"Much has been written about the terrible killing of Sir David Amess MP last Friday whilst conducting a constituency surgery. The decision to give Southend city status is an especially fitting tribute to a man who had campaigned for years to make this happen. The winding up speech by my local MP, Rupa Huq, in the Commons on Monday was both moving and at times appropriately amusing. But the phrase that stuck out for me was her plea for ‘more cross party and less cross’ activity in the House.
I agree. But sadly I also recall similar sentiments expressed after the killing of Jo Cox only five years ago and I haven’t sensed much of a change in tone since then - in fact I’d say it has got worse not better.
Which all makes Ross Lydall’s interview today with our Mayor, Sadiq Khan both timely and revealing. Do read it. Whether you support or oppose our Mayor, he is democratically elected and like nearly every politician I have ever met is in it to make a positive difference. Not enough respect is given to him and politicians of all parties at all levels of government. The danger is they will become ever more distant from the electorate they seek to serve and that would be detrimental to our democracy."
LCA Senior Advisor & Partner Robert Gordon Clark
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TO THE CIRCULARS!
In just five days, on 25 October, the Ultra-Low Emission Zone (ULEZ) will expand to the North and South Circular roads. The ULEZ currently covers the same area as the congestion zone and from next week drivers in non-compliant vehicles will have to pay a £12.50 daily charge. The current ULEZ has reportedly led to a ‘substantial reduction’ in nitrogen dioxide (NO2) levels in London and recent GLA-commissioned research, which found that BAME and poorer Londoners are more likely to live in areas with high levels of air pollution, has underlined just how important it is that action is taken. However, the Conservatives on the London Assembly are urging the Mayor to delay, arguing that Londoners have not had enough time to prepare due to the pandemic, while Centre for London has called for the introduction of a pay-per-mile road user charging scheme to replace ‘the growing patchwork of road charges’.
Also on the cards at the end of next month is the partial reopening of the Night Tube. Closed at the beginning of the pandemic, a petition was signed by hundreds of thousands of Londoners who called for the reopening over concerns about the safety of women and girls. The Mayor has now announced that on 27 November the service will resume, albeit only on the Central and Victoria lines on Friday and Saturday nights. Transport for London has said that services on the Piccadilly, Northern and Jubilee lines will resume ‘as soon as practicable’ – clearly the issue is one of funding and feasibility.
KERSLAKE TO THE RESCUE?
The Mayor of London has appointed Lord Bob Kerslake to lead a review of City Hall’s policies and programmes for boosting affordable housebuilding – fulfilling a pledge made in Sadiq Khan's 2021 manifesto. Crossbench Life peer Lord Kerslake is a highly-respected former civil servant with extensive experience across central and local government, who currently chairs more corporate boards, expert panels and independent reviews than you could shake a stick at. His review will look at ways to ‘further improve’ housebuilding initiatives supported by City Hall and the rest of the GLA Group (namely TfL, MOPAC, the police and fire services and the two Mayoral Development Corporations). His work will also inform the planned pilot of a ‘City Hall developer’. Separately, analysis by the London Assembly’s Housing Committee suggests that the Mayor’s Affordable Housing Programme has continued to hit its own annual targets and in his appearance before the Committee yesterday, Deputy Mayor Tom Copley said that he is ‘very confident’ targets for 2021/22 and 2022/23 will also be met. But the committee and Copley alike recognised that these targets only correspond to a fraction of London’s actual demand, particularly for social homes – and that meeting this need will become increasingly harder.
Indeed, London Councils’ response to a separate Local Government Association report starkly reminds us that 250,000 Londoners are on waiting lists for council homes, while our city accounts for about two thirds of all homelessness in England. Taking into account warnings by Savills that rising construction costs and other pressures will inhibit housebuilding in the coming years, the role of the state in providing homes for the most vulnerable has never been more important.
The Government has finally released a long-awaited pair of strategies aimed at reducing carbon emissions – but will they be enough? The 368-page Net Zero Strategy sets out a broad suite of policies and proposals ‘for decarbonising all sectors’ and meeting the Government’s net zero by 2050 target. However, it is the Heat and Buildings Strategy that has dominated most of the early press coverage, particularly plans ‘to incentivise people to install low-carbon heating systems’. Ministers say the strategy confirms their intentions to effectively ban gas boilers in new homes from 2035, though sceptics suggest it actually falls short of a full ban. This in turn closely follows the launch of the Government’s new, £450m, three year Boiler Upgrade Scheme offering homeowners grants of £5,000, replacing the abortive Green Homes Grant scheme as part of a wider package of ‘more than £3.9bn of new funding to decarbonise heat and buildings’. But that figure, for funds to be distributed nationally, seems rather paltry. For a sense of scale, London Councils, in announcing a new joint Retrofit London Housing Action Plan agreed by the 33 boroughs, cites estimates that achieving net zero in London properties alone will cost £98bn. Local authorities are not alone in calling for more support, with industry associations lining up to poke holes in the Government’s plans.
LONDON PLANNING LATEST
Developer Inland Homes has received planning permission from Barking and Dagenham Council for a 380-home scheme (103 of which will be affordable) at Dagenham Dock. Construction on the development, half of which will be either landscaped or used as a nature corridor, is set to begin next year.
Councillors in Hounslow have rejected the Duke of Northumberland’s plans to deliver 80 new flats on land which he owns and which is currently being used as allotments by local residents. Over 900 people objected to the plans.
According to reports, Housing Secretary Michael Gove is set to grant permission for the controversial Tulip tower in the City, overturning the Mayor of London’s refusal. A decision is expected in November.
- Cllr Caroline Kerr has announced that she is resigning as Leader of Kingston Council. She intends to stay on until a new leader is elected.
