TALE OF TWO KHANS
Two very different narratives about the Mayor of London have been making the rounds this week. One is the story of a Mayor struggling to meet his pledges to build new homes, tackle crime and deliver major transport projects. The other speaks of an enterprising Mayor flying to Brussels for talks with the EU and dishing out £1bn for new council homes.
We cover all of the above in this week’s issue, which also looks at an entirely different Khan’s decision to withdraw a £600m offer for Wembley Stadium. Meanwhile, a long-running dispute between Dulwich Hamlet FC, Southwark Council and American developers over the much more modest Champions Hill ground appears to have been resolved.
We also consider the parallel launch of major planning reforms by Westminster and Kensington & Chelsea, key people moves, and the Liberal Democrats’ shortlisted 2020 London Election candidates – among several other salient stories for the capital.
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TOUGH WEEK FOR SADIQ?
The past week has been a rocky one for the Mayor of London, with negative publicity assailing City Hall on several fronts, including housing, crime and transport – providing ammunition for the Conservatives’ war of attrition against Sadiq.
- The Financial Times reported research by Molior London, according to which private sector residential developments of 20+ homes began building only 3,700 homes in Q3, the least in a quarter since the same period in 2012.
- Meanwhile, the Evening Standard has highlighted Office of National Statistics (ONS) data showing that knife crime in the capital has risen to its highest level since 2009, at 14,987 crimes in the of the year ending June - 15% more than the previous 12-month period - and including 91 knife killings. More than 100 murders have been committed in London 2018 to date.
- Finally, Liberal Democrat London Assembly Member Caroline Pidgeon has published correspondence with the Financial Conduct Authority (FCA), which indicates that the watchdog is considering a formal investigation into TfL’s disclosure of delays to Crossrail’s launch. TfL’s board is holding an emergency meeting in private today, to discuss Crossrail funding, which as Pidgeon suggests, does not bode well.
BUT THE MAYOR STRIKES BACK
Over the weekend, Sadiq secured himself a prominent position at the People’s Vote march in central London, which drew an estimated 700,000 protestors. Addressing the crowd, who were marching in favour of a second referendum on the final outcome of Brexit negotiations, the Mayor fulminated against the ‘mistruths and the deceptions of the referendum campaign’ and asserted that ‘there’s nothing more democratic – nothing more British – than trusting the people to have the final say on our future’. The march was significantly larger than the previous major anti-Brexit march last June – which was estimated to have drawn 100,000 people. Sadiq is also set to travel to Brussels this Friday to meet with the EU’s chief negotiator Michel Barnier, in order to ‘stand up for Londoners […] by engaging directly with Europe’.
Meanwhile, the Mayor yesterday confirmed the allocation of £1 billion to support the construction of 14,724 homes (of which 11,154 will be offered at social rent levels) by 26 London boroughs, through the ‘Building Council Homes for Londoners’ programme. The biggest allocations have been secured by Labour boroughs Newham and Ealing, which nabbed £100m each (to build 1,138 and 1,123 homes respectively). But seven boroughs have received no funding: Tory-led Bexley, Bromley, and Westminster, Labour-led Lambeth and Merton, and Liberal Democrat-controlled Richmond Launched in May, the programme draws on a wider £4.8bn pot of Government funding for affordable housing accumulated since Sadiq became Mayor – and which he has committed to use towards supporting a total of at least 116,000 affordable homes starts by March 2022. The programme also offers boroughs the ability to ringfence Right to Buy and enable their investment in new homes, as well as expert support and other resources to help scale up their homebuilding programmes. This latest allocation of Mayoral funding follows the launch of a £10 million Homebuilding Capacity Fund last Friday, which will provide boroughs up to £750,000 each to help build the capacity of their housing and planning teams.
THE NEW FACE OF WESTMINSTER?
Westminster City Council has published its new Planning Review, set to be discussed at its next Cabinet meeting tomorrow. The report outlines proposals which aim to ensure the Council is ‘open and transparent’ as well as make ‘services accessible and relevant to everyone’. Suggested measures include:
- The recording and live streaming of Planning Sub-Committee meetings, as well as the implementation of ‘public speaking rights’ at these – all common practices in most other London boroughs.
- Improving overall accessibility of information on the Council’s website, including using simpler language to explain planning decisions and policies.
- Increasing delegation of planning decisions to officers where possible and reviewing call-in procedures.
- A new Place-Shaping and Planning Directorate, which will replace the roles of Director of Planning and Director of Place Shaping and West End Partnership.
Meanwhile, the Council has also released its new Place Strategy and Delivery Plan for the Oxford Street District, which will be debated at tomorrow’s Cabinet meeting. It includes £150 million of investment across three years to ‘redesign and upgrade’ the area – though its proposed ‘improvements to address the increased number of pedestrians using the street’ seem to stop short of pedestrianising the major shopping street, as had been originally planned by City Hall and TfL. If approved, the plans will go to public consultation between 6 November and 16 December.
