THE FIVE STAGES OF LOCKDOWN?
If there is such a thing as the five stages of lockdown, it feels very much like we have made it through the first (denial?), are almost beyond the second (scramble?) and are now approaching the third (adjustment?).
Parliament is back in session, local planning committees are meeting and we are attending conferences and networking events - albeit via the magic of technology. All of which we cover below.
Of course, all of this is happening amid heightened anxiety and palpable grief. For those we have lost to this new disease, for those we might lose and for those on the very frontline of the fight against the pandemic.
Along with the NHS, local government is also very much a part of the cavalry and it’s not an easy place to be; they are society’s safety net and the social care burden falls to them. Meanwhile there are no funding guarantees and there are still bins to empty and streets to clean.
Below we look at just a few examples of how the public sector is rising to this monumental challenge as well as how the private sector is considering its own future in light of a changed universe.
Please do send us examples of how your own organisations are taking on the challenge, if there are positives to be found they are in the resilience and compassion of Londoners and in everyone’s determination to reach stage four (recovery) and stage five (bounce back!) as quickly as we can.
If you don't already, follow us on Twitter and Instagram and feel free to visit our website for more information on LCA’s team, services, and clients.
As always, thanks for reading, from Jenna Goldberg, Editor and LCA Director
- According to the latest GLA update on Coronavirus in London, on Saturday 18 April, a further 82 people who tested positive for the virus were confirmed to have died in London hospitals, bringing the total number in the capital's hospitals to 3,825 to date.
- In a recent email to London Labour members, Mayor Sadiq Khan said that it ‘does now seem hopeful that we might have reached the peak in London and should now slowly see the number of Londoners losing their lives every day begin to reduce’. However, he also stressed that we cannot be complacent, and that the extension of the lockdown for another three weeks was ‘the right decision’.
- Khan has meanwhile been lobbying the government to recommend the use of non-medical face coverings when it is difficult to keep a safe social distance from others. His position is supported by 100 UK doctors, who wrote a Times letter on Saturday calling on the government to take action and urge the public to wear homemade facemasks.
- The Mayor is also calling on the government to introduce three new policies to protect renters from eviction during the pandemic. His proposed ‘triple lock’ protection involves immediately increasing welfare support for renters, scrapping Section 21 ‘no fault’ evictions, and preventing private landlords from evicting tenants who have accrued arrears as a result of COVID-19 once the temporary suspension of court proceedings is lifted in June.
- The Mayor has further launched Pay it Forward, a crowdfunding scheme to help small businesses in London to stay afloat. Khan is urging Londoners to buy goods and services in advance and has also agreed to invest an additional £1m into extending business support over the coming 12 months.
- The Mayor has meanwhile written an article in the Guardian on how people from BAME backgrounds are disproportionately affected by the pandemic and called on the government to commit to routinely collecting and publishing data on the demographics of everyone impacted by the virus. Additionally, Khan has spoken out about the impact of the pandemic on his own mental health in an interview with Glamour Magazine.
- Despite earlier reports suggesting that it had plenty of capacity, London’s Nightingale hospital has reportedly turned away around 50 patients needing ‘life or death’ treatment. Around 30 of these were apparently turned away due to a lack of nurses.
- Footage of Met Police officers participating in a ‘clap for carers’ on a crowded Westminster Bridge on Thursday sparked criticism on social media as some officers did not appear to be observing social distancing rules. The Mayor expressed his concern that the rules were not being followed, and Downing Street eventually intervened urging everyone to ‘take responsibility’ so that ‘we can safely show our appreciation for those who are working so hard to fight coronavirus’.
- According to the latest update from the Port of London Authority, a critical part of the city’s infrastructure, large commercial vessels have continued to arrive and depart with 287 ship movements via the Thames recorded last week. While shipping has fallen since the outbreak of coronavirus, as supply chains increasingly focus on essentials, the PLA’s teams are continuing to operate its 24-hour day port control service, providing on-demand pilotage for large vessels, and carrying out essential repairs and maintenances, all of which ensures the river remains safe and open for business.
- The Leader of Southwark Council and Chair of London Councils, Peter John, has warned that councils may have to make additional cuts to their services. The government had made a commitment to councils that they could ‘spend now and the government will see you right later’ but John said that a ‘pretty dispiriting call’ with Local Government Secretary Robert Jenrick had left him concerned that this commitment would not be honoured.
