TIER 3 FOR LDN, R3 FOR LHR
Anyone who assumed a quiet run up to Christmas could not be further from the mark. This last edition of LDN in 2020 doesn’t even mention the words 'Brexit' or 'deadline' or 'fish', yet it is still packed with news. Most of it, sadly, not that good, although it does depend where you sit in each debate.
For those who support localism and regionalism, the efforts of not one but two Secretaries of State to impose their will on London's boroughs and the GLA are set out here, the former in relation to school closures and the latter in relation to the never-ending saga of the new London Plan. For those opposed to more aircraft movements there’s bad news at Heathrow but better news at London City Airport. For the taxpayers of Hammersmith & Fulham there’s potential bad news on the bridge. And on the subject of taxes, the campaign tactics of the Conservative Mayoral election team do raise some questions about integrity.
And then we have Tier 3 and the massive impact on London’s cultural and hospitality sectors which were all geared up for an invaluable period of business and celebration of what’s best about London.
Which makes it all rather trite to say to all our loyal readers – 'we wish you a Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year'. But perhaps this year, more than any other, that phrase really does mean something, re-edited for the times to recalibrate for our lowered expectations as 'we wish you a safe Christmas and an optimistic New Year.'
Thank you so much for reading and for your kind comments and feedback along the way too.
See you all again on 6 January!
TIER 3 TROUBLES
Rapidly rising infection rates have led to the entirety of London and swathes of the Home Counties being put under stricter Tier 3 measures, effective today. The Mayor and London Councils – which represents the capital’s 33 local authorities – have endorsed the measures on public health grounds, while urging more central Government support for the businesses, workers and families most affected by what amounts to a third lockdown – and pressing for a step-change in the test and trace regime. Sector associations like London First, the London Chamber of Commerce and Industry, the New West End Company and others have especially highlighted the vulnerability of the hospitality, leisure and cultural sectors, calling for additional, targeted support – of which there has been no mention by the Government. Earlier in the week, it was reported that some of the capital’s Tory MPs were lobbying the Government to issue any Tier 3 measures on a borough-by-borough rather than city-wide basis, to help limit the impact on businesses, though their efforts were evidently in vain. To find out more about what the restrictions mean for you, your family or your business, visit the Government’s official website.
GAVIN BANGS GAVEL
Some authorities in London believe that schools should shift to online learning for the remainder of the term. Education Secretary Gavin Williamson is having none of it. The issue came to a head on Sunday evening, when Greenwich Council’s Leader Danny Thorpe wrote to local head teachers asking them to close their schools from Tuesday morning, to help tackle ‘exponentially rising’ Covid-19 cases. He underlined that classes should continue online and that special provision should be made for the children of key workers and those with specific needs – and was equally keen to tell parents that this ‘is NOT an opportunity to extend Christmas celebrations in any way.’ Meanwhile, Islington Council, Waltham Forest Council, the Mayor of London, teachers’ unions and others have also argued that the need to stop the pandemic spreading in London outweighs the need to keep schools open for a week. But on Monday evening, the Education Secretary hit back with a letter ordering Greenwich to reverse course or face legal action. Greenwich and Islington promptly (if unhappily) complied, though as of writing Waltham Forest was sticking to its guns and Redbridge Council is now also saying it would support switching to online learning – read the latest here. It is Government policy – undoubtedly backed by many working parents – that schools and universities should remain open, even in Tier 3 areas.
ROBERT SWINGS SHOVEL
Speaking of Government ministers swatting away any real or perceived autonomy from London’s leaders… enter Robert Jenrick and the latest act of the London Plan saga. The Mayor had submitted his Intend to Publish London Plan to the Communities Secretary a year ago, on 9 December 2019. It was only in March 2020 that Jenrick responded with 11 Directions for changes to the Plan. Last Wednesday, a year to the day after the Intend to Publish London Plan was first submitted, the Mayor wrote to Jenrick, implying that his Ministry has not responded to City Hall’s proposed amendments for satisfying his Directions and asserting that he intends to push forward with publishing the new London Plan ‘based on our best understanding of your views to date’ on 21 December. Jenrick’s response was swift and sharp: writing back to the Mayor on 10 December, the Communities Secretary pointedly said that discussions between his officials and City Hall, underway for many months, have raised ‘further issues.’ Jenrick’s letter came with two appendices, outlining where the Mayor’s proposed amendments to satisfy the original 11 Directions must themselves be amended and two new all-new Directions to amend policies on tall buildings and Strategic Industrial Land. Clearly, Khan’s push has elicited a shove. This is not Jenrick’s only Christmas ‘gift’ to London – read on to Caught Our Eye.
