Yesterday evening, the Mayor unexpectedly decided to reject a planning application, against his officers’ recommendation and despite changes to the scheme by the developer.
This edition of LDN covers several additional stories from City Hall, as well as a variety of other news. We take a look at developments in Lambeth and Haringey, upcoming by-elections, the latest from the two Mayoral Development Corporations, as well as the sale of Fuller’s brewery and an insightful event on the NHS estate.
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The big news from City Hall last week was an announcement by Sadiq on rent controls, which saw landlords’ associations fuming and renters’ campaigning groups celebrating a big step forward. However, it is clear that rent controls or similar are far from imminent, as the Mayor does not actually have the legal power to impose them. So what has Sadiq actually committed to doing? In his press release, he said that Deputy Mayor for Housing James Murray and Labour MP for Westminster North Karen Buck will ‘develop proposals for rent stabilisation or control laws’ that he can implement – or more likely lobby the government to implement. The Mayor has long promised to present a comprehensive ‘London Model’ for the rental sector, but has to date unveiled most of his relevant plans and initiatives in a piecemeal manner – and last week’s announcement was much of the same. While he has provided little detail as to what form his proposed rent controls would take, Sadiq has not hesitated in telling the press that he will make them a ‘central plank’ of his 2020 election campaign.
THE MAYOR SAYS NO
Sadiq yesterday presided over the public Representation Hearing on Rockwell’s 771 home mixed use VIP Trading Estate scheme in Greenwich, which he had called in back in August 2018. In an unprecedented move, the Mayor rejected the scheme, mainly on the grounds of poor design quality, though he also suggested that the applicant had failed to effectively and proactively engage with local residents’ and businesses’ concerns. Sadiq’s decision is surprising as the developer had made a number of changes to the scheme after the application was called in and GLA planning officers had recommended that the Mayor green-light the project. The scheme has long been opposed on the grounds of height, massing, design and housing mix (among other reasons) by a number of local groups, Greenwich Council’s Labour majority and a host of other local Labour politicians, from Len Duvall (Assembly Member for Greenwich and Lewisham) to Matthew Pennycook (MP for Greenwich and Woolwich).
LONDON PLAN EiP LATEST
Meanwhile, the new London Plan’s Examination in Public continues. This week has been quiet but next week is earmarked for three crucial sessions on some of the Plan’s most controversial components – housing requirements, strategy, supply assumptions and delivery targets. Detailed agendas and attendee lists for these have not yet been published but written submissions by a host of public bodies, private companies and civic society and amenity groups suggest that the proceedings will be contentious. Indicatively, outer London Boroughs such as Tory-led Hillingdon and – in a joint statement – Liberal Democrat Sutton, Richmond and Kingston along with Labour-led Merton, have all contested the London Plan’s emphasis on increasing the provision of new homes on small sites. Ominously, a submission by the Ministry of Housing Communities and Local Government (MHCLG) reiterates concerns that the Plan’s methodology for assessing the capital’s housing need does not reflect ‘the full extent of housing need in London’ and recommends ‘committing to an early review of this London Plan’ soon after its adoption.
LAMBETH'S NEW LEADER
Councillor Jack Hopkins has been elected leader of Lambeth Council by the council’s Labour Group, succeeding Lib Peck who is stepping down to become Director of the GLA’s Violence Reduction Unit. It is expected that he will be confirmed as Leader at the next full Council meeting on 13 February. Hopkins has been a Lambeth councillor for Oval Ward since 2010 and a Cabinet Member since 2012, holding various portfolios including regeneration, economic development, employment, planning, community safety and culture – eventually becoming deputy leader in May 2018. Hopkins beat fellow Cabinet members Matthew Bennett, Jennifer Braithwaite and Claire Holland to the position. Lambeth is the first London Borough to elect a new Leader since the Annual General Meetings which followed the May 2018 Local Elections.
MEANWHILE IN HARINGEY
Haringey Council has announced that the building which currently houses Seven Sisters Market is set to be demolished following the granting of permission for a compulsory purchase order (CPO) by the government on 23 January. The CPO was submitted in October 2016 as part of the Council’s regeneration plans for the wider area, which were granted planning permission in 2012. The scheme, which the Council is working on in partnership with developer Grainger, will provide commercial space, a new market and 196 rental homes. While local traders and campaigning groups have expressed concerns about its future, Grainger and the Council have offered extensive assurances to tenants that guarantee their temporary relocation and eventual return to the new market on-site, as well as subsidised rents and other support for their businesses.
