Central London is on our minds this week in LDN – though we do at least start with a story about Croydon.
The very centre of the capital of the world (we’re not biased) is certainly at a moment of existential exploration – to put it kindly. Below we have stories on the return to the workplace (getting there), the Night Tube still being stopped in its tracks (for now at least) and how levelling up is down in Zone 1.
We also have stories on local politics and hospital investment, the latest sustainability news ahead of COP26 and a few plugs for our own work. We are particularly proud to be part of the 20th anniversary of King’s Cross.
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A MAYOR FOR THE CRONX
Voters in the London Borough of Croydon have endorsed a directly elected Mayor (DEM) system. This means that the South London borough’s residents will, from May 2022, elect a Mayor with executive powers – whereas currently a majority of elected councillors select their leader from among their own number. The local referendum follows a petition spearheaded by the DEMOC campaign – a nominally non-partisan group strongly supported by the Croydon Conservatives, who enthusiastically welcomed the result and spared no time in selecting their leader to stand for the Mayoralty. Supporters of the DEM system argued that it will make the borough’s leadership more accountable, while Croydon’s ruling Labour group had countered that the current model is just as responsive to scrutiny and criticism, thank you very much. While an impressive-sounding 80% voted in favour of a switch to a DEM, the low turnout of 21% raises the question of whether such referenda should require a minimum turnout to make their result valid. Was it the low turnout? Or perhaps supporters of a DEM ran an effective campaign? Or maybe it’s just that the borough effectively went bust under its current system. Whatever the case, Croydon becomes the sixteenth council nationally to opt for a DEM – and the fifth in London, after Lewisham (2001), Newham (2002) Hackney (2002), and Tower Hamlets (2010).
Looking to the upcoming 2022 elections, the referendum’s result will put a spring in the Croydon Tories’ step. Indeed, the main opposition party was only 4.4% behind Labour in terms of borough-wide voteshare at the last election in 2018, though overturning Labour’s council majority of 12 will be more challenging, due to the geographic clustering of party-political allegiances in the borough. There is, of course, a scenario wherein one party wins the Mayoralty and the other wins the Council. In Croydon Labour’s own words, this could ‘throw the Council into chaos’.
On the subject of the 2022 local elections, we’ve started to pick up some candidate selection news. In Croydon, Labour councillor Jamie Audsley has been deselected as a candidate for the 2022 local elections, allegedly because he campaigned in favour of a directly-elected Mayor for the borough, against the official position of the local Labour Group. Elsewhere, in Camden, it has been reported that a number of councillors from both Labour and the Conservatives will not seek re-election in May. These include long-standing councillor and current Cabinet Member for Young People, Equalities and Cohesion Abdul Hai, as well as a number of Labour councillors who have only served one term. A couple of Conservative councillors are also set to stand down at the next elections.
WFH IN FLUX
Recent developments suggest that we are still a way off from knowing what the ‘new normal’ for office work really is. The office market is getting livelier, with CBRE research indicating that investment in Central London is already almost double the figure for the same time last year - though really one would certainly hope so – and research by Colliers suggesting that activity in the city’s office fit-out market has actually ‘returned to its pre-pandemic levels’. However, financial disclosures by landlords, from WeWork to Workspace, imply that the sector’s recovery is uneven. Indeed, there are signs that demand for office space may remain well below pre-COVID levels for the foreseeable; a survey commissioned by the Financial Times found that only about 44% of UK staff have returned to offices at least part-time, that managers expect numbers to ‘plateau’ at about 56% by the end of the year and that almost a third of businesses have cut their office space. Anecdotally, stories abound of occupiers scaling back their London footprint, from wealth managers in the City to big pharma in the ‘burbs – though to be fair, pharmaceutical giant GSK’s plans to gradually vacate its West London HQ are in large part linked to the company’s drawn-out ‘demerger’. As for LCA itself, we are pleased to remain in our offices at Berkshire House and our team is from this week working from the office and learning from each other in full living technicolour for a minimum of three days a week.
A RASH OF HOSPITALS?
The Government may be guilty of putting a bit of a gloss on its hospital building pledges, but health estates are indeed being developed (and redeveloped) at a pace not seen in years. Six of 40 projects at the core of plans launched in October last year are in London and only last week, Lambeth Council’s planning committee unanimously approved proposals by Guy’s and St Thomas’ NHS Foundation Trust’s Evelina London children’s hospital – which will include a 12-story extension, offering around 100 new beds, up to 20 additional critical care beds, a new suite of operating theatres and procedure rooms, specialist imaging facilities and more spaces for patients and families to relax, including a roof terrace. The Trust is also poised to launch a new procurement process for the hospital’s construction and operational fit-out – perhaps Mace and Willmott Dixon’s new healthcare consortium will take an interest? Separately, the Trust is supporting plans by Stanhope and the Guy’s & St Thomas’ Foundation charity for a site adjacent to the St Thomas' Hospital, which have just been put to consultation. The plans entail the redevelopment of the site to provide a mix of new uses, including new laboratory space to develop cutting edge new healthcare technologies.
