'The unearthing of an intricate mosaic has been in the news this week. It is apparently from ‘the heyday of Roman London’ and was part of a ‘triclinium’ – a lavish brasserie or lounge of sorts.
While we certainly have our fair share of fancy dining spots today, would we describe this current moment as any kind of ‘heyday’ for the capital? Probably not if the state of our police force or public transport system are anything to go by.
We can only hope that the issues that burden these two critical institutions are short-lived, at least relative to the grand arc of history. It has made us think about how this era might be described when, in a few thousand years, the remains of the Foster + Partners’ designed City Hall – occasionally known as the Testicle – are unearthed (or more likely, dredged up from beneath a swollen River Thames)?
Could it be seen as a symbol of largesse – a glass structure built for a civic leader and abandoned mere decades later? Or maybe as an emblem of an age excited but ultimately undone by its technological prowess – ‘the late 20th century saw a glut of glass structures, and it was only in the 21st century that the ruling classes realised the inefficiencies in those early building techniques…’.
Time will tell. Meanwhile, read on for more on the Met, TfL, the elections and some planning updates from across the capital.'
LDN Editor and LCA Board Director Jenna Goldberg
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DITHER AND DELAY
The future of Transport for London, the appointment of the next Met Commissioner and the GLA’s move east all continue to hang in the balance. TfL and the Government failed yet again to come to an agreement ahead of the expiry of the current funding deal on 18 February, with negotiations reportedly continuing through the weekend. The Mayor warned that TfL could be forced to declare bankruptcy ‘in a matter of days’ if the Government did not provide support and it was then confirmed on Monday morning that the existing funding agreement (first agreed in June 2021) had been extended but by only five days to 25 February. In a written statement, Transport Secretary Grant Shapps said that TfL asked for the extension ‘to allow the Mayor of London to consider the terms of the settlement letter and agree it with government’. So as the future of London’s public transport hangs in the balance, so does the future of the capital’s police force. There have been conflicting messages from City Hall and the Home Office about the progress being made in finding a replacement for Dame Cressida Dick following her resignation as Met Commissioner. While the Mayor has said that he is ‘working closely’ with the Home Secretary to appoint a successor, The Times has reported on the apparently ‘strained’ relationship between Khan and Patel and its impact on recruitment. Meanwhile, the Mayor doesn’t even have anywhere to call home as the GLA’s move to The Crystal in East London has now been delayed for a fourth time; the building was originally meant to be ready in October 2021. The GLA has said that London Assembly meetings will be taking place in The Crystal next week though politicians and officers will remain based at the London Fire Brigade’s offices in Southwark.
Emily Robinson has joined London Sport as the organisation’s new CEO.
Lesley-Ann Nash, former Director at the Cabinet Office, has joined the London First Board. Angela Jain, Managing Director of ITV Studios Entertainment, has been appointed as the organisation’s Deputy Chair.
Louise Stewart has stepped down as the Chief Executive of the Alexandra Park and Palace Charitable Trust.
Across the capital, selections and deselections continue for the upcoming local elections . Former Mayor of Tower Hamlets Lutfur Rahman, who was found guilty of breaking election rules in 2015, has announced that he will stand for the Mayoralty, this time as a candidate for the Aspire Party, again. Rahman has said that he will campaign on issues such as cuts, tax increases and road closures. Next door in Newham, as reported by OnLondon, the re-selection of Rokhsana Fiaz as Labour’s Mayoral candidate has become the subject of controversy. Even before the selection process took place, the chairs of both of the borough’s suspended constituency parties (CLPs) resigned, complaining about the actions of the Council under Fiaz’s leadership, while two councillors also resigned from the Labour Group, with one saying that Labour had failed to investigate allegations of bullying in the administration. In Haringey, former Leader of the Council Joseph Ejiofor confirmed that he has been removed as a Labour candidate by the Party. His deselection is thought to be tied to a recently published Local Government Ombudsman report which directly criticised Ejiofor’s handling of a proposed housing scheme when he was Leader. Meanwhile, The Times reported over the weekend comments made by former Conservative MP Lord Hayward who said that the results of the local elections in London could decide the Prime Minister’s fate. As expected, Hayward points to Wandsworth and Westminster as two of the key boroughs to watch but interestingly doesn’t mention Barnet where some commentators believe Labour have their best chance of winning another Conservative held borough.
