This week's LDN weaves together some important issues relating to the future of the capital's infrastructure, at a time when the new London Plan has still not been formally adopted.
From the fundamental question of how many people might actually live here in the years to come to the efforts at all levels of government to try to deliver a healthier environment, from the decisions by the Mayor on major schemes to the fate of London's culture, and from the battle over LTNs to the debate about the future of TfL car parks in outer London, it is all here. And on that last issue, reading about the plans for Stanmore tube station car park reminded us that this site was first identified for development potential during the London Underground Property Partnership (LUPP) tender process no less than 20 years ago!
We also want to note the sad passing of Clarrie Mendy, a tireless campaigner for those affected by the Grenfell Tower tragedy. Our thoughts are with her friends and family, who must be going through an especially difficult time, given the disturbing evidence that has emerged from the Inquiry in recent weeks.
Lastly, a quick reminder that next week's issue will be our last for 2020. We will have published 47 editions this since January, starting with a burst of optimism and then tracking a year that none of us could have ever foreseen.
The GLA has published its latest projections for London’s population and economic growth, but how much certainty do these actually offer us? City Hall’s new population projections for London suggest expectations of continued growth, from a current population of slightly less than 9m, to between 10.5m and 10.9m in 2050 - that's 30 years away. Meanwhile, in the short term, the latest London Economic Outlook indicates that the city’s Growth Added Value (GVA) will dip by about 9.5% in 2020, before rebounding by about 6.2% in 2021 and a little more in 2022. But these figures are only the ‘most-likely scenario’ estimates and with the evolution of the pandemic and the outcome of Brexit negotiations still hanging in the balance, clearly there is much uncertainty. Back in the here and now, the launch of the vaccination programme this week offers some comfort, even as reports of rising infection rates across much of London have led to fears that the city may yet be plunged into Tier 3 restrictions before Christmas. Meanwhile, negotiations on the UK and EU’s future relationship remain on a knife’s edge a mere 23 days before the ‘transition period’ ends. Recent surveys of professionals and business leaders, from CBI's London Business Survey 2020, to the IoD’s Brexit Readiness survey and RIBA's third Covid-19 survey, all point to worrying levels of uncertainty across the board. From our perspective here at LCA, we actually assume that London's population may well have fallen slightly in 2020 and more than likely will remain relatively flat for 2021 and perhaps 2022 - something that has not happened since the 1980s.
CITY HALL PLANNING
Two major called-in schemes have been greenlit by City Hall over the past week. The Mayor granted approval for Ballymore and Hammerson's Bishopsgate Goodsyard scheme at a public hearing, arguing that ‘the benefits of this development outweigh the negative aspects’. Since it was called in by former Mayor Boris Johnson in 2015, the number of homes planned for the controversial scheme has decreased from a maximum of 1,356 to 500, whilst the percentage of affordable homes on the development has increased, from 10% to 50%. Meanwhile, the height of the tallest building has been reduced from 46 to 29 storeys and floorspace for business use has increased from 65,859 sq.m. to 130,940 sq.m. - all of which would all appear to make the viability assessments on both the original and final schemes interesting reads, if somewhat irrelevant now... Separately, Deputy Mayor Jules Pipe has granted permission for SUEZ Recycling and Recovery UK Ltd’s 'Land at Benedict Wharf' scheme in Merton, which will see the demolition of existing buildings and the delivery of up to 850 homes (35% affordable) and 750 sq.m. of commercial floorspace. According to City Hall’s website, there is just one other public hearing on the Mayor's books and yet to take place, for Reselton Properties' Former Stag Brewery scheme in Richmond (a date for which has not been confirmed as of writing). Meanwhile, the Mayor has decided not to call-in Fairview’s Victoria Quarter scheme in Barnet, against the recommendations of GLA officers. The scheme was refused by Barnet’s own planning committee earlier this year, also against officers’ recommendations.
Separately, the Mayor has launched a call for a development partner to deliver over 220 homes on land owned by the GLA at North Middlesex University Hospital in Enfield. Given that it is public land, the Mayor is aiming to ensure that at least 50% of the homes delivered by the scheme will be ‘genuinely affordable.’ A partner for the project should be named by September 2021.
THE GREEN AGENDA IN LONDON
We have seen the green agenda making leaps and bounds at the national level in recent weeks – but London itself is also on the move. First came the Prime Minister’s Ten Point Plan for a Green Industrial Revolution, followed by a pledge to reduce greenhouse gas emissions and only today the Climate Change Committee released its Sixth Carbon Budget. The CCC itself has recognised the importance of local authorities to delivering the UK’s emissions ambitions, with the Blueprint Coalition of local government organisations, environmental NGOs, and academics also publishing their own Blueprint for accelerating climate action and a green recovery at the local level. But with the ongoing Ella Kissi-Debrah inquest and the battle over Kensington High Street’s cycle lane making headlines, Londoners might be forgiven for wondering whether the capital is lagging behind the rest of the country in promoting a cleaner and greener future. Well, recent events in the spheres of London local government and property suggest that the capital has been far from idle on this front.
Over the past few weeks alone:
- Hackney Council has released a draft version of its new action plan to improve air quality in the borough.
- Enfield Council has launched its ten-year Blue and Green Strategy in a bid to make the borough the ‘greenest’ in the capital.
- Camden Council’s Pension Committee has approved decisions to make the borough’s pension scheme greener and more transparent.
- The Mayor has allocated £700,000 to 34 community projects to create small green spaces across the capital.
- Redbridge Council and Greenwich Council have celebrated progress in their respective tree-planting campaigns, while Wandsworth Council has installed a novel ‘city tree’ in Putney.
