The approval of plans for the Olympia London exhibition centre’s redevelopment is our lead story this week, among other planning and development news. Beyond bricks and mortar, we cover the latest from TfL, the London Assembly, the Communities Secretary, and several Town Halls across the capital.
One major development hot off the press today is the selection of joint ventures led by Mace and Balfour Beatty to build the new HS2 stations at Euston and Old Oak Common respectively. We’ll cover it in more detail next week.
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YOOHOO FOR OLYMPIA!
Plans for the redevelopment of the Olympia London exhibition centre secured planning consent by Hammersmith & Fulham’s Planning and Development Control Committee (PDC) last week. Site owners and developers YOO Capital and Deutsche Finance International (DFI) have welcomed the decision, which unlocks the next stage of their £1bn plans, though it is still subject to approval by the Mayor of London. The scheme comprises not only the modernisation of the original exhibition halls – which date from 1886 – but also new office and conference space, a theatre, a cinema, two hotels, as well as restaurants and bars. Talks with potential tenants from the entertainment and hospitality sectors are understood to be ongoing, with the first deals set to be announced in the spring. At the PDC session, the scheme was approved by four Labour votes to two Conservative and, pending Sadiq’s approval, initial work is expected to begin later this year, with the development’s first tenants to move in by 2023.
There was clearly a lot to discuss at last week’s four hour TfL board meeting but one particular point piqued the interest of many Londoners. Crossrail Ltd's chief executive, Mark Wild, told the board he ‘can’t see how this job can be delivered in calendar year 2019’ and that he ‘do[es]n’t actually know when it will be delivered after that.’ Wild has consistently, and perhaps wisely, refused to commit to a specific opening date for the Elizabeth Line’s delayed central section, pending a firm assessment of the scale of remaining work and further progress of rolling stock testing. He may be managing expectations, but a 2019 opening now seems highly unlikely. Meanwhile, documentary TV programme The Fifteen Billion Pound Railway returns for a new series on BBC Two next week.
- Westminster City Council’s (WCC) Cabinet Member for Place Shaping and Planning, Councillor Richard Beddoe, has confirmed that the introduction of public speakers at planning committees will begin on 12 February. A review will take place after six months. This forms part of a wider programme of changes to the Council’s planning processes and structures.
- Proposals to relocate Victoria Coach Station to Royal Oak continue to generate hostility from Westminster councillors and residents alike. At a public meeting on 22 January, residents were joined by local councillors and council officials to discuss concerns that the relocation would exacerbate congestion, pollution and anti-social behaviour. There is clearly cross-party agreement that the move should be resisted and WCC has already notified TfL that it is opposed to the plans. Alternative options for the relocation include Stratford, Old Oak Common and Heathrow.
- Meanwhile, WCC last week released its plans for the transformation of Strand/Aldwych for public consultation. The £28m proposals, initially devised by the Northbank BID, aim to ease congestion and reduce air pollution, improve the area for both pedestrians and cyclists, and help create a world-class cultural and learning quarter. The consultation will run until 13 March.
(PETTY) CASH FOR COUNCILS
The final local government finance settlement for England’s local authorities in 2019/20 was approved by a vote of 298 votes to 240 in Parliament yesterday. Communities Secretary, James Brokenshire has touted the £46.4bn package as ‘a real-terms increase’ in councils’ ‘core spending power’, on an annual basis, in the order of £1.3bn. However, the key term here is ‘spending power’ and not ‘funding’. As reported by the BBC yesterday – and as argued by Labour – this figure assumes that councils will choose to increase their tax by the full 3% allowed and enjoy a solid stream of rent and business rates income. As for councils’ guaranteed government grant, it is understood this is set to fall by about £1bn this year. London Councils, which represents the capital’s 32 boroughs and the City of London, warns that the settlement represents ‘little more than a stopgap’ which fails to plug a £500m funding shortfall its members face in the coming financial year. Councils are now gearing up for the Spending Review, to be launched later this year, which will define how Whitehall funds local government beyond 2020.
OTHER PLANNING AND DEVELOPMENT STORIES TO WATCH
Following his unprecedented decision to refuse planning permission for Rockwell’s VIP Trading Estate scheme on 29 January, the Mayor has now published his full reasoning in writing here. It will be interesting to see if the decision elicits an intervention from the Communities Secretary.
Southwark Council’s planning officers have recommended that Grosvenor’s major £500m 1,300 rental home, mixed-use scheme in Bermondsey be refused at the Council Planning Committee meeting this evening. The evolution of this process is being closely watched as a bellwether for London’s build to rent sector, development in Southwark, and in relation to financial viability disputes.
Meanwhile, the press has picked up on the formal establishment of The Arch Company, a joint venture which will manage the 5,000 railway arches purchased by Blackstone and Telereal Trillium from Network Rail last year. The contentious sale has seen many small businesses with leases on these arches mount a vocal opposition campaign. The company’s launch coincides with a major push to engage with its uneasy tenants, which will set the scene for the wider estate’s future.
A YouGov poll commissioned by London First and Grosvenor suggests that four in 10 Londoners have considered moving out of London due to the high housing costs and that housing now rivals crime as one of the issues Londoners are most concerned about.
A report by the London Green Belt Council (LGBC) found that 55 – or five out of six - planning authorities in and around the capital are proposing to develop land within London’s Metropolitan Green Belt. The LGBC interprets the findings as ‘threat’ to green space, blaming the government’s ‘unrealistic housing targets’ for the trend.
The latest report by the Centre for London has found that the relationship between the capital and the rest of the UK has become ‘increasingly strained’. The report urges the Mayor to reach out and strengthen the capital’s ties with the UK’s other cities, towns, and regions – to ensure that they can form a unified front in making the case for further devolution.
FIAZ ON MANOEUVRES
Inside Housing has published an extensive interview with the Mayor of Newham, Rokshana Fiaz, focusing on her vision for housing. Fiaz asserts that under her watch, Newham is ‘beginning to tear up the orthodoxy book’ [sic], a comment on the borough’s approach to housebuilding under her predecessor. Indeed, Fiaz suggests that the long-serving Sir Robin Wales’ ‘way of thinking was limited in ambition’. As for her new policy, she highlights a shift in the strategic focus of the council’s wholly-owned housing company towards social housing, as well as the scrapping of plans for a joint venture approach to the regeneration of Stratford’s Carpenters Estate. Fiaz confidently asserts that there is a ‘new story about housebuilding in this country where councils are in the driving seat’ and warns that she is ‘only interested in working with developers and partners who want to be on the right side of history.’ As for those who may not be convinced by this narrative? The Mayor suggests that they ‘can go elsewhere’.
PUBLIC HOUSING: A LONDON RENAISSANCE
The NLA is currently looking for exemplar infill housing schemes alongside larger regeneration projects delivered on public land with local authority involvement, as part of its research into the future of public housing delivery in the capital. LCA is delighted to be supporting NLA to highlight the findings of Public Housing: a London renaissance, which will be ready this Spring, when some of the selected projects will be showcased in a special publication distributed to key policy makers and Londoners – and there will be an accompanying exhibition and events programme. Get your online submissions in fast though, as the deadline is 5pm this Friday!
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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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