- Camden councillor and Deputy Mayor of the Council Lorna Russell (Fortune Green ward) has defected from Labour to the Green Party.
- The Conservatives held a seat in the Harrow’s Pinner South ward. The by-election saw Conservative candidate Hitesh Karia win with a majority of 1,002.
- Chairman of Argent Related David Partridge has joined LandAid’s Board of Trustees.
- David Knott has been appointed as Chief Executive of The National Lottery Community Fund.
- Alex Wild has reportedly been appointed as Director of Communications at Conservative Campaign Headquarters (CCHQ).
- Housing association Tonic has announced three new appointments: Terry Stacy MBE has been appointed as Chair of the Board and Assiah Awaleh and Michelle Davies have been appointed to the Board, replacing James Greenshields and Geoff Pine who are standing down.
- Darrell Mercer, chief executive of housing association A2Dominion, has announced that he will retire next August.
- Valerie Brecher, chairman of specialist west end real estate law firm Brecher, passed away last week aged 66.
SHOW ME THE MONEY
In the leadup to 27 October, key players are broadcasting their Budget and Comprehensive Spending Review (CSR) wish lists to anyone who will listen. The Mayor of London outlined his CSR submission last week, cannily timing it to coincide with visits to the factories in Coventry that build London’s electric cabs and the technology that manages the ULEZ. Hand-in-hand with the Conservative Mayor of the West Midlands Andy Street, Khan was all about ‘building bridges’ between the capital and the rest of the country and how London ‘can help the national recovery and the levelling up agenda’. Look below the headlines of his press release and you will also find a link to his formal submission to the CSR, which prioritises certainty of funding for policing, transport, infrastructure to unlock new housing, kickstarting the tourist economy, adult education and retrofitting London’s homes. The Mayor’s approach and asks echo those of London Councils, revealed earlier this month. Separately, LDN readers may also be interested in pre-Budget and CSR interventions from the British Property Federation and London Property Alliance, the CBI and an alliance of 40 other trade bodies and a 21 retail and hospitality companies, including the New West End Company.
ROCKY RECOVERY (CONT'D)
Meanwhile, the LCA team continues to keep its finger on the pulse of London’s recovery – which, as we approach the Christmas high season, is in a critical phase. It is encouraging to see authorities stepping up efforts to draw people back to Central London and plug gaps in the high street, from Westminster City Council renting out the former New Look outlet on Oxford street to offer free pop-up space to ‘up-and-coming fashion designers’ in the run-up to Christmas, to the Mayor’s new free Pop Up London culture festival taking place across central London during the October half-term. If one wonders how much impact this can all possibly have, the acting CEO of the capital’s promotional agency London & Partners Allen Simpson has claimed that City Hall’s £6m Let’s Do London campaign ‘has brought in an estimated £70m to London’s economy’ over the summer. Major investment stories also indicate that the London ‘brand’ remains strong, with Selfridges’ sale reportedly attracting the interest of big-hitters and the Arch Company announcing plans to invest £200m to bring empty railway arches back into use, in London and further afield. But things are still not quite back to normal; the iconic New Years’ fireworks display has been cancelled for a second year running and the latest surveys suggesting that no matter the amount of ‘bread and circuses’ laid out by the Mayor, hybrid working may well put a permanent dent in footfall.
The cladding crisis, which has dogged the Government since the Grenfell Tower fire in 2017, is a key priority for new Secretary of State Michael Gove. Encouragingly, recently-published data from the Department of Levelling Up, Housing and Communities (DLUHC) has shown that 94% of all identified high-rise residential and publicly owned buildings in England had at least started remediation work to remove and replace unsafe cladding, with the figure reaching 100% for social sector buildings. Meanwhile, it has also been reported that Gove is looking at different ways of tackling the cladding crisis, including the possibility of the Government underwriting home insurance for affected homeowners and putting more pressure on developers to pay for the remediation of dangerous cladding. Reports have also suggested that the Government will exempt housing associations and their wholly owned subsidiaries from the upcoming Residential Property Development Tax, which is set to be introduced in April 2022.
Gove is also responsible for the levelling up agenda of course, but it seems not many of us know what that means. According to a YouGov survey, commissioned by legal and business services firm DWF, 58% of people said that they were unclear about what politicians mean when they talk about levelling up, while a survey carried out by Redfield & Wilton Strategies for PoliticsHome found that only a mere 14% of Britons say that they are ‘very aware’ of what the term means. There is some positive ‘levelling up’ news for London, though, as eight of the capital’s local authorities among the 53 having been allocated funding from the Government’s Brownfield Land Release Fund. Greenwich, Lewisham, Kensington and Chelsea, Richmond upon Thames, Camden, Barnet, Waltham Forest and Haringey are set to receive a proportion of £58m to deliver new homes on ‘underused and derelict land’.
LCA is pleased to have supported ExCeL London on achieving a positive result this month for plans to expand their venue in the heart of the Royal Docks. Our work focused on leading an extensive programme of engagement with the local community and political figures over the last ten months, in addition to preparations for planning committee. A resolution for planning consent was approved unanimously by Newham’s Strategic Development Committee, paving the way for 25,000 sqm of premium event space, with 12,000sqm of exhibition space on the ground floor, seamlessly integrated into the existing venue. This will be complemented on the upper level with high end convention space, state-of-the-art meeting rooms and catering facilities. A substantial investment will also be made in new greenery along the dock edge, improved landscaping and a pocket park. In developing their plans, ExCeL’s ambition was to create the most sustainable scheme possible and will therefore be targeting a Building Research Establishment Environmental Assessment Method (BREEAM) rating of ‘Excellent’ – surpassing the recognised industry standard. The extension will increase the overall floorspace by 25%, enabling ExCeL to grow and maintain their reputation as a destination for world leading events.
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