RBKC ‘GREEN PAPER’
Last Wednesday’s full RBKC council meeting saw Deputy Leader Councillor Kim Taylor-Smith launch a housing ‘discussion paper’ as ‘the start of a conversation’ about how the council will build more and better housing, improve its estates and work in closer collaboration with residents. Entitled ‘Kensington and Chelsea Homes: solving the challenge together‘, the paper underlines the borough’s recognition that ‘the Grenfell tragedy has changed Kensington and Chelsea forever’ and that ‘there can be no going back to the old ways of working’. It goes on to lay out a series of policy proposals for further debate and consultation, marking a potentially radical – for the true-blue central London borough - departure from business-as-usual. Aside from council estate management the paper also addresses the broader spheres of planning and housing delivery. Indicatively it:
- Reiterates a commitment to not demolish existing estate homes and focus on infill opportunities and privately-owned sites.
- Notes emerging plans to directly build 300 new council homes and 300 open market homes (the borough is one of 26 to receive new Mayoral funding, as reported above, but the council has not yet disclosed when it plans to build these new homes).
- Calls for the government to expand councils’ remit to temporarily requisition properties that have been vacant for more than two years.
- Makes pre-application consultation ‘a statutory requirement for major developments’.
- Commits the council to taking a more assertive role in demanding developers deliver ‘genuinely affordable housing’ on-site and challenging developers’ viability assessments.
WEMBLEY SALE KHANNED
To the disappointment of some – and the relief of others – Fulham FC owner Shahid Khan has withdrawn his £600m offer to buy Wembley Stadium from the Football Association (FA). While most of the FA board backed the sale, Khan dropped his offer only a week before the FA’s full 127-member council was due to vote on it, citing a lack of sufficient support from key stakeholders. Indeed, it is understood that the sale was supported by at best a slim majority on the council, with several high-profile members – such as former Premier League chairman Sir David Richards – in opposition. Meanwhile, a Football Supporters’ Federation survey of 2,000 fans found that two thirds were against it. Critics have cited a number of concerns, centred on the growing commercialisation of the sport. The FA’s leadership has expressed disappointment at this outcome – highlighting the fact that it had committed to spending the proceeds of the sale on community sport and grassroots facilities. The sale is now off the cards until further notice, but Khan himself has not ruled out making a renewed bid, if more FA Council members can be won over to the idea.
THE PINK AND THE BLACK IS BACK
Dulwich Hamlet FC, Southwark Council and developers Meadow Residential have finally reached a deal to end their long-running dispute. This saw Dulwich evicted from their Champion Hill ground in March by the American-based property investment fund and the council in turn threaten to implement a Compulsory Purchase Order (CPO) on the site. The resolution of the acrimonious and long-running spat was achieved at a meeting hosted by the Department for Digital, Culture, Media and Sport (DCMS), chaired by Sports Minister Tracey Crouch and attended by local Labour MPs Helen Hayes and Harriet Harman. It will allow the National League South club to return to Champion Hill and resume matches and other activities, while raising the council’s threat to expropriate the site owners. Meadow Residential has now presumably secured a surer route to the site’s £80m redevelopment – a planning application for which was refused last October by the council – but the announcement which followed the meeting does not clarify how Meadow Residential plans to proceed.
- City Hall has announced that Matthew Ryder QC is to step down from his position as London’s Deputy Mayor for Social Integration on 9 November to refocus on his legal career. The same announcement notes the appointment of Dr Debbie Weekes-Bernard, Policy and Research Manager at Joseph Rowntree Foundation, as Ryder’s successor. She will make history as the first black woman to be Deputy Mayor of London.
- Penny Wrout has held a seat in Victoria ward for Labour in Hackney at a by-election on 18 October, following the resignation of Alex Kuye. On a relatively low turnout of 25%, Wrout won with 1,311 votes (a full 347 votes more than all four other rivals combined).
- Local media reported last week that Redbridge Council’s Corporate Director of Place, Caroline Bruce, is stepping down this November. Bruce joined the council in 2016 and since then has overseen the development and launch of Redbridge’s latest housing, regeneration and civic pride strategies.
