The run up to Christmas should, in theory, be a time of joy. But for many it is a time of increasing stress as people seek to close off projects to the holiday deadline, buy that present for Mum and plan festive feasts.
Throw in the pandemic still being far from over, it is perhaps not that surprising that in a recent poll around 7 in 10 Londoners said they feel overloaded with stress.
Those stress levels are surely being felt in many corporate circles too. The team behind the Tulip tower in the City, following the decision by the government to back The Mayor of London and not grant planning permission; the good folk of Leeds, wondering whether the rumours that HS2 will not come their way are true (we should know tomorrow); the Shell HQ staff in Holland contemplating a move to London; those 1000s of retailers hoping for a bumper Christmas to make up for nearly two years of closed or deserted shops (though the numbers are looking good there at least – see below); and the entire built environment industry, at reports the long-awaited Planning Bill may come only in…. May.
And one of the ways to reduce stress is of course exercise. Which is why it’s so good to see news of investment into sports facilities at both Crystal Palace and Tooting. With the 10th anniversary of the Olympic and Paralympic Games next summer, let’s hope there’s more investment in grass roots facilities across the capital.
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DOERS vs DELAYERS?
COP26 has not quite produced the step change it set out to secure – but it certainly gave London’s Mayor a major PR opportunity. The agreement reached seems to have shifted the dial somewhat, eliciting further commitments to transitioning away from fossil fuel use, restricting emissions and providing developing countries with more resources. But the watering down of many commitments, notably on phasing out coal (it’s now ‘phasing down’ apparently, whatever that means) left even the famously reserved Alok Sharma in tears. The failure to achieve more binding targets provided Sadiq Khan an opening to do what he loves best: bash the Government. ‘In cities, we are the doers, in contrast to national governments who are the delayers, kicking the can down the road to 2040 or 2050,’ he said (more here) in his capacity as chair of the international C40 group of cities during the conference’s Cities, Regions and Built Environment Day. Separately, the Mayor has also touted estimates that the environmental standards enshrined his Affordable Home Programme alone are ‘set to enable a total carbon saving across London of 17,500 tonnes a year’, equivalent to ‘more than 17,000 return flights between London and New York City.’ The calculation does involve a lot of ‘ifs’, but The Telegraph reminded us yesterday that there is such a thing as gratuitous scepticism, so we’ll leave it at that.
TULIP REFUSED... AND OTHER PLANNING NEWS
- The Government has refused plans for the ‘Tulip’ tower proposed for the City. The proposal, by Jacob J Safra and Foster + Partners, was approved by the local authority, before being refused by the Mayor of London, after which the developer’s appeal against the decision was then recovered by the Government. Housing Minister Christopher Pincher has now dismissed the appeal, in line with the planning inspector’s recommendation, citing concerns over environmental and heritage issues, as well as the tower’s design.
- Meanwhile, Brockton Everlast has been granted planning permission by the City for the delivery of a new 23-storey office building, which will also include retail and community floorspace.
- Havering Council has granted permission for plans by North East London NHS Foundation Trust for a new community health and wellbeing hub. The facility will provide a cancer diagnostic unit, GP services and mental health services.
- As Oxford Steet continues to see change, Publica Properties has been granted planning permission by Westminster City Council for its proposals to extend and refurbish the House of Fraser department store to provide office space, a restaurant and a ‘winter garden’.
- Peabody has submitted its plans to Islington Council for the high profile redevelopment of the former Holloway women’s prison to provide 980 homes, 60% of which will be affordable. Islington’s Member for Housing and Development Cllr Diarmaid Ward has announced that 5% of the 415 social rent homes on the development will be allocated in perpetuity to women have been ‘affected by the criminal justice system’.
- Early designs for two alternative masterplans covering a former industrial estate at Chadwell Heath in Barking & Dagenham have been unveiled by architects Haptic, on behalf of BeFirst, the Council’s regeneration arm. Both would deliver industrial space, new schools and a new supermarket, as well as housing and office space, but the two options put out for consultation 'differ on density and provision of housing and office space'.
- Camden Council has granted permission for a temporary six-storey building which will become home to the Construction Skills Academy for HS2.
