed, life-size statues of dinosaurs and other extinct animals to its Risk Register, to raise awareness of efforts to repair and conserve the 30 remarkable sculptures created by Benjamin Waterhouse Hawkins in 1852-5.
The Conservatives have held the Hillingdon East council seat (located in the Prime Minister’s constituency, no less) at a by-election on 27 February, with an impressive 68.8% of the vote. Triggered by the resignation of long-serving Tory councillor Pat Jackson, there was a 9-point swing to Conservative candidate Colleen Sullivan and a 12-point swing away from Labour. Lib Dem, Green and UKIP candidates also contested the by-election.
LCA SUPPORTS INTERNATIONAL WOMEN’S DAY EVENT
LCA is proud to have supported the Northbank, Victoria and Victoria Westminster Business Improvement Districts on their panel event to celebrate International Women’s Day. The event took place on Tuesday, chaired by ITV News Arts Editor Nina Nannar, with the debate focused on the future of women in the workplace. Sadie Morgan, founding director of Stirling Prize winning architecture practice dRMM, Dowshan Humzah, Steering Board member of 50:50 Parliament, Inclusion and Diversity expert Roianne Nedd and Head of Legal at HB Reavis, Anna Butler had a lively and thought-provoking debate on issues including quotas, ethnic diversity and the need to talk more forthrightly about the issues. Next week the women of LCA will be using their own discussion over lunch to continue the conversation and mark IWD 2020.
1990-2020 AND BEYOND
Spring 2020 marks the 30th anniversary of our Chairman, Robert Gordon Clark, starting to work on the London scene. He has written a new article for OnLondon, considering how the city has evolved in the three decades past and what that tells us about its future – with a focus on how business should work with London’s political leaders, to make sure our ever-changing metropolis continues thriving.
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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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