SQUARE MILE UPDATE
While the 5 May elections are the main event for 32 London boroughs, the residents and workers of the City will be heading to the polls on 24 March. The City of London Corporation’s 100 Commons Councillors are up for election, a year later than originally planned, and the pre-election period officially started yesterday, with the deadline for candidate nominations being 4 March. The Court of Common Council is the City’s primary decision-making body and the majority of councillors sit as independents, but in recent years both the Labour Party and other local parties have stood candidates. It was reported in November that the current Chair of the City’s Policy and Resources Committee, the Corporation’s de facto leader, Catherine McGuinness, would not be seeking re-election and it is thought that her successor will likely be the Committee’s current Deputy Chair, Chris Hayward. The election of the new Chair is set to take place on 5 May.
Also in the City, businesses have voted in favour of establishing two new Business Improvement Districts (BIDs). The Fleet Street Quarter and Eastern City Partnership will launch in April and are backed by over £30m of funding from the private sector, with the focus of the two new BIDs to be on making their parts of the City more ‘welcoming and environmentally friendly’.
CALL-INS AND INQUIRIES ROUNDUP
- Minister of State for Rough Sleeping and Housing, Eddie Hughes MP (on behalf of the Secretary of State) has approved plans by Barratt London and Transport for London for the delivery of housing on the car park of Wembley Park Tube Station. The plans, for 454 homes (33.4% affordable) and ground floor commercial space in five buildings of between 13 and 21 storeys, had been approved by Brent Council in November 2020 before being called-in by former Housing Secretary Robert Jenrick.
- The public inquiry into plans for the redevelopment of two sites in Hounslow is set to start in March. The plans, by Tesco and St Edward, were called in by the Housing Secretary in November 2021 having been approved by the Council in April of the same year. The proposals include the demolition of a Homebase and a Tesco to deliver a total of 2,150 homes (35% affordable), community space and a new Tesco supermarket in buildings of up to 17 storeys in height.
- Great Portland Estates’ plans for a 26-storey building will go to a public inquiry in July after Southwark Council took too long to make a decision on the application. The plans, include the delivery of office space, workspace, retail units and a new entrance for London Bridge Tube station. According to documents prepared ahead of the inquiry, the Council is mainly concerned about the proposed scheme’s height and impact on local heritage.
- Plans by the Far East Consortium for a 56-storey tower delivering 500 homes, 135 of which will be affordable, have been granted permission by Tower Hamlets Council. The proposals also include ground floor flexible commercial space.
- Merton Council has approved plans by Prudential Assurance for a 12-storey office building in Wimbledon despite opposition from local residents.
- Southwark Council has granted planning permission to Pocket Living for two applications delivering 117 homes in Peckham and 22 homes in Bermondsey. Across the two sites, 44% of the homes will be affordable.
- Proposals for the delivery of 288 homes in Greenford have been approved by Ealing Council. The plans, by Laverne Holdings, include the demolition of an existing office block to deliver the flats, 33% of which will be affordable, as well as commercial and community space.
FIRE SAFETY LATEST
While building safety has retained its place in the headlines, there are also ongoing concerns about fire safety in new buildings. Developers have in recent months had to review their proposals after the London Fire Brigade (LFB) expressed concerns about the inclusion of just one staircase in plans for tall buildings, with a Tower Hamlets scheme by Ballymore being withdrawn before going to planning committee and Unibail-Rodamco-Westfield saying that it would reconsider its plans for a 35-storey building in Hammersmith & Fulham. A Freedom of Information request made by Inside Housing has shown that in the year to January 2022, the London Fire Brigade flagged concerns about 129 planning applications as they included proposals for a single staircase in buildings of over four storeys. As reported by The Telegraph, the Government is in the process of reviewing fire safety rules for high-rise buildings, but the UK’s existing laws on escape staircases are much less strict than other countries. For his part, the Mayor of London has launched a consultation on draft Fire Safety London Plan guidance which would ‘ensure fire safety is embedded in the early stages of all planning processes’ and which sets out how developers should comply with the policies included in the London Plan, including ensuring that measures are in place so that ‘safe and dignified’ evacuations can take place in the event of a fire.
KX WELCOMES ASTRAZENECA
AstraZeneca UK this week moved into its new HQ in King’s Cross. Their move from Luton is a strong vote of confidence in the London market, underlining the importance of collaboration and the return to office spaces. The vaccine maker will be in good company at the heart of London’s Knowledge Quarter, alongside some of the world’s most innovative organisations and a stone’s throw from the internationally acclaimed Francis Crick Institute. The property media certainly lapped up the exciting news, with the LCA team scoring coverage in Property Week, EG, React News, and Co-Star.
LCA AT MIPIM
An LCA delegation will be making its way down to Cannes next month – by plane and by bike. Chris Madel, Jane Groom and Sarah Rawlings will be at MIPIM from 14-17 March, hosting events, networking and hearing about the latest projects and priorities from the property industry. Do get in touch if you are planning to be there too and would like to connect!
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