THE MAYOR’S SHILLING
It’s crunch-time for Sadiq, as the finances of the Greater London Authority (GLA) and Transport for London (TfL) – Crossrail in particular – come under ever-increasing scrutiny.
Aside from the above, we also cover a number of other stories relating to the GLA, spanning planning, policing and housing.
Looking to London’s boroughs, we unpick a number of developments in planning and politics that have recently featured in the news – and some which have flown in under the radar – from Enfield, Haringey, Bromley, Greenwich and Tower Hamlets.
We additionally touch on key people moves, industrial action and more!
As always, we’d love to hear your feedback and do follow us on Twitter @LDNComms if you don’t already.
GREEN BELT THAW IN BROMLEY
Many will recall that one of the first schemes Sadiq Khan refused was down in Bromley, in 2016. Well, he has now approved the revised plans for a new football stadium and homes on a Green Belt site at Flamingo Pass. The plans include a new 1,300-seat ground for Cray Wanderers FC, several smaller community sports pitches, as well as 42 affordable homes (with a tenure split of 12% London Affordable Rent and 88% shared ownership). When he refused the initial plans in 2016, Sadiq had argued that they would ‘encroach on green space in the city’. For its part, Bromley Council has approved both applications, with an 11 to 3 planning committee vote in favour of the latest (subject to conditions and a S106 planning agreement). The council also received 561 letters of support for the plans, against 37 objections, while the Mayor and his Deputies have received over 1,000 letters of support. In their report, the Greater London Authority (GLA) officers found that the various issues raised at consultation stage had been satisfactorily addressed by the applicant and that ‘as such, on balance, the application complies with the London Plan and draft London Plan and there are no sound reasons for the Mayor to direct refusal in this case’.
The Mayor’s verdict was published among a number of other planning decisions last week, which also include the refusal of two other sport-related projects’ Stage 1 referrals – a new two storey multi-sports facility, also in Bromley, and the expansion of a golf clubhouse in Hounslow.
PEANUTS FOR LONDON'S POLICE
This week has seen a relative lull in the London Assembly’s scrutiny of the proposed GLA Budget for 2019/20 – but next week’s calendar is stacked with no less than four committee sessions and one Plenary, most which will focus on GLA finances. Furthermore, developments beyond the Assembly have intensified concerns about the funding of key services and infrastructure in the capital (more on the latter below). Home Secretary Sajid Javid may have hoped for more positive headlines when Sky News reported that he has ‘cut a deal’ with the Chancellor and Communities Secretary to ‘double the amount that local authorities can add to council tax bills for policing’. But in the event, the reaction was rather frosty. A City Hall spokesperson commented on the news by saying that the estimated additional £450m for forces across England and Wales would represent ‘a tiny fraction of the huge cuts to the police service made by this government since 2010’. In advance of a meeting with Javid yesterday, Sadiq also declared that Met police officer numbers could ‘plummet to 26,800 – the lowest number in 16 years – unless the government provides more funding’.
Meanwhile, TfL finances – by now a perennial headache for the Mayor – have also featured prominently in the news.
- The Mayor has confirmed the extension of his pay-as-you-go fares freeze for a third year running (though as previously, Travelcards and associated caps will increase by 3.1%). Sadiq’s defiant message is that he is working to lower the cost of living for Londoners even as [sic] ‘failing private rail companies’ have hiked their fares. However, sceptics including Conservative AM Gareth Bacon, who chairs the London Assembly Budget and Performance Committee, are unconvinced by assurances that the freeze is ‘is being fully paid for through TfL’s efficiencies programme’. Bacon has again warned that the freeze may be unsustainable in view of TfL’s sizeable deficit (£1bn in 2018/19) and especially Crossrail’s delayed delivery, which has raised TfL’s expenditure and cut projected revenues.
- Indeed, the level of anxiety over Crossrail’s delay – and over who will carry the blame – is reaching fever pitch. KPMG were commissioned by the Mayor to carry out an independent review, which began in September, though its findings have yet to be revealed. Separately, the NAO is scheduled to launch an audit in the New Year. Furthermore, recent media reports suggested Crossrail Chair Sir Terry Morgan was about to be sacked from both Crossrail and HS2, a role he only took up a few months ago – and only minutes before LDN went live, it was announced that he has resigned (see below for more). Earlier this morning, the London Assembly Transport Committee formally summonsed both Sadiq and Morgan to an extraordinary meeting, as well as key documents about a possible delay to the project. The summons followed statements by Morgan this Monday, in which he asserted that he is in ‘absolutely no doubt’ that the Mayor was briefed on the delay in July. Sadiq claims he was told in August.
