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LDN Weekly – Issue 301 – 31 January 2024 – The Great Re-Set


This week the British Property Federation (BPF) published their 2024 General Election Manifesto, Building Our Future. At the heart of the BPF’s pitch is a message of partnership to the next Government – a successful built environment sector is key to delivering on the country’s housing and infrastructure needs, and ultimately to generating economic growth.


Dear Reader,

This week the British Property Federation (BPF) published their 2024 General Election Manifesto, Building Our Future. At the heart of the BPF’s pitch is a message of partnership to the next Government – a successful built environment sector is key to delivering on the country’s housing and infrastructure needs, and ultimately to generating economic growth. That this needs emphasising is telling.

BPF supremo Melanie Leech calls for a ‘radical re-set of the partnership between Government and business’, reflecting how difficult things have become in recent years. Rather timely, Knight Frank just this week found the vast majority of housebuilders ‘want to see a Labour Government’.

Housebuilders and developers have come in for particular criticism from the Government. Michael Gove is a canny operator, and can sense the political opportunities that come from picking fights with those lacking a groundswell of public sympathy. That the property industry fell into this category will no doubt be something the sector reflects on, as it looks to who forms the next government.

The BPF’s manifesto is an attempt at a positive fight back by this industry, and timely as the parties assemble their offers to the voters. That both main parties are talking about the need to build more homes and invest in infrastructure is to be welcomed, yet some clear differences between them are emerging.

Labour has committed to a planning bill in the first 100 days, to speed up getting things built. They’ve adopted a top down housing target of 1.5million new homes over five years and committed to building the next generation of New Towns. Keir Starmer has left open the prospect of releasing some Green Belt for development. The sector will be encouraged by what they’d heard so far, but will be looking to Labour to flesh out their proposals further.

Being the incumbents, the Conservatives must also defend their record in office, and head towards the election having watered down their planning reforms, abandoned top down housing targets and doubled down on protecting the Green Belt. Where they’ve focused on new homes, it’s tended to be areas well away from the leafy shires like in their vision for a ‘Docklands 2.0’. 

When it comes to London and the wider South East, the difference between the two parties must be seen through the prism of the opinion polls. For the Tories, their approach to building new homes is constrained by their current unpopularity, leaving them constrained by the views of MPs in key marginals around the fringes of London fighting for their political lives. Opposing development and protecting the Green Belt are seen as key to defending these seats.

Labour, emboldened by the confidence that comes with a large poll lead, looks to have identified a frustrated demographic that is spilling out of Zone 1-4 into the suburbs and Home Counties, politically diluting these once solid blue heartlands. Delivering new homes, and taking on the planning system, is seen as key to appealing to this group’s aspirations.

Over the coming months, who holds together their delicate coalitions of voters will be fascinating to watch. And LDN will be here all the way, digesting developments and what it means for you and your organisations.

Nick Bowes, Managing Director, Insight

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Off peak Fridays: Hot on the heels of the Mayor announcing a one year freeze in TfL fares, Sadiq Khan has confirmed Friday’s will now be off peak fares all day.

Good news: from March, all day Friday fares will now be at the lower off peak price and for those with Freedom Passes and 60+ Oyster Cards, there’ll no longer by the 9.01am rush – you’ll be able to use them all day.

Bad news: it’s only a trial period for three months, no start date has yet been announced and it’s still not clear what is happening with non-TfL services. The Mayor claims it’s sorted, TfL still seem less clear.

Set fare: the trial will cost £24m - £2m a week to substitute for reduced fair income – but the change is hoped to generate more passenger numbers. Many are watching to see whether slightly more dynamic pricing of this nature will have an impact on commuter behaviour.

Struggling Fridays: as a reminder, since the Covid pandemic, overall passenger numbers across London’s transport network have slowly crept back towards pre-Coronavirus levels. While weekend numbers have recovered pretty well, Mondays and particularly Fridays have struggled, lagging at around 73% of pre-pandemic levels, leading to calls by business groups to do more to encourage people back into the office.