£3.50 TICKET TO LONDON?
- The GLA-commissioned Independent review into TfL’s finances which was published last week includes a number of proposals to make potential savings, such as the potential introduction of a new £3.50 a day levy on drivers entering London. This has generated headlines and mixed reactions, with environmental groups welcoming it, but others far less happy.
- Meanwhile, the TfL Board's meeting last week saw a rather fiery exchange between Government-appointed Special Representative (and former London Cycling Commissioner) Andrew Gilligan and TfL Chief Financial Officer Simon Kilonback over TfL’s budget proposals. See the full story detailed here.
- The Woolwich Ferry will not run from 2-8 January while it is handed over from current operator Briggs Marine to TfL. The Mayor asked TfL to look into the different options for the ferry in February 2020 as it has suffered from both technical difficulties and delays since early 2019.
- On the other side of London, the Department for Transport has asked Hammersmith & Fulham Council to contribute half of the cost of repairing Hammersmith Bridge. With the total cost of repair estimated to be somewhere between £128m and £163m, it will be a significant amount for any local authority to provide, let alone one which is expecting a £13.7m shortfall this year. The Council has said that it may need to raise council tax to cover it.
Cllr Ian Edwards has been elected as the new leader of the Hillingdon Conservative Group. He will become the new leader of the Council in January.
Heather Cheesbrough, Croydon’s Director of Planning and Strategic Transport has resigned and is set to take on a new role at the London Borough of Redbridge.
Kwasi Kwarteng has been appointed as the new Construction Minister, replacing Nadhim Zahawi as he takes on the role of Minister for COVID Vaccine Deployment.
Liz Peace has been appointed as Chair of the University of Cambridge’s property group.
NATIONAL PLANNING POLICY
This was meant to be a story about the Commons Public Affairs Committee’s damning report on the Government’s abortive Starter Homes policy and other planning news odds-and-ends. But the big story is arguably this morning’s announcement of a ‘plan to regenerate England's cities with new homes’ by MHCLG, promising ‘new measures to level up England’s cities and provide much-needed new homes.’ As reported in The Times and The Telegraph, the core of the announcement actually pertains to a Government U-turn on its proposed algorithm for allocating local housing targets. This follows a public consultation on the proposals and threats of a major backbench rebellion by Tory MPs fearing that the algorithm would lead to an unpopular surge of development in their constituencies. Now, it would appear that the method to be employed will be weighted towards increasing the targets for urban areas, including London. Simultaneously, the Government’s announcement is keen to underline that funding to back this housebuilding drive ‘is not just concentrated in London and the South East.’ The announcement also mentioned that the Government ‘will work to agree with the GLA a strengthened role in London for Homes England.’ And in case anyone had missed it, it also highlighted the Secretary of State’s London Plan intervention.
In a boost for those who back a third runway at Heathrow Airport, the Supreme Court has today overturned a Court of Appeal ruling brought by environmental campaigners against the proposed third runway. While in February the Court of Appeal found that the Government had failed to take into account its climate change commitments when putting together the Airports National Policy Statement (ANPS), this latest ruling concluded that the Government acted lawfully. At the same time, somewhat ironically given the above decision, Heathrow Airport has announced that it intends to keep Terminal 4 closed until the end of 2021 due to the huge fall in the number of passengers as a result of COVID-19 – and it has been reported that the Government’s decision not to offer tax-free shopping to tourists may result in a loss of 2,000 retail jobs at Heathrow alone.
London City Airport has meanwhile published its new masterplan which, to the relief of many local residents and campaigners, does not include previously-floated proposals to increase its operating hours.