- London Councils, the Ministry of Housing, Communities and Local Government (MHCLG) and Metro Mayors elsewhere in England have meanwhile pledged to continue work to remove dangerous cladding on high rise buildings throughout the pandemic. According to the latest figures, there are still 313 high rise residential and publicly owned buildings yet to undergo remediation work.
- An announcement by Councillor Clare Coghill, Waltham Forest Council’s Leader and London Councils’ Executive member for Business, Europe and Good Growth, has underlined the boroughs’ determination to do all they can to help the capital’s SMEs. It discloses that ‘in a matter of a couple of weeks’ they have distributed 52% of a £1.66bn pot of Government funding for London, via the business rates system, representing about 56,000 individual grants.
- Lee Valley Regional Park Authority (an LCA client) is now providing space at Lee Valley Leisure Complex in Edmonton for a new drive-through testing centre for the Department of Health and Social Care, and the Ministry of Housing, Communities and Local Government.
- London City Airport pledged last week to donate £50,000 to help nine foodbanks across Newham, Greenwich, Tower Hamlets and Barking & Dagenham.
LONDON TRANSPORT LATEST
- With 28 Transport for London (TfL) employees now having died from COVID-19, TfL has introduced measures to protect its bus drivers from further contamination. Bus passengers will now only be permitted to board via the middle door and will no longer ‘be required to touch in’, effectively making journeys free for those still using the bus network.
- The huge falls in passenger numbers, as well as the suspension of charges such as the Ultra Low Emission Zone (ULEZ), has seen TfL’s income drop significantly. As a result, TfL Commissioner Mike Brown has confirmed that the transport authority will place staff on the Government furlough scheme while lockdown restrictions remain in place.
- There are meanwhile growing concerns that TfL’s drop in income could be long term, if people do not return to their usual commuting patterns. This also has consequences for TfL’s capital projects, which are now under review. Crossrail (1 and 2), as well as projects such as the upgrade of the Piccadilly Line may now have to be postponed or cancelled as TfL adjusts to unpredictably fluctuating income levels.
- However, as reported by the Financial Times only today, TfL may well benefit from plans being mooted by the UK government to ‘bail out’ cities’ tram and train networks ‘because a collapse in passenger numbers following the coronavirus lockdown has threatened their viability’.
BACK TO THE HOUSE
MPs returning to Parliament yesterday, following the Easter recess approved a motion to allow for ‘hybrid proceedings’, which enabled the first virtual PMQs to take place today. Dominic Raab and new Labour leader Sir Keir Starmer attended the House of Commons in person, but up to 120 other MPs were present via video-conferencing platform Zoom. As with other public authorities trialling remote working methods, Parliament has reportedly struggled to roll out the IT systems needed. Enabling elected members to attend and vote 'virtually' in public sessions has been a particular challenge, which is quite understandable, considering the constrained timelines and complexity of the processes involved. According to a source cited by Politico’s London Playbook, the ‘hope’ is currently that a sufficiently secure and reliable system for remote voting by MPs ‘will be up and running by early next month.’
HOUSEBUILDING... NOT SO MUCH?
Following several weeks of stalling construction activity, evidence of a housebuilding slowdown in the capital is – unsurprisingly – beginning to emerge. On Monday, the Financial Times ran an article starkly summing up the situation. Citing figures from CBRE, it reported that ‘private development in the UK capital could fall by more than 50% if the pandemic keeps building sites closed until July’. If true, that would mean about 10,000 homes delivered this year by the private sector, against a five-year average of 22,000. With private developers delivering about two-thirds of London’s new homes over recent years, the city is highly unlikely to satisfy the identified need for approximately 66,000 additional homes annually cited by the new London Plan (which incidentally remains stuck in a tug-of-war between the Mayor and Communities Secretary). Add to this recent evidence of a housing market slowdown, stalling infrastructure works and wider economic malaise, all of which raises the question of whether the Mayor can hit his more specific target of directly helping – through his Affordable Housing Programme’s grants – housing associations and others start building 17,000 ‘genuinely affordable’ homes in 2019-2020, for a total of 116,000 by 2022.
KINGDOM STREET SAGA
Deputy Mayor for Planning, Regeneration and Skills Jules Pipe has called in the application for a mixed-use development at 5 Kingdom Street in Paddington. The proposals, by developer British Land, would deliver a 22-storey office building, as well as retail, leisure and community space. The plans were previously rejected by a unanimous vote of Westminster City Council’s planning committee in January, on the grounds that the development would have a ‘significant impact’ on the surrounding area. The GLA has reportedly justified the call-in by highlighting that the site falls within both the Central Activities Zone (CAZ) and the Paddington Opportunity Area and ‘failure to promote appropriate development on sites such as this could potentially impact upon the economic health’ of the area ‘and London as a whole’. This is thought to be the first application in the City of Westminster, as well as the first commercial-led scheme, to have been called-in by City Hall under Sadiq Khan.