MERIDIAN WATER SHORTLIST ANNOUNCED
Enfield Council has announced four shortlisted bidders for the delivery of the first phase of Meridian Water, known as Meridian One. Galliford Try, L&Q, Peabody and Redrow have progressed to the final stage of the bidding process, from an initial pool of 10 applicants, with the selected partner due to be announced in the spring. Meridian One includes 725 homes – of the 10,000 to be delivered across the site – alongside new public squares, shops and leisure facilities, centred around the new Meridian Water train station, set to open in summer 2019. Outline planning consent has already been secured for these new homes and construction enabling works started in January 2017. The four shortlisted bidders were selected through the Greater London Authority’s (GLA) London Development Panel 2 (LPD2). Progress is also being made on bringing forward a further housing site for Meridian Two at Leeside Road, which will deliver 200 affordable homes, earmarked for ‘makers and creators’ who will use new workspaces on the lower floors.
HOUSING ASSOCIATIONS STEP UP
Sadiq has allocated £311m million to six new strategic partnerships with housing associations – in addition to nine announced in August. Connected Partnership, Guinness Partnership, Home Group, Metropolitan Thames Valley, One Housing Group and Swan Housing will receive boosted GLA grants to deliver new low-cost rent, rent-to-buy and shared ownership homes, in exchange for offering at least 60% affordable housing on relevant schemes. The grants for these partnerships amount to more than 60% of £490m in housing grants allocated by the Mayor last week, to support the construction of 9,937 affordable homes (4,291 at London Affordable Rent rates and the rest for London Living Rent and shared ownership).
Meanwhile, the G15 group of London’s biggest housing associations, almost all of which are benefiting from Mayoral funding, has also pledged to commit to a ‘united front’ with London councils to tackle the capital’s affordable housing shortage. The G15 commits, inter alia, to entering more not-for-profit partnerships as well as sharing its development expertise with councils keen to kick-start their own housebuilding programmes. It is understood that Sadiq has now allocated a total of £4.5bn of his £4.8bn pot for affordable housing grants, which should support 105,000 new low-cost homes of various tenures – against a target of 116,000 by 2022.
- As noted above, Sir Terry Morgan has resigned from Crossrail and HS2. According to the DfT’s relevant announcement, Allan Cook CBE has been appointed as the new Chair of HS2 Ltd and a successor on Crossrail Ltd ‘will be announced in due course’.
- The fallout from Haringey Labour Councillor Ishmael Osamor’s resignation last month continues. His mother Kate Osamor, the Labour MP for Edmonton, has now resigned from her position as Shadow International Development Secretary, saying that she wishes to ‘concentrate on supporting my family through the difficult time we have been experiencing’.
- In less controversial news, Lia Silva has joined Wates Residential to lead its work on a joint venture estate regeneration scheme in partnership with the London Borough of Havering. Silva joins Wates from Ballymore, where she worked on major schemes including the Royal Wharf development in East London.
GREENWICH TAKES IT TO THE PEOPLE
Greenwich Council has launched a consultation to decide whether or not to press ahead with the sale of four plots of land to developer Pocket Living. It comes after over 100 residents signed a petition in August against the proposed sale, in which concerns were raised about the level of engagement with local people and over-development. The plots are located on the Heights, Kidbrooke Park and Orchard estates. The council argues that the sale of the sites, on which Pocket Living plans to build 150 homes for key workers, will release funds which the council will then spend on the regeneration of existing estates and the construction of 750 new council homes in the borough. Greenwich Council has stated that the aim of the consultation is to not only determine whether there is support for the scheme, but also to ask residents how they think the council can best respond to the housing crisis and fund the construction of council homes. Residents on the affected estates will also be consulted face-to-face. The consultation was launched on 26 November and ends on 7 January 2019.
