The Mayor has been facing a rough ride of late – with more to come – as Assembly Members go through his proposed budget for 2018/19 with a fine comb and the National Audit Office prepares to investigate Crossrail Ltd.
We cover these and other stories from City Hall, including new reports by the Assembly’s Housing and Transport Committees. But we also take a deep dive into several London Boroughs’ planning policies and decisions, from Islington’s new draft Local Plan to estate regeneration schemes in Newham and Southwark, as well as the refusal of a major scheme by Greenwich.
And there’s more: this edition also covers Newham’s upcoming referendum, people moves across several sectors, by-elections in Westminster and Enfield, and to top it all off some recently-published research on housing and development.
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GLA BUDGET 2018/19
The London Assembly’s Budget and Performance Committee convened last Wednesday to scrutinise the Mayor’s proposed draft GLA budget for 2019-20 – the first of several sessions in which this and other Assembly committees will unpick the Mayor's proposals. AMs interrogated David Bellamy, the Mayor’s Chief of Staff, recently arrived Mary Harpley, City Hall’s Chief Officer, and a who’s-who of the GLA’s Executive Directors. The session covered a number of topics, from the GLA’s broader resourcing and staffing, to specific spending allocations. One highlight, which has been picked up by the press, is that the Mayor is proposing 92 additional permanent posts, which would take the number of GLA employees to above 1,000 next year. The GLA currently employs 953, about 250 more than at the end of Boris’ last term. Opposition AMs grilled officers on the need for these new positions, as well as on funds for a number of arms-length bodies, particularly London & Partners, the Old Oak and Park Royal Development Corporation (OPDC) and the London Legacy Development Corporation (LLDC). AMs further dissected the Mayor’s distribution of £4.8bn for new affordable homes. David Lunts, GLA Executive Director for Housing and Land, confirmed that approximately £4bn of these funds have already been allocated to support an estimated 95,000 starts (of a targeted 116,000 by March 2022).
CROSSRAIL UNDER THE MICROSCOPE
One major issue which was not touched upon in the London Assembly’s first session on the 2018/19 budget was that of Crossrail 1’s delayed delivery and cost overruns. But AMs are sure to raise the issue in future sessions. All the more so as the National Audit Office (NAO) has announced a formal investigation into ‘the causes of the cost increases and schedule delays, the terms of the additional funding, and the governance and oversight of the [Crossrail] programme’. The NAO’s probe, scheduled to begin in ‘early 2019’, will also examine ‘the steps being taken by Crossrail Ltd, TfL, and the department [for Transport] to minimise the impact of the cost increases and delays.’ The NAO’s decision follows requests for an investigation by Meg Hillier MP (Lab), Chair of Parliament’s Public Accounts Committee, as well as Caroline Pidgeon AM (Lib Dem), Chair of the London Assembly’s Transport Committee. Only a couple of days before news emerged of the NAO probe’s launch, City AM and other media also reported that Sadiq himself wrote to the NAO to raise ‘serious concerns’ about the ‘transparency and effectiveness of Crossrail's governance’.
THE ASSEMBLY REPORTS
While on GLA news, it is worth noting that two London Assembly Committees have published reports this week, which handily encapsulate the London Assembly’s twofold role of keeping the Mayor to account and helping develop City Hall policy.
- Only today, the Housing Committee – which is chaired by Green AM Sian Berry - has released a new Housing Monitor examining the Mayor’s record in delivering affordable homes for the capital. According to the relevant announcement’s stark title, the Mayor is ‘off target’, particularly as regards the delivery of social housing. The report’s findings were discussed at a Housing Committee session this morning, attended by the Deputy Mayor for Housing James Murray, and we’ll be covering this in more detail in next week’s edition.
- Meanwhile, on Monday the Transport Committee published ‘Broken Rails: A rail service fit for passengers’. The document outlines a number of ‘short-term priorities’ aimed at improving train journeys for Londoners. The recommendations include more investment in delivering better accessibility to stations, more frequent and longer trains on London’s rail network and a ‘single rail strategy for London’ covering both TfL and Network Rail.
ANOTHER NEW LOCAL PLAN
Islington has published its new draft local plan for 2020-2035 for consultation. The plan is centred on three main principles: deliver more high-quality and genuinely affordable homes; create a thriving, inclusive local economy; and protect Islington’s environment and character. According to the draft, the council will require 50% of new homes be affordable, with a preferred tenure split of 70% social rented and 30% intermediate. In addition to this, the plan levels noteworthy restrictions and obligations on commercial development, including a 10% affordable requirement for most new workspace and curbs on the number of new betting shops and takeaways on high streets. The plan emphasises good quality design and construction, and includes numerous warning signs that new developments will be required to fit in with the character of the surrounding area - one passage even warns that ‘proposals which do not engage proactively with the public realm and explore opportunities for improvements/better links will be resisted’. The plan also introduces restrictions on new developments taller than 30m. The council’s consultation will run until 14 January 2019.
MORE FROM NEWHAM
As reported in previous editions of LDN, Newham Council is moving forward with Mayor Rokhsana Fiaz’s pledge to hold a referendum on the future of the borough’s directly-elected Mayoralty. Only this Monday, Councillors approved a motion to hold the vote on 7 May 2020 – the same day as the elections for the Mayor of London and London Assembly. According to local media, the date was chosen to ensure higher turnout and minimise costs. Meanwhile, as part of her wider efforts to make a ‘fresh start’, Newham’s Mayor has announced that she intends to stop the procurement process – launched in August last year – for a commercial partner to help redevelop the Carpenters Estate. Under plans drawn up by her predecessor Sir Robin Wales, the estate was to be demolished and redeveloped. The Newham Recorder reported that Fiaz declared her intentions at a meeting with estate residents, during which she asked them to ‘put aside the false promises and false hopes of the past and suspend their disbelief that something different will happen, because it will happen’. It would appear Fiaz is set on relaunching the regeneration process, with a strict requirement that any new proposals for the estate include a minimum of 50% affordable homes.
