THE ELUSIVE SADIQ
In an interview with the Estates Gazette this week, the Mayor offered assurances that his housing and planning policy is 'not a battle against developers'. But his apparent – and enduring – reluctance to actively engage with the sector suggests otherwise.
The causes of and solutions to the capital’s housing crisis are of course complex and far from black-and-white. However, this edition’s stories on the OPDC and Southwark serve as a reminder that if the public and private sectors fail to collaborate effectively, the homes that Londoners need will very simply not be built.
Besides the above, we cover a number of stories, on everything from by-elections and people moves to the NHS estate and more!
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THE BATTLE OF OLD OAK
The contrasting state of London’s two Development Corporations, a core component of City Hall’s housing policy, serves to illustrate the importance of public-private collaboration in this area. Sadiq’s London Plan tasks the Old Oak and Park Royal Development Corporation (OPDC) with delivering 13,670 new homes and the London Legacy Development Corporation (LLDC) a further 21,610 - both between 2019/20 and 2028/29. Neither is expected to directly fund or build all of these homes and their principal mandate is arguably to unlock land for redevelopment by private enterprises and housing associations. At the LLDC, L&Q and Taylor Wimpey have already welcomed residents to the first of five new neighbourhoods on the Park. Meanwhile, the OPDC remains locked in the process of redrafting its plans and has now lost the confidence of its single biggest private sector landowner. LCA client Cargiant has called for the OPDC to scrap its £250m Housing Infrastructure Fund bid, to halt further expenditure and for an inquiry into their spending and strategy. Cargiant argues the bid fails to represent value for money and cannot possibly unlock 13,000 homes as the OPDC promises. The Government received the bid last September and has yet to make a decision – meaning the OPDC is now surviving on emergency funding from the GLA.
HS2 STOPS TO BEGIN
Last week, the Department for Transport (DfT) revealed the selected construction teams for the development of the new high-speed rail line’s London stations – demonstrating that there is still confidence in the delivery of the project, the first phase of which is due to open in 2026. A joint venture led by Mace Limited and Dragados S.A. will oversee the £1.5bn expansion of Euston Station, as well as make improvements to the existing underground station. Meanwhile, Old Oak Common Station - designs for which were also recently released - will be constructed by a joint venture between Balfour Beatty Group Ltd, VINCI Construction UK Ltd, VINCI Construction Grands Projects SAS and SYSTRA Ltd. While the overall project’s cost overruns and delays are no laughing matter, any new infrastructure of this scale will invariably face such challenges.
SOUTHWARK SAYS NO
As trailed in our last edition, Southwark councillors met to decide on Grosvenor’s £500m mixed-use scheme in Bermondsey on the evening of 6 February. In line with planning officers’ recommendation, the council’s Planning Committee unanimously refused the application to build more than 1,300 homes for rent alongside commercial space, a replacement school and a host of public realm improvements. Planners and councillors alike opposed the scheme, principally on the grounds that the affordable housing offer was too low (27.5%, let at an average discount of 25% below market rents). Grosvenor has responded robustly and countered the council’s objections to its affordable offer. It is striking that Southwark's own assessment – carried out by GVA – diverged significantly from that of the developer by around £100m. That assessment raises profound questions about the public sector's view of Build to Rent investment compared to housing for sale. This decision will surely give pause to housebuilders – and particularly those operating within Southwark and the wider build to rent sector – and it remains to be seen whether City Hall will back the council’s position.
The long-running dispute over the termination of the controversial Haringey Development Vehicle (HDV) joint venture has finally come to an end as Haringey Council and Lendlease have reached an out-of-court settlement. Developer Lendlease launched legal action against the Haringey after the HDV was scrapped last year, claiming that the Council had breached its contract. The amount paid by the Council to Lendlease has not been disclosed. Meanwhile, Haringey’s Cabinet yesterday approved a plan to invest £1bn in housing over five years, £493m of which will be borrowed through the Housing Revenue Account (HRA), following the removal of the borrowing cap. The Council hopes to deliver at least 1,000 new council houses by 2022.
BY-ELECTIONS (OR, THE RETURN OF RAHMAN)
The three council ward by-elections which took place on 7 February did not quite produce the clean sweep for Labour candidates that many had expected. The Thornton by-election in Lambeth was won by Labour candidate Stephen Donnelly, but with a 18.4% swing away from the party, as per Britain Elects’ calculations. In Tower Hamlets, the Lansbury by-election was also won by Labour, with a reported 2.5% swing in favour of