All the fun of the fare: welcoming the trial were Kate Nichols (CEO, UK Hospitality) … “exactly the type of flexible approach needed to boost journey numbers and stimulate footfall”, Ruth Duston (CEO, Primera operator of 12 BIDs in the capital)…Adopting a more flexible approach to fare policy is something our BIDs have asked the Mayor and TfL to look at over recent years”, BusinessLDN… “experimenting with Friday fares is an innovative step that could help encourage some hybrid workers back into the capital”.

Less keen: Khan’s political opponents are less effusive. Green Party Mayoral candidate Zoë Garbett… “feels like a gimmick”, Tory candidate Susan Hall….commuters “might change their habits slightly" but “if people are doing a three-day week [in the office], they'll just change their days and not come in another day”.

Fine fare: recent announcements on fares reopen the question of Greater London’s complicated ticketing and fares system. The recent Mayoral Decision on fares stretched to 47 pages, including 17 just with tables on the various combinations, permutations and concessions (not recommended reading!). While tube, bus, overground and tram fares are in the gift of TfL, national rail commuter services are not – and travelcards, daily and weekly caps are a joint decision.

Devolution, not revolution: Devolving Southern Railway, South Western Railways and Southeastern Trains metro services to TfL has been on and off for over a decade - agreed in January 2016, ditched just 11 months later by the then Transport Secretary, Chris Grayling. Might a change of Government revive the prospect of unifying more services under TfL control and lead to a proper shake up of fares and zones? One definitely to watch.


City schmoozing: This morning, Labour launched their new plan for the financial services sector, pledging to ‘cut red tape’, support the City of London’s ‘competitiveness’, and boost financial centres both in the City and in the regions. Shadow Chancellor Rachel Reeves and the Mayor of London, writing in City Am, said a Labour Government would embrace innovation in AI and fintech to ‘champion’ the UK as a world leader for financial services.

(No) river crossing: The Mayor of London has rejected proposals by the Port of London Authority to introduce three new electric river ferry crossings in east London. TfL has said it ‘remains supportive of the principle’ but highlights ‘uncertainty’ with its capital investment pipeline. The announcement has been criticised by the City Hall Conservatives who have argued the Mayor is more interested in funding his ‘pet projects.’ A 2016 manifesto commitment by Khan to build a Rotherhithe-Canary Wharf cycle and pedestrian crossing was later put on hold due to escalating costs.

SME boost: London & Partners has launched of Grow London Local, a new pilot programme aimed at supporting SMEs. Backed by £8.7m from the Mayor of London, the new programme is intended as a ‘one stop shop’ for small businesses to access support for skills development, finance and services.

School’s out: A report from London Councils has revealed an annual fall in demand of nearly 8,000 school places as the city’s child population continues to shrink. London’s birth rate has declined by 17% between 2012-21, compounded by shifts in demographics resulting from the higher cost of living, Covid-19 and Brexit.

Suspensions: Edmonton MP Kate Osamor has been suspended by the Labour Party after referring to Gaza as a genocide on Holocaust Memorial Day. Osamor joins Jeremy Corbyn, Bambos Charalambous and Diane Abbott as former London Labour MPs currently sat as independents having had the whip withdrawn. Meanwhile, in Merton, Cllr Caroline Charles has quit the Labour Party over its stance on Israel-Gaza.

Tourist tax: A report from the Centre for Economics and Business Research (CEBR) has showed that the cost of the Government’s removal of VAT-free shopping for overseas visitors has cost £11.1bn in lost GDP and deters two million tourists. The Chancellor is under continued pressure to reinstate the policy, with over 420 business leaders, including from Marks & Spencer, Primark, and British Airways, having signed a joint letter on the topic this week.

ULEZ latest: Hundreds of thousands of EU citizens have been wrongly fined for driving in the Ultra-Low Emission Zone (ULEZ), according to reports in the Guardian. Meanwhile, data on the ULEZ vehicle scrappage scheme has shown that six in 10 motorists who have applied for funding have yet to be approved. TfL has reportedly committed over £158m to scrapping over 46,000 applicants but has said over 68,000 applicants are awaiting approval or were rejected.