The leadership of London’s two Mayoral Development Corporations, the London Legacy Development Corporation (LLDC) and Old Oak and Park Royal Development Corporation (OPDC) appeared in front of the London Assembly last week. During the lengthy session, AMs grilled the organisations’ respective Chairs and CEOs on everything from housing delivery and planning, to public engagement and how they are ensuring that their plans benefit local communities. Liz Peace and David Lunts were notably bullish about the chances of the OPDC’s new draft Local Plan being approved by its examiner, while Sir Peter Hendy and Lyn Garner argued that the LLDC is meeting its housing delivery targets. However, all guests were forced to acknowledge that they are operating in a challenging environment for development. It was, for example, admitted that plans for the East Bank cultural and education hub have overrun their budget, reportedly by about £114m (the GLA Conservatives claim the figure is more than £150m), meaning its total budget for the development is now £628m. Garner said this was a result of the pandemic, changes in market prices and ‘complex design’ – but she offered the Assembly assurances that the LLDC would not need any further funding from the Mayor to complete the project.
Separately, Czech billionaire Daniel Kretinsky has purchased a 27% stake in West Ham United, who play at the LLDC-owned London Stadium.
Another day, another merger of two housing associations. This time, it is Riverside and One Housing (LCA client and G15 member). The Boards of each organisation have now given their approval for One Housing to join Riverside as a subsidiary from 1 December 2021 following a detailed, six-week consultation process involving residents of both organisations, which concluded last month. As reported by Inside Housing, the merger will create one of the country’s largest landlords, with over 75,000 homes – Riverside’s 58,000, plus One Housing’s 17,000 – in and beyond London. This is the latest in a long list of mergers between registered providers of social housing over recent years. It closely follows news, confirmed only in September, that Peabody and Catalyst (also an LCA client) are to unite.
- It has been reported that the City Corporation’s Policy & Resources Committee Chair Catherine McGuinness will step down in the spring of 2022. The reports suggest that current Deputy Chair Chris Hayward will succeed her.
- Chief Executive of Ealing Council Paul Najsarek has announced that he is to step down at the end of the year. An interim CEO will be appointed in December.
- Zina Etheridge, Chief Executive of Haringey Council, has also announced that she is set to step down. She has been appointed as Chief Executive Officer Designate of north east London’s health and care partnership, a role which she will take up in early 2022.
- Sir Michael Barber, who was head of the prime minister’s delivery unit under Tony Blair, has been appointed by the Government to help the Health Secretary reduce NHS waiting lists.
- Aviva Investors has announced Ben Sanderson as the new managing director of its real estate business.
- Conservative London Assembly Member Keith Prince has announced that he will stand for election to Havering Council in May’s elections. Prince was previously a Havering councillor from 1990 to 1995.
- And Bill Williams, the long standing CEO of the Centre for Engineering and Manufacturing Excellence (CEME) in east London, is stepping down in January 2022 and will be taking up the role in an “established UK manufacturing organisation with ambitious plans for growth”.
BUILDING SAFETY LATEST
Housing Secretary Michael Gove has issued an apology for reports ‘leaked’ in September (before he was appointed to his current role) which revealed that the Government intended to demolish Grenfell Tower due to safety concerns. Gove said that he was sorry for the ‘justified upset’ the leaked reports caused and offered assurances that he will take a ‘different approach’, saying that any decisions about the future of the building will be communicated directly to those affected. Meanwhile, the latest data from the Department for Levelling Up, Housing and Communities has shown that, over four years since the Grenfell Tower fire, progress is being made on the remediation of dangerous cladding from tall buildings. The latest monthly Building Safety Programme data has shown that by the end of October 2021, 94% of all identified high-rise residential and publicly owned buildings in England had either started or completed work to remove dangerous cladding. For the social sector, the figure stands at 100%, while in the private sector it is 90%. However, cladding remains a concern for residents of smaller buildings. Gove recently told the Commons’ Housing, Communities and Local Government Committee that he was ‘unhappy’ with the Government’s plans, announced in February, to provide loans to homeowners for the remediation of dangerous cladding and that these had been put on ‘pause’.
GHOSTS OF CHRISTMAS FUTURE?
Future historians studying Central London’s recovery may well look at this week as a turning point – but will it be for the better, or for the worse? We have seen a heart-warming effort to bring back the pomp and pageantry of better days, with the West End switching on its Christmas lights, the City Corporation staging the Lord Mayor’s Show (the City’s newly-installed Lord Mayor Vincent Keaveny also hosted the Prime Minister at Mansion House) and the Mayor announcing a programme of "Winter lights displays" to take place of the course of December. It must be helping, as the West End was reportedly ‘busier than before the pandemic for the first time’ this weekend, even as supermarkets across the UK are seeing some pretty impressive footfall. A number of major London-focused commercial landlords have meanwhile revealed robust financial results, including British Land and Landsec – while Capco has announced 10 new brands will be coming to Covent Garden alone. Meanwhile Shell’s decision to relocate to London represents, from an inward investment perspective, a major win for the capital – and the UK as a whole. So far, so good. But the city’s recovery remains uneven, with supply chain disruption and labour shortages affecting sectors from fast food to high tech. As per Centre for London Director Nick Bowes’ response to the latest ONS employment figures: ‘with the highest unemployment rate and the only region with fewer payrolled employees now than at the start of the pandemic, London’s recovery continues to lag behind the rest of the country.’ No surprise, then, that London is also facing a febrile social landscape, with Extinction Rebellion protesters briefly disrupting the Lord Mayor’s Show and industrial action brewing on London’s transport network and at several universities.