OTHER LONDON PLANNING NEWS
- The Government has granted approval for a waste-burning power station in Bexley, despite opposition from the GLA. Cory Riverside Energy applied for a Development Consent Order (DCO) to build the Riverside Energy Park (REP) in 2018, but the GLA, as well as the boroughs of Havering and Bexley objected to the scheme on air quality grounds, with the GLA calling it ‘unnecessary’. However, Secretary of State for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy Alok Sharma gave it the go ahead on the recommendation of the Planning Inspector.
- The London Assembly Planning Committee has recommended a series of changes to be made to the London Plan, many of which match the directions issued by the Secretary of State in his letter to the Mayor in March. These include the introduction of incentives for the provision of more family-sized homes, the ‘enhancement’ of the Green Belt and further guidance pertaining to tall buildings.
- The Committee has also written to the Secretary of State regarding Permitted Development Rights (PDR). It's letter calls on the Government to draw up a ‘set of universal standards for housing’ for all homes, as well as ensure that local authorities ‘strike the appropriate balance’ between the delivery of residential and commercial developments. The Committee also noted that these homes should be delivered in ‘appropriate locations’ highlighting factors such as proximity to ‘transport links, green spaces and local amenities’.
- While the London Assembly has yet to have revealed any plans for remote meetings, the boroughs are ploughing ahead. Indicatively, Enfield and Newham held their first virtual planning committee sessions yesterday; looking ahead, Hackney, Lewisham, RBKCand Wandsworth have virtual planning committees scheduled for 23 April. Southwark has a meeting scheduled for 27 April, Westminster and RBKC for 28 April and Richmond for 29 April.
- The City of London Corporation announced that Mayor William Russell will serve an additional year in his office in order to ensure ‘continuity of leadership’ during the pandemic. Russell was due to step down in November 2020 after completing a one-year term, but will now remain in office until November 2021, subject to being formally re-elected later this year (and as far as we can tell, he is the first Lord Mayor to serve two consecutive terms in centuries).
- Meanwhile, you may have picked up news that the GLA’s Director for the Built Envrionment Debbie Jackson will be re-joining Westminster City Council (WCC) as its Director of Growth, Planning and Housing in the summer (with more high-level people moves at WCC also imminent).
THE BATTLE FOR 'BUSINESS AS USUAL'
The wider property sector continues to rally in response to significant market pressures – and in preparation for the eventual raising of lockdown measures. A joint letter to the Chancellor by the British Retail Council (BRC), British Property Federation (BPF) and Revo has warned that the survival of Britain’s high streets will be decided in ‘weeks rather than years’ and asks for measures including a ‘furloughed space grant scheme’. Meanwhile, Knight Frank and Rightmove have called for a ‘stamp duty holiday’ among a range of measures designed to stimulate the market. Many are hopeful that support is on the way: The Times and others have reported that the Government is considering a range of options, including a potential extension of Help to Buy, to help keep the property sector on its feet and sustain its housebuilding drive.
NEW TALL BUILDINGS REPORT
The NLA has published its London Tall Buildings Survey 2020. Developed with Knight Frank, the survey provides the latest figures on the delivery of tall buildings in London, as part of the NLA’s wider Tall Buildings Programme. The survey found that there are currently 525 tall buildings in the pipeline in the capital, 3% down on last year. These developments are overwhelmingly situated in East and Central London, with 66% located in designated Opportunity Areas. The survey also notes the policy changes which will impact the delivery of these buildings, including soon-to-be introduced revisions to building safety legislation as well as the new London Plan, which should give local authorities more say over the height and location of tall buildings delivered in their borough. While a record 60 tall buildings were completed in London in 2019, that number is unlikely to be exceeded this year, particularly in light of the current disruption to construction work and planning processes. It will be very interesting to see if these numbers hold up this time next year, when the 2021 survey can assess the wider impacts of the pandemic on the capital.