GLA HOUSING KERFUFFLE
Last week, LDN noted the release of a report by London Assembly Housing Committee, which Committee Chair and Green Party Chair Sian Berry AM hailed as proof ‘the Mayor is letting down Londoners’. We were struck by her confidence – but also the harsh language of the response by Sadiq’s spokesperson, who told the press that ‘this nonsense report is the exact opposite of the truth’ and that ‘in reality, [the Mayor] has exceeded all his housing targets and is building a record number of social and affordable homes’. In this particular case, the Mayor’s team would appear to be technically correct, even if ‘record numbers’ is somewhat gratuitous. The report itself concedes that ‘the Mayor’s targets are for affordable housing starts rather than completions’ and states clearly that in 2017/18 12,555 affordable homes were started with the help of GLA grants, narrowly within the targeted range for the year (12,500-16,500). And while only 2,400 new starts were recorded in the first seven months of the 2018/19 period, against a minimum target of 14,000, reporting cycles mean that most are likely to be recorded towards the end of the period. The report still makes a number of valid observations and is worth a read. But it should also serve as a reminder that housing statistics can be tricky to judge – and should be treated as such.
TOWARDS A SPITALFIELDS TOWN COUNCIL?
A campaign by residents’ groups Spitalfields Forum, the Spitalfields Society and Spitalfields Community Group in Tower Hamlets, has seen them come one step closer to realising their proposals for a new parish council within the two wards of Spitalfields & Banglatown and Weavers. A petition was submitted to the council in July, signed by 324 people, who argued that the creation of ‘Spitalfields & Bangla Town Council’ would increase accountability and better address those issues which are the most important to residents, such as litter and street lighting. Opponents of the plans have asserted that a new local government body would only increase bureaucracy, divert funds away from those areas that need them the most as well as increase divisions between locals – with some suggesting the plans would exclude the residents of social housing estates in Bangla Town, with its predominately Bangladeshi community. Following the submission of the petition, the borough has resolved to begin a Community Governance Review, ending in July 2019. The first phase of the public consultation closes on 31 December, with another set to take place next spring.
DREAMING OF A STRIKE-FREE CHRISTMAS
An awful lot of industrial action is ongoing, planned and mooted in London’s transport and heritage sectors this month.
- On Monday, London Black Cab drivers blockaded Bank Junction to protest against a TfL ban on the passage of most vehicles through the intersection (a decision motivated by its high rate of road accidents). Taxi drivers, who also blocked London Bridge the week before to protest against restrictions on using bus lanes, have threatened they will continue to protest at Bank Junction between 4pm and 7pm, until this Friday.
- Looking ahead, RMT union members working on the Central Line plan to walk out on Friday 21 December for six hours, starting 8pm. RMT General secretary Mick Cash has said that ‘industrial relations along the Central Line have been at breaking point for some time now’ and has blamed a ‘growing culture on London Underground that revolves around refusing to employ enough drivers, bullying staff and expecting our members to pick up the pieces when the service breaks down’.
- Finally, the iconic corps of Beefeaters, employed by Historic Royal Palaces (HRP) at the Tower of London, Hampton Court Palace and Kensington Palace, were reportedly poised to be balloted last Friday on a potential strike over pensions, but the result of the vote remains shrouded in mystery.
RACES ON THE MALL AND PARTIES ON THE TUBE
After a successful trial run at Aintree, the Queen’s eldest grandson, Peter Phillips, and others are lobbying hard to promote proposals to hold horse racing events on London’s Mall. The City Racing proposals aim to boost the popularity of horse racing and a burst of media coverage recently reported that talks have been held with the Mayor’s office – though it would appear the final decision lies with Royal Parks.
Meanwhile, businessman Ajit Chambers is suing TfL (for a second time) over his claims that his idea to turn disused Tube stations into bars, nightclubs and other entertainment venues was ‘stolen’. Chambers says he began work on the proposals in 2009 with former Mayor of London Boris Johnson. He launched his first attempted legal claim against TfL in 2016 after they published proposals for the transformation of Down Street station in Mayfair into a tourist attraction, proposals which Chambers says drew upon ideas which he presented to TfL management.
GREEN LIGHT FOR BLACKHORSE POINT
LCA is delighted that our client, Barratt London – in partnership with TfL – received a resolution to grant planning consent for the redevelopment of a car park opposite Blackhorse Road station at Waltham Forest’s planning committee last night. The scheme – otherwise known as Blackhorse Point – was brought forward for development by TfL on behalf of the Mayor of London in 2017, and is set to deliver 350 new homes, including 50% affordable, new creative workspaces, a mix of new shops and restaurants, and a community cycle hub. The area is undergoing significant transformation, with Blackhorse Point set to help the Council achieve its target of 2,500 new homes for Blackhorse Road by 2026.
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