LOCAL MEDIA MATTERS
Knowing this has been a particularly brutal year for London’s local media, it’s gratifying to see their efforts recognised. Hackney Citizen has won the Independent Community Newspaper of the Year award at the national Independent Community News Network’s (ICNN) newsawards 2021, at a ceremony held last Friday. Indeed, almost all of the shortlist for this category consisted of London outlets, namely EC1 Echo, Enfield Dispatch, KCW London, and Waltham Forest Echo (plus The Edinburgh Reporter). Over the course of the pandemic, LDN tracked how the capital’s local media took hit after hit, with outlets across print, digital and broadcast seeing advertising revenue dry up, in many cases leading to painful layoffs - though most titles appear to have survived. At one point, relative ‘big beasts’ like City AM and Time Out temporarily suspended their print editions and even small, nimble operations like Londonist actually had to stop online operations (the Evening Standard pumped out its print edition throughout, but for a period it was even slimmer than usual). The London media landscape does however seem to be recovering – even as it continues to evolve rapidly: Indicatively, broadcasting mainstay ITV has recently said it is ‘on track for the highest advertising revenues in its 66-year history’, even as relative newcomer MyLondon is now apparently competing with the (now under new management) Evening Standard for online views.
AT YOUR LEISURE
The LCA team is well aware of how difficult it can be to develop and maintain public leisure facilities. Aside from our extensive work in this sector, our offices actually sit above Central London’s only heated outdoor swimming pool! We were therefore very pleased to hear that, in positive news for aspiring Olympians and the occasional swimmer alike, the Mayor of London has committed to providing the funding for the refurbishment of the Crystal Palace National Sports Centre. When the Centre, which has been used for training by Olympians included Tom Daley, was closed at the beginning of the first lockdown in March 2020, serious cracks were found in its Olympic-sized swimming pool. Over 42,000 people signed a petition to get the pool reopened, a campaign which was supported by local MP Ellie Reeves. Consultation on the plans for the repairs to the Centre, which first opened in 1964, will be planned for the coming months. Also in South London, there are improvements in the pipeline to Tooting’s Lido and its Athletics Track. According to reports, Wandsworth Council has committed to funding for upgrades to the facilities following the launch of a petition earlier this year which called on the Council to re-surface the track after it failed an inspection. The campaign has been supported by Olympians who started their careers on the track and local MP Rosena Allin-Khan.
If you’re also fans of our city’s brilliant public leisure infrastructure, you’ll love this: Long-standing LCA client Lee Valley Regional Park has just started selling Christmas gift vouchers for a range of great adventures - whether that’s battling the rapids at Lee Valley White Water Centre, flying around the velodrome at Lee Valley VeloPark or learning to love horse-riding at Lee Valley Riding Centre. Check out what’s on offer here.
KX GOES CARBON NEUTRAL
The 67-acre King’s Cross estate has been officially verified as carbon neutral this week. Energy supplies to the site are now 100% renewable, through green tariffs and direct agreements with energy providers, and all past embodied and operational emissions from the Estate have been offset through verified carbon offsetting projects. To support its long-term commitment to remain carbon neutral, King’s Cross is to plant a series of new UK forests 7.5 times the size of the 67-acre King’s Cross Estate that will more than offset the carbon generated through the construction of new and future buildings on the estate. Looking to the future, King’s Cross aims to be net zero as soon as possible. The LCA team delivered the news to much acclaim, with coverage across a star-studded line up of The Evening Standard, The Telegraph, BBC Radio London, and City AM. Phew.
FUTURE OF LONDON
Last week, we attended Future of London’s Building Recovery Conference. The delightfully in-person event attracted a fantastic mix of people from across the built environment and allied sectors, for a heady mix of talks, panel discussions and workshops, both in-person and hybrid. We were especially happy to see clients including Argent Related and Yoo Capital presenting on how they are supporting an inclusive recovery. Our very own Research Manager Stefanos Koryzis also did a brief 'Pecha Kucha' presentation on his ‘Proposal for London’ – on a new model for managing public parks as independent trusts – as part of a panel session on the city’s public spaces.
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