CENTRE FOR LONDON INTO ACTION
Our friends at the Centre for London think tank have launched an all-new programme of research and events, aimed at supporting the city through the COVID-19 pandemic and beyond. They have already begun scheduling a series of online discussions with the people who are leading the capital’s response; the first, with Ben Page, Chief Executive Officer at Ipsos Mori and Cllr Clare Coghill, Leader of Waltham Forest Council, takes place on Monday 27 April. CfL is also re-launching The London Intelligence, in partnership with Kings College London and Savanta, with a new focus on COVID-19 (the first edition is due in early May). They're also planning a range of other research, showcasing ideas for how London can recover, to be disseminated through short reports, essay collections, The London Conference and in a 'manifesto for recovery’. CfL is also on the lookout for funders to help them carry out this ambitious and timely this programme. If you think you can help, get in touch with their Development Manager, Max Goldman.
DESIGN REVIEW PANELS LATEST
Entirely away from you-know-what, not-for-profit Urban Design London (UDL), has launched a suite of new information on its website, covering the 31 Design Review Panels (DRPs) now operating across the capital. Design Review is now a well-established feature of the planning landscape, being recognised in national, regional and local policy as a useful tool for helping improve the quality of development – and Panels can also substantially influence which schemes receive planning permission, or secure access to funding. UDL’s new page aims to help make the Design Review process more transparent, especially for the wider public, with details on each panel, including key contacts, fees, terms of reference and panel membership. All this information comes from publicly available sources such as planning authorities’ websites and UDL hopes that in future, DRPs will themselves volunteer further information. Watch this space as the website expands, with planned content to include case studies, statistics and other relevant information. For more information, please contact Kathy MacEwen.
LONDON'S POVERTY PROFILE
The Trust for London has published its annual London’s Poverty Profile report. Even though the data was compiled prior to the outbreak of COVID-19 – which is expected to cause significant economic hardship to many Londoners – it still makes for grim reading. It is divided into five themes: people, living standards, housing, work, worklessness and benefits, and shared opportunities. It demonstrates that many Londoners were struggling, well before the crisis, as a result of an increase in poverty in the private rented sector, higher costs of living, and the rise of in-work poverty. This report is a must-read for anyone who believes that London’s streets are ‘paved with gold’. The 28% of Londoners living in poverty (2.5 million people) will tell you they are certainly not.
2021 MAYORAL ELECTION LATEST
- In case you missed this, the London Cycling Campaign has published a report entitled ‘Climate Safe Streets’. Produced prior to the postponement of the mayoral elections, the report offers a roadmap for decarbonising the capital’s roads in the next 10 years and makes a number of recommendations to the next Mayor of London.
- Last month, we reported on Rory Stewart’s interview with GQ, and last week it published yet another interview with the independent candidate, based on a conversation that took place… on 28 February. This interview is more ‘personal’ than the previous one by the men’s magazine, with questions ranging from why he failed to win the Tory leadership race, to the most expensive item in his wardrobe and whether he considers himself ‘posh’.
- Conservative Candidate Shaun Bailey has once again attacked Sadiq Khan for his decision to cut Tube services, following the publication of the a passengers' survey by transport watchdogs Transport Focus and London TravelWatch. Bailey takes the view that Khan has ‘botched efforts to keep Londoners safe’ and that the Mayor’s ‘decision to dramatically cut the Tube service has had dire consequences’.
FUTURE OF LONDON CONFERENCE
We were very pleased to attend Future of London’s first virtual event last week. Not only was it an extremely interesting session, there were remarkably few technical issues – no mean feat with 10 contributors all in different locations. Kicking off the ‘Achieving Net Zero’ programme, ‘Councils and the Climate Emergency’ included representatives from three London Boroughs (Camden, Lambeth and Hounslow) and Optivo Housing sharing their varying experiences of addressing climate change, from the overhaul of their own estates to how to get the community onside and involved. A second panel saw Landsec, architect Pollard Thomas Edwards, Montagu Evans and Arup providing insight into a range of issues from transport to learning from international examples. There was a heartening degree of agreement that working together is critical if we are to achieve net zero goals. The webinar is available to view here and more information about Future of London’s programme is here.
LCA prides itself on its intelligence-led approach to PR and communications and our dedicated research team monitors London politics, news and issues as it happens. If you would like to know more about LCA or anything in this edition of LDN – London in short please get in touch.
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.
If you would like to know more about anything covered in this or any other edition of LDN or if you would like to know more about LCA please contact Duncan Hepburn on 020 7612 8480 or email@example.com.
We strive for balance and accuracy at all times; however, if you feel we have made a mistake, omission or have misrepresented a story or issue please alert the team by contacting Duncan using the details above.