A TALE OF TWO CAMPAIGNS
The 2021 Mayoral campaign has, over the past week, offered up prime examples of two very different approaches to politics. Proposals for a Universal Basic Income (UBI) trial have been endorsed by Labour-dominated Islington Council after its sole Green councillor (and London Assembly Member) Caroline Russell proposed a relevant motion. The specifics of UBI proposals vary, but they centre on the idea of a minimum income unconditionally awarded to everyone, without a means test or work requirement (see a handy roundup of how it has been trialled around the world here). This will be welcome news to the campaign of Sian Berry, Assembly Member and Camden councillor, who is once again standing as the Green party’s candidate for Mayor of London and who has vigorously campaigned on this proposal, most recently expressing her disappointment that her Assembly colleagues did not back her motion calling for a pilot in London. Meanwhile, Conservative candidate Shaun Bailey’s campaign has come under criticism over its latest election material. A document sent to voters, headed with a false ‘City Hall’ logo, warns recipients that without their ‘action’, their ‘mayoral council tax will rise by 21.2%,’ It fails to mention the Conservative Party and only mentions Bailey’s name in a faint footnote. Perhaps most alarmingly, the other side of the letter reads: ‘London Mayoral Council Tax Rise: Do Not Ignore’ in large letters. The stunt has prompted a response from Bailey’s opponents, with Lib Dem candidate Luisa Porritt calling it a ‘heartless cheap trick’. Meanwhile, Bailey has also blamed the Mayor for London’s move into Tier 3.
REWRITING THE LONDON A-Z?
The Black Lives Matter protests that swept cities globally earlier this year rekindled debates about how London memorialises different aspects of its history. The Mayor of London, several councils, civic society organisations and even businesses set in motion projects to address how the city’s built environment commemorates the more fraught chapters of Britain’s history – and examine ways in which it can better reflect 21st century London’s diversity and values. Some of these projects are now beginning to bear fruit. Over the past few weeks, decisions have been made in Ealing, Hackney, Haringey and elsewhere to rename streets with historic or perceived associations to colonialism, the slave trade and racism. While undoubtedly well-intentioned, some of these and other decisions have themselves proved controversial – and not always in ways one might expect. In the case of Ealing’s decision to change the name of a Southall road to commemorate a Sikh Guru instead of a British colonial general, critics have included… representatives of the local Sikh temple. Whatever one’s personal views on this complex and emotive issue, we are all experiencing a profound cultural shift that is still in its infancy.
HERE WE COME 2021
Despite the year’s many challenges, LCA is elated to have seen a wide range of clients’ planning applications through to approval across eight London boroughs in recent months. These correspond to over 8,500 homes across all sorts of tenures, 897,000 sq ft of commercial space for offices, shops, restaurants and more, a new DLR station, a new primary school, a specialist mental health centre for children, a temporary theatre with 360-degree rotating auditorium and more! This year’s haul of permissions at both local planning authority and GLA level is but the tip of the iceberg for LCA. As of this December, we are active on development and placemaking projects across no less than 22 boroughs and in both the LLDC and OPDC areas. In fact, we currently have more than 90 clients and 110 distinct projects on our books, spanning our Consultation & Planning Permission, Corporate & Public Affairs, Consumer & Lifestyle, and Design for Print & Digital services. Aged 20 and almost 50-strong, LCA is bullishly optimistic about taking on the new year (after we take a well-deserved Christmas break, of course).
WE KNOW LONDON
Our readers will know very well our fascination with the complex and ever-changing clockwork that keeps our city ticking. For those of you who share that interest and – like us – feel that the end of the year is a good time to sit back, reflect on the past and freak out about the future (or should that be the other way around?!), we have two recommendations. First, in case you missed it, LCA has co-sponsored a new book, ‘London’s Mayor at 20.’ Published earlier this month and co-edited by Tony Travers, Jack Brown and Richard Brown, the book explores the Mayoralty’s adventures to date and considers its future. For more information visit the Centre for London website, or read Charles Wright’s excellent review. But if you’re more of a podcast-sort than a book-person, we’ve got something for you too! OnLondon’s Dave Hill is running a series of ‘Review of 2020’ Zoom discussions. Part 2, which is taking place tomorrow at 6:30pm, will feature our very own Jenna Goldberg, alongside the abovementioned Tony Travers and Councillor Darren Rodwell, the Leader of Barking & Dagenham Council.
More recent clients and contacts may not be aware of the links between LCA and uber-visualisers Hayes Davidson, but from when we were founded until shortly before his untimely death in 2019, Alan Davidson was a Non-Executive Director (NED) of LCA (and our own Chairman, Robert Gordon Clark was a NED of Hayes Davidson for over a decade). Indeed, our first office was as his tenant! So we're delighted to be supporting the Davidson Prize, a new initiative set up to remember Alan and his vast achievements. To promote the prize, a series of people who worked with Alan were asked to share their memories of him and thoughts around architecture, visualisation and technology. Our MD Jonny Popper and Director Sarah Rawlings are both featured. Sarah used to work at Hayes Davidson and is still involved with the company as a Trustee Director.
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 firstname.lastname@example.org.
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.