- The Crown Estate and Grosvenor – both major landowners in London – have announced major initiatives to support the national drive to reduce emissions.
- And finally, Fabrix has won planning permission from Southwark Council for the redevelopment of Blackfriars Crown Court as an office block featuring a striking ‘urban forest.’
- Harrow Council has announced that Cllr Keith Ferry will be stepping down as cabinet lead on regeneration and as Chair of the Planning Committee after he was appointed to represent the Council on a board linked to the Harrow Strategic Development Partnership (HSDP).
- Dame Nicola Brewer, former British High Commissioner, Chief Executive of the Equalities and Human Rights Commission and civil servant, has been appointed to London First’s board.
Low Traffic Neighbourhoods (LTNs) continue to cause headaches across London, the Hammersmith Bridge is far from the only river crossing making waves these days, and rail infrastructure plans in South London have taken one step forward and one step back.
- The battle over the Kensington High Street cycle lane episode rages on, with the Mayor wading in and telling LBC that TfL may seek to take control of the road from the local council, in order to reinstate the lanes.
- Yet another member of the Mayor’s own party, Labour MP for Erith and Thamesmead Abena Oppong-Asare, has written to Khan to express her constituents’ concerns about the Silvertown Tunnel.
- Separately, environmentalists have voiced their concerns after Highways England’s own figures suggest that the Lower Thames Crossing (LTC) could create five million tonnes of carbon dioxide (CO2), with 2m tonnes being created by the construction of the tunnel and the traffic created by the road estimated to generate over 3m tonnes over 60 years. The UK’s net carbon emissions in 2019 are estimated to be over 350m tonnes.
- The Department for Transport is reported to have ‘snubbed’ the case for the reopening of Camberwell Station as it did not include the project in its list of 15 successful bidders in the second round of the Restoring Your Railway Fund.
- In more positive news, the Government has approved plans to safeguard the route of a future extension to the Bakerloo Line - but the question of funding the extension remains unresolved.
CAR PARK DEVELOPMENT(S)
While Brent Council’s approval of TfL and Barratt’s plans for Wembley Park Station made headlines last week, recent local media reports suggest that car park redevelopment schemes elsewhere are proving more challenging. Enfield’s last planning committee session was poised to consider proposals by a partnership between TfL and Grainger for 162 homes (40% affordable) on what is now Arnos Grove Underground Station’s car park. While the scheme was recommended for approval by officers, councillors agreed to postpone a decision to 5 January, in what was described as a ‘reprieve’ by Conservative MP for Chipping Barnet Theresa Villiers, who has campaigned against these and other car park redevelopment projects in North London. Elsewhere, Harrow councillors, residents groups and businesses have recently raised objections against TfL’s proposals to redevelop car parks at Stanmore and Canons Park Stations, as well as Rayners Lane Station. Campaigners’ concerns generally focus on the loss of parking spaces and the density of development proposals. As indicated by TfL Commissioner Andy Byford’s report to today’s TfL Board meeting, the next few months are critical for the transport authority’s development plans, with car park and other schemes at key stages of their consultation and planning journeys.
In what has been a devastating year for London’s arts and culture scene, the easing of restrictions last week has offered respite to at least some of London’s cultural institutions. Many have reopened, albeit with limited capacity and other COVID measures in place. Panto fans will be able to get their fix in the run up to Christmas, while both Dominion Theatre and Bridge Theatre are staging productions of A Christmas Carol and the newly restored Alexandra Palace theatre has a treat for the kids with a festive showing of The Gruffalo’s Child. Meanwhile, London’s galleries and museums, such as The National Gallery, the Serpentine Gallery, V&A and Natural History Museum, have reopened, many with brand new exhibitions in place. The fall in visitor numbers and drop income however continues to be a concern for these venues. The City of London Corporation has meanwhile kept the Barbican afloat with a £11.2m donation, while the Evening Standard’s Future Theatre Fund has been praised by the Mayor.
We’d love to do a story exploring the findings of each of the following, but there simply aren’t enough hours in the day!
Planning consultancy Lichfields has published a report into London’s housing land supply. Mind The Gap found that there could be a gap of 86,000 homes between London boroughs’ likely housing delivery rates and the targets set in the new London Plan.
- SW Londoner has meanwhile highlighted Government data comparing the approval rate for planning permission applications across all London boroughs. The City, Wandsworth and Camden have the highest.
- The Good Parks for London report has named Lambeth’s parks as the best in London, with Lewisham and Southwark parks in second and third place respectively.
- Trust for London has found that the pandemic has served to widen London’s inequalities, with the most deprived areas seeing the largest increases in residents claiming unemployment benefits during COVID-19.
London Councils has meanwhile warned that – according to Government figures – almost 90,000 children in London will be homeless this Christmas. 4,000 more households in London are expected to spend this Christmas homeless compared to last year.
A TRADITIONALLY UNTRADITIONAL XMAS AT KX
Very much reflecting its tradition of being untraditional, King’s Cross kicked off the festive period with 3 fittingly unusual Christmas trees placed across the site. But really, the star of the show was the recent launch of United We Shop – a King’s Cross initiative aiming to keep local and independent stores alive, by giving consumers 30% off until 24 December when they shop in-store. Its goal is to inspire shoppers to celebrate and show their local shops some love this holiday season, when they need it the most. Santa’s elves (also known as the LCA Social Team) have been hard at work supporting King's Cross, sprinkling their magic and bringing the spirit of Christmas to life through interactive stories and curated content, building excitement for the return to site post-lockdown. See them in action at the King’s Cross Instagram.
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