LIB DEM SHORTLIST FOR LONDON MAYOR AND ASSEMBLY ELECTIONS PUBLISHED
The Liberal Democrats have published their shortlist of potential candidates for the 2020 Mayoral and London Assembly elections. Earlier this month, LDN relayed a report by party strategist Mark Pack, who correctly identified three of these: Siobhan Benita, who previously ran for Mayor as an independent candidate in 2012 and received over 83,000 first votes; Lucy Salek, the party’s candidate for the Lewisham East parliamentary by-election this past summer; and Dinesh Dhamija, multi-millionaire businessman. On the final shortlist, these three are joined by Rob Blackie, a digital communications specialist and former senior party advisor. Also confirmed was a shortlist of 15 potential candidates for the London Assembly, 11 of whom will be chosen to stand. The party is keen to highlight the diversity of its shortlist, with the party’s English Candidates Committee member Brian Orrell reportedly saying in an email to party members that ‘this is the most diverse range of candidates our party has ever fielded for the London Mayor and the GLA’ with over 50% BAME candidates, over 45% women and 12.5% LGBT. Party members will now have their say, with the result declared on 24 November at the party’s London Region Conference.
With less than a week to go before the Autumn Budget, we have been keeping track of the ongoing speculation as to what it will offer – and what it will not – particularly in relation to salient issues for London, such as policing, housing and infrastructure.
- Over the weekend, it was reported that Chancellor Philip Hammond has ruled out allocating further funds to policing, a decision which is said to have caused tension with Home Secretary Sajid Javid – and will likely do no favours to the Conservatives’ 2020 Mayoral candidate Shaun Bailey, for whom tackling crime in London is a key campaigning platform.
- With regards to what is expected to be included in the Budget, housing secretary James Brokenshire wrote to local authorities on 18 October regarding the Prime Minister’s decision to scrap the Housing Revenue Account (HRA) borrowing cap for local councils, which would enable authorities to build a greater number of much-needed council homes. The letter suggests that the proposals could come into force as soon as 30 October, the day after the Budget
- Lastly, it has been reported that the Budget could include proposals set out in Sir Oliver Letwin’s review into Build Out. While his report has not yet been released, press coverage suggests the review could recommend that local authorities be given greater powers to capture the uplift in the value of sites granted planning permission. The funds thus captured would be put toward the construction of local infrastructure including roads and affordable homes.
HONOURING TESSA AND STEPHEN
A walkway in London’s Olympic Park is set to be named in memory of the late Dame Tessa Jowell. The announcement came as over 1,000 people, including former Prime Ministers Tony Blair, Gordon Brown and David Cameron, gathered at Southwark Cathedral for a memorial service to pay their respects to the former London Labour and Olympics Minister, who is widely credited as being a key driving force behind London securing and delivering the 2012 Games
Meanwhile, a petition calling on Sadiq Khan to grant permission for a statue of Stephen Lawrence to be erected in Trafalgar Square has amassed over 60,000 signatures. Lawrence was murdered at the age of 18 in an unprovoked racist attack at a bus stop in south-east London in 1993 and his death led to a series of inquiries into policing practices and efforts to end institutional racism within the force. The organisation behind the petition, Islamophobia monitoring group Tell Mama, says that the statue would demonstrate that ‘the UK stands strong against hatred’.
Wandsworth Council has announced three suggested sites for a bridge across the Thames to create a new connection between the Vauxhall Nine Elms Battersea Opportunity Area and Pimlico. The bridge would cater to pedestrians and cyclists only, with a view to promoting safe and sustainable transport methods and reducing air pollution. According to the council, the bridge would enable easy access to 25,000 future jobs in the Nine Elms area, as well as other attractions such as leisure facilities and green spaces. This is the latest stage in the proposals for a new Thames bridge in this area, a process which begun in 2003. Previously, plans have been met with strenuous opposition from Westminster councillors as well as Pimlico residents and it remains to be seen how this new push will be received. Public exhibitions will be held on the proposals in both Nine Elms and Pimlico from 3 to 10 November, with the preferred location recommended to Wandsworth Council in 2019.
HONEY I’VE SHRUNK MIPIM UK
We couldn’t help but notice how much smaller MIPIM UK at Olympia was this year compared with previous years. The room itself was reduced in size through false walls at both ends and a huge central networking area couldn’t hide the distinct lack of exhibition stands. The London Stand itself was also a more compact space, even if the programme of events, including the three sessions chaired by Jonny, Jane and Anna from LCA, were well attended. It will be interesting to see if the event recovers for next year, or if this is a rather short-lived end of the road for MIPIM UK.
LONDON COUNCILS DIRECTORY PUBLISHED
Last week, London Councils published the latest edition of its London Government Directory, a valuable resource which lists the names and contact details for the thousands of councillors and senior officers in London’s local authorities. LCA is proud of its long-term association with London Councils – and this is the tenth consecutive edition of the Directory that we have sponsored. The digital version of the directory can be accessed here, while a handy print copy can be purchased online here.
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LDN is put together by a dedicated team at London Communications Agency. The content for each edition is developed from news drawn from the last week from every London local paper as well as the regional and national press, from intelligence gathered by monitoring local, regional and national government activity and from the insight and expert knowledge of the entire LCA team.
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