  • Deputy Mayor for Planning Jules Pipe has overturned Tower Hamlets Council’s refusal of consent for the Aberfeldy New Village plans in Poplar. The scheme, by Poplar HARCA and EcoWorld, was called in by the Mayor in May 2023. The joint venture developer plans to demolish 330 homes to replace with 1,565 new homes (38.8% affordable), in 11 buildings ranging from six to 28 storeys. Tower Hamlets Council rejected the plans unanimously in February 2023 despite planning officers recommending approval and residents voting overwhelmingly for estates regeneration in 2020. 

  •  Stanhope has submitted a full planning application for the delivery of a new 74-storey building at 1 Undershaft, proposing demolition of the existing 24-storey St Helen’s Tower. Rising to 309.6m tall, the new landmark building would match the height of the Shard and would contain 186,600 sq m of total internal office floorspace. The plans also include a new public podium garden 46m above street level, a cultural space created by the Museum of London and London’s highest publicly accessible viewing gallery on the top two floors. 

  • Patrizia has secured planning consent from the City of London Corporation for its proposed redevelopment of the office building at 30 Minories in Aldgate, along with the refurbishment of the adjacent Writers House. Patrizia proposes demolishing the current building, replacing it with a 16-storey scheme, providing 186,500 sq ft of internal office space and lower floor retail space. The adjacent six-storey Writers House warehouse is to be retained and refurbished for community uses and local enterprises.

  • St Martin’s Property Investments has secured planning consent from Southwark Council to refurbish its seven-storey office block at More London Place. The plans include adding a new entrance to the rear of the building, installing new solar panels and a green rooftop to ‘augment’ the office as a ‘desirable location’ in the London Bridge area.

  • Channel 4 is to move out of its Grade II listed headquarters in Victoria as it cuts its staff by 240 and continues to expand outside of London. Changes in working patterns and a lower number of staff in the capital has led to the broadcaster seeking smaller premises.

  • A joint venture consortium comprised of TfL, Rocket Properties and hotelier 4C Group is seeking a new investor for a £400m development at 60 Aldgate. The consortium is seeking new investment to enable the delivery of the 12-storey office building which gained planning approval from the City of London in April 2022.

  • TfL’s property development arm, Places for London, is seeking a joint venture partner to develop a new ‘car-free’ residential scheme on the Limmo Peninsula in Newham. The 5ha site has the potential to deliver up to 1,500 homes five minutes from Canning Town Tube station.


  • London-based urban regeneration specialist, property developer and LCA client Knight Dragon has appointed Matt Hawkins as Chief Executive Officer with immediate effect. Hawkins takes over from Richard Margree who is retiring after an illustrious 30-year career. Over 12 years with Knight Dragon, Margree helped to spearhead the company’s investment and vision into what has become the developer’s flagship scheme, Greenwich Peninsula.

  • Chief Executive of Metropolitan Thames Valley Housing, Geeta Nanda, is to step down from the role after 16 years with the housing association. Nanda, who chaired the G15 group of housing associations between 2021-23, has said that she feels the ‘time is right’ to leave the organisation.

  • Newham Council has appointed Paul Kitson as its new Corporate Director of Inclusive Economy, Housing and Culture, joining from Birmingham City Council. Kitson was a former regional Director at Homes England for 10 years, covering development in the south east. Newham has also appointed Laura Eden as its new Corporate Director of Children and Young People and Adrian Thomas as Chief Marketing Officer.

  • Willmott Dixon has appointed Chief Financial Officer Graham Dundas as its new Chief Executive, taking over from Rick Willmott who moves to the Board role as Executive Chairman. It follows the retirement of long-standing company director Colin Enticknap, who first joined the firm in 1987.

  • Deputy Director of think tank Onward, Adam Hawksbee, has been appointed as interim Chair of the Government’s new Towns Unit. Hawksbee will oversee the delivery of the Government’s Long-Term Plan for Towns, providing a £1.1bn endowment to regenerate 55 towns across the UK.