THE BATTLE OF WOOLWICH
Greenwich councillors have unanimously rejected proposals submitted by Meyer Homes to develop a site in Woolwich for 804 homes, including a 27-storey tower. Officers had recommended the development be rejected, citing a number of concerns, many of which centred on its affordable housing offer. A key complaint of critics, which included a local campaigning group, was that the tower would have only included private homes, with the affordable homes situated in three separate blocks. Meyer Homes offered three options for affordable housing, which would have delivered 23%, 32% or 40% respectively – the last offer being dependent on securing a £12.5m grant from the GLA. The councillors’ decision – in line with officers’ recommendation to refuse and supported by the constituency’s Labour AM Len Duvall – is indicative of increasing unease at the scale and pace of development in this borough. However, this may not be the end for the development, as it could be called-in by the Mayor. If that were to happen, it would be the third in Greenwich to be called in by City Hall within a year.
It is worth noting that 7 December has been set as the date for the Public Representation Hearing for Eynsham Drive, one of two Greenwich schemes called in to date.
Housing secretary James Brokenshire has approved Southwark’s application for a compulsory purchase order (CPO), unlocking the next stage of regeneration plans for the Aylesbury estate. The sprawling estate of about 2,400 homes, originally built in the 1960s and ‘70s, has been described as ‘one of the largest council estates in Europe’. Efforts to regenerate the area began as early as 1999. At present, a large number of residents have been decanted to other housing and demolition has begun on several sites, while L&Q has already built more than 400 new homes on outlying parts of the estate. The CPO’s approval nevertheless represents a crucial milestone, as it enables the main part of the project, which is being implemented by the council and Notting Hill Genesis, to progress. Their aim is to deliver more than 3,500 homes on the site, of which 50% would be affordable (split 75% social rented and 25% shared ownership or shared equity). Brokenshire’s decision marks the end of a long battle between the council, a handful of remaining leaseholders on the estate, and the government – which saw the CPO request initially refused, a judicial review and a public inquiry by planning inspectors.
THE SHADOW OF GRENFELL
Estates management firm Ryhurst is fighting a decision by Whittington Hospital Trust in the High Court. The case centres on the Trust’s withdrawal from a potential 10-year partnership with the firm for the management of its estate. Ryhurst claims that the Trust, located in Islington, cut ties due to pressure from the public and politicians, including local Labour MP and party leader Jeremy Corbyn. Ryhurst more particularly alleges that these pressures were triggered by the fact that it is a subsidiary of Rydon Group, the firm which oversaw the refurbishment of Grenfell Tower, including the installation of its external cladding. Ryhurst is seeking to be awarded the contract as well as recoup its losses. For its part, the Trust denies that it bowed to pressure, asserting instead that an improvement in its financial situation meant it no longer needed to rely on a joint venture to viably manage its estate. Ryhurst’s legal submission was made on 23 November and a hearing date is expected to follow. As reported by the health trade press, Ryhurst previously initiated legal action against two other NHS trusts, on similar grounds, earlier this year.
- The Mayor has appointed four new Board Members and two new Planning Committee members at the OPDC.
- London Fire Brigade Deputy Commissioner Tom George is set to retire in November 2019, after two years in the post and 32 years with the Brigade in total.
- The founder of Derwent London, John Burns, is set to leave his role as Chief Executive in May 2019, after 35 years. He will however stay on as Non-Executive Chair for a two year period, replacing Robert Rayn. Paul Williams, currently Derwent's Property Director, has been appointed to succeed Burns as CEO.
- Enfield Cabinet Member for Public Health and Labour Councillor for Bowes ward, Yasemin Brett, has been suspended from cabinet after publicly expressing disagreement with a decision relating to the construction of a waste facility near her ward.
- Finally, rumours are circulating in the press about plans for the appointment of a new London Labour regional director… watch this space for more!
- Westminster Conservative candidate Margot Bright has held Robert Davis’ former ward, Lancaster Gate, for the Conservatives in a 22 November by-election.
- The Conservatives also held Enfield Bush Hill Park in a by-election the next day. According to Britain Elects, the vote saw winning candidate James Hockney benefit from a full +13% swing in favour of the Tories.
The past week has seen the publication of several reports providing valuable insight on London’s housing and development sectors:
- New London Architecture (NLA) have published their inaugural annual London Borough Report, which outlines how London's local authorities are dealing with growth in their neighbourhoods and providing great insight on local development across the capital – and we are proud to see a map by LCA’s design team in the report!
- Meanwhile, the Westminster Property Association has sponsored a new report by Professor Tony Travers, Director of LSE London, entitled Building Trust: Insight Paper on Good Growth. In the paper, Travers explores the ‘breakdown of public trust in planning and development’ and proposes a number of ideas for how the industry and policymakers should respond.
- Meanwhile, Shelter has released its third annual analysis of homelessness in Britain, which found that 170,000 people in the capital alone are without a home - forming almost half of an estimated 320,000 homeless people in England, Wales and Scotland as a whole. Newham has the highest number of homeless people in England, with 14,500 people in temporary accommodation in the borough and 76 sleeping rough.
CARE HOMES CONFERENCE 2018
This week LCA attended the Care Homes & Retirement Living conference. We heard from a wide range of industry figures and the discussion covered diverse topics such as overcoming obstacles in the planning system and leveraging in new investment. The challenge of an ageing population means that the industry and government must, somehow, find ways of bridging the gap between current supply and the need for homes catering for older people – a gap which currently stands at 474,000 dwellings and will only increase as the population ages.
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