- Former Housing Secretary and MP for Old Bexley and Sidcup James Brokenshire has sadly died after being diagnosed with lung cancer in 2018.
- Respected architect and two-time former president of RIBA Owen Luder has passed away.
- Managing Director of Hammerson UK and Ireland Mark Bourgeois will leave the company after four years.
- At housing association Clarion, chief operating officer Michelle Reynolds is set to become its chief customer officer, while group commercial director Rob Lane will become chief property officer.
- Director of Strategy & External Affairs Ghislaine Halpenny has left the British Property Federation.
NIGHT TUBE CONFUSION
The Mayor of London has said that a decision on the reopening of the Night Tube will be made ‘in the next couple of weeks’ after hundreds of thousands of Londoners signed a petition in favour of its reopening over concerns about the safety of women and girls. The Night Tube was closed in March 2020, at the beginning of the first COVID-19 lockdown and calls for the reopening have been echoed by Conservative politicians including London Assembly Members and the Minister for London Paul Scully MP. The big question is of course that of whether a reopening would be financially viable – and the papers published ahead of next week’s meeting of the TfL Board published just today may contain a clue or two about that. In other news, TfL has been granted an injunction by the High Court which stops protestors obstructing traffic, in response to the Insulate Britain protests – though it has emerged, somewhat amusingly, that one of the group’s activists is married to a Director at TfL. Separately, TfL and Black Cultural Archives have created a Black History Tube map as part of Black History Month, while TfL has also unveiled the design of the memorial for transport workers who died of COVID-19.
LEVELLING UP LONDON
We might sound like a broken record when it comes to London and levelling up, so we’re glad to see others joining the chorus. Central London Forward (CLF), a strategic sub-regional partnership representing 12 local authorities, is in the midst of a well-orchestrated campaign to carve out a place for inner London’s needs in the levelling up agenda. For one, CLF’s Chair (also Leader of Kensington & Chelsea Council and London Councils’ Lead for Business, Economy and Culture) Cllr Elizabeth Campbell was spied banging the drum for London at the Conservative Party Conference last week. But just as importantly, CLF has been working to build an evidence base substantiating the particular needs of Central London’s residents and local economy, as well as their crucial role as engines for national recovery. In a report produced alongside WPI Economics, CLF has highlighted Central London’s huge disparities in wealth and living conditions and the ‘disproportionate impact’ of the pandemic on many of its residents and sectors. To hear more from CLF, tune in to the launch of their next report on Central London’s Infrastructure’s Priorities, next Monday. CLF’s interventions are timely, in view of the upcoming Budget and Spending Review and the long-awaited publication of the Levelling Up White paper.
Like everyone else these days, we’ve got sustainability on the mind. Here’s a few interventions and announcements that caught our eye in a crowded field of COP26-related proclamations:
- A report by thinktank Demos and the WWF has found that the UK public overwhelmingly supports taxes on polluting industries, levies on flights and grants for heat pumps in a bid to tackle climate change.
- However, Onward has found that compared to other countries, the UK is slow in developing green technologies to achieve the target of net zero emissions by 2050.
- Some of the UK’s biggest businesses, including BT and Tesco, have also called on the Government to introduce mandatory net zero reporting for companies.
- In the built environment sector, RIBA and Architects Declare have unveiled their programme for the Built Environment Summit, taking place both virtually and in person (in London) on 28 and 29 October.
- IKEA UK & Ireland has been announced as a Partner for COP26. IKEA has said that it aims to become ‘climate positive’ by 2030 by reducing its greenhouse gas emissions and will furnish some of the ‘key areas’ of the conference, at the SEC in Glasgow. After the conference, the furniture will be donated to charities or community projects.
KX AT 20
This week, we have been busy celebrating King’s Cross’ anniversary. The milestone marks a decade since the opening of the estate’s first building, as well as 20 years since the publication of Principles of a Human City - a pioneering document that set out the foundations upon which King’s Cross was built. There’s no doubt that over the past decade, King’s Cross has undergone a complete transformation. What was a derelict and underused railway and industrial site is now an exemplar for urban regeneration worldwide. And LCA aren’t the only ones impressed, with the team achieving some stellar coverage on the anniversary, including a top tier interview with Property Week as well as The Evening Standard. The anniversary also got a special mention on none other than BBC Breakfast. We can’t wait to see what the next decade holds in store.
The LCA team scored a coverage double this week for client Broadway Malyan – with additional input from our engineering client Hydrock. An opinion piece by board Director Jeremy Salmon in City AM asks whether our Zoom calls are actually helping the environment – and the answer may surprise you! Chris Jones, a Technical Director at Hydrock points out that using data centres as a heat source may provide a solution, as we look to address energy inefficiency whilst working from home. Over at Dezeen, Broadway Malyan’s ‘stunning woodland retreat in the Cotswolds’ is featured, a picturesque home with views that makes us here at LCA Towers sigh and dream of our next holiday.
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