  • Co-founder of Weston Williamson + Partners, Chris Williamson, has announced his candidacy for President of RIBA, to take over from current President Muyiwa Oki once his term ends in 2025.

  • Chief Executive of the Housing Finance Corporation, Piers Williamson, is stepping down after 22 years in the role. Current Director at Abrdn, Priyan Nair, has been announced as his replacement.

  • Flexible office provider Workspace Group’s CEO, Graham Clemett, has announced that he is to retire later this year.


  • Conservative MP for Bromley and Chislehurst, Sir Bob Neill, has been appointed as Honorary King’s Counsel in recognition of his long career in upholding the rule of law and in his role as Chair of the Justice Select Committee.

  • The Conservative Party has selected former Bedford councillor and teacher Anthony Boutall as its candidate to contest the new Streatham and Croydon North seat at the next General Election.


Dirt and delays: Intended as preventing ‘urban sprawl’, the Green Belt has become the focus of a growing debate as issues of new homes and the housing crisis rise up the political agenda.

Our back yard: London’s Metropolitan Green Belt is the largest in England, covering over 508,000ha and stretching out into the Home Counties around the capital. It represents a significant portion of land effectively blocked for development.

No Scrubs: Analysis by Knight Frank has identified 11,205 disused sites on the Green Belt known as ‘Grey Belt’ land, which could provide 13,500ha of residential and employment development, with over 40% located on London’s Metropolitan Green Belt. This includes scrubland, car parks and brownfield wasteland which could deliver 200,000 new homes.

Sticking plaster? While building on the Green Belt is historically seen as a ‘politically toxic’ debate, the alternative of solely building on brownfield land is not enough to meet demand for new houses. A 2022 report from Lichfields found only a third of housing demand would be met by building on all vacant brownfield land, both within and outside the Green Belt. 

Wham-bam Tarmacadam: Releasing land from the Green Belt is not impossible, even in London, but it requires the permission of the Secretary of State. That doesn’t mean it isn’t uncontroversial - Enfield Council’s previous attempt to declassify 186ha of Green Belt land for 6,000 new homes in 2021 was slammed by Sadiq Khan as ‘unjustified’ and ‘premature.’

Bits and pieces: The Government has created a clear dividing line between them and Labour on building on the Green Belt. PM Rishi Sunak wants ‘green spaces protected’ and vowed in his leadership campaign to stop councils appealing to the Planning Inspectorate to declassify ‘precious’ Green Belt land.

Rose garden: Meanwhile, Labour Leader Keir Starmer has opened the prospect of developing so-called ‘Grey Belt’ parts of the Green Belt and to building a new generation of New Towns in areas with good transport connectivity. Starmer’s enthusiasm opens up the prospect of a conflict with the Mayor of London, Sadiq Khan, who has repeatedly vowed to protect the Green Belt.


  • Housing Today has on Michael Gove’s intervention on the London Plan, looking at what the outcome of the review could be for the Mayor and the capital.
  • Angela Rayner’s Guardian interview on the cost pressures facing local authorities.
  • The impact of repurposing of public buildings.
  • London is a top financial centre, but let’s not get complacent.
  • Budget blow outs and delays – why the UK struggles with major infrastructure projects.
    Sarah Jessica Parker’s admiration for London’s transport system.
  • Giles Coren’s list of London’s top 10 restaurants – but only if money were no object.  


Our wonderful team here at LCA is currently on the lookout for six new faces to take on the following roles:

  • Account Manager, Politics, Engagement & Planning
  • Account Executive, Politics, Engagement & Planning
  • Account Manager, Corporate & Consumer
  • Social Media Manager
  • Chief of Staff
  • Office Coordinator

If you are interested in joining us, do get in touch using or take a look at our LinkedIn.


LCA prides itself on its intelligence-led approach to PR and communications and our dedicated insight 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. 


Nick Bowes

Managing Director, Insight


Robert Gordon Clark

Senior Advisor and Partner


Emily Clinton

Account Manager, Insight 


 Daniel Reast

Insight Executive

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 the LDN team by using the details above.

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