FROM THE CHAMBER
- The Mayor’s draft Budget for 2019/20 scraped its way through the first of two final votes in the London Assembly last Thursday. Amendments submitted by the Conservative, Green and Liberal Democrat opposition groups failed to secure enough votes and the Budget was approved by the 12 Labour AMs, with the nine Tories, two Brexit Alliance Group and the Liberal Democrats’ single AM voting against and two Greens abstaining. A final vote will be taken at Mayor’s Question Time on 25 February and the Budget is expected to pass.
- AMs have also responded to an overview of KPMG’s independent investigation into Crossrail Ltd’s governance and financial arrangements – which was released along with the agenda and documents for today’s TfL Board meeting. KPMG found that the project is costing £30m per week and Conservative AM Gareth Bacon, in his capacity as Chair of the Budget & Performance Committee, dubbed the figure ‘eye-watering’, calling for Crossrail to ‘get a grip on its finances’. For her part, Liberal Democrat AM Caroline Pidgeon, Chair of the Transport Committee, said that Crossrail’s transparency ‘needs to be addressed urgently’.
- Looking forward to the 2020 GLA elections, Labour AM Nicky Gavron has announced that she will not be seeking re-election after what will be 20 years on the Assembly. In her statement, the former – and first – statutory Deputy Mayor of London said that despite her standing down, she is planning to continue to campaign on issues including ‘planning, politics and public policy’. She is the third senior Labour AM to announce their decision to stand down at the next election, after Andrew Dismore and Jennette Arnold.
- An Aldermanic election is set to take place in the Billingsgate Ward of the City of London on 31 January. The seat, previously held by Matthew Richardson, will be contested by six candidates – all running as independents, with the exception of one candidate for the ‘Social Democratic Party’.
- On 7 February, by-elections will take place in the Shadwell and Lansbury wards in Tower Hamlets, as well as in Lambeth’s Thornton Ward.
DEVELOPMENT CORPORATION UPDATE
The long process of scrutinising the Mayor’s budget over the past few months has highlighted the financial challenges facing London’s two Mayoral development corporations, the London Legacy Development Corporation (LLDC) and the Old Oak and Park Royal Development Corporation (OPDC).
- The LLDC has been gradually gaining ground in its efforts to cut costs and improve its financial footing. Last week it announced that the London Stadium operator, LS185 (a subsidiary of VINCI Stadium), has been brought in-house by Stadium owner E20 (itself a subsidiary of the LLDC). This should allow the Corporation to streamline the Stadium’s operations and maximise the potential of the venue.
- However, the OPDC appears to be treading water as it awaits a government decision on its £250m bid to the national Housing Infrastructure Fund (HIF), intended to kickstart development in Old Oak North. While a £291m bid by TfL to improve the DLR has meanwhile been approved by the HIF, the OPDC is still waiting for a response and only last December the Mayor approved £1.5m of ‘contingency funding to cover the cost of additional work’ by the Corporation in connection with the fund. Meanwhile, it is understood Michael Mulhern will soon be standing down from the role of OPDC Interim Chief Executive Officer.
FULLER'S: BIG IN JAPAN?
London-based brewer Fuller, Smith & Turner has sold its drinks brewing and distribution business to Japanese producer Asahi for £250m. Fuller’s says the move will enable the company to focus on the pubs and hotels side of its business, from which it earns the majority of its profits. Asahi Europe will now oversee the production and distribution of Fuller’s drinks, including the legendary London Pride, as well as its breweries including the historic Griffin Brewery in Chiswick – the heritage of which is protected in the deal. The sale comes at a time when the brewer has been operating in increasingly challenging conditions - a result of the growth of large international competitors as well as the popularisation and increase in the number of microbreweries – particularly in London. Fuller’s joins a number of other British brewers which have been forced to either sell or scale back their operations in recent years.
REDEVELOPING THE NHS ESTATE
Last week LCA attended a Westminster Health Forum event entitled ‘Key issues for NHS estates: funding, planning and policy’. We were particularly fascinated by what we heard from Sir Robert Naylor, author of the seminal 2017 NHS Property and Estates Review. Naylor told the audience that he wrote a second report for the Government, called ‘The London Strategy’, which was never published due to its commercial sensitivity. Naylor said the report looked at 20 London projects and found that the capital represents 57% of the NHS’s national disposal value but only 13% of its land. Naylor also underlined that while the NHS estate in London evidently offers high-value opportunities, its redevelopment is particularly challenging given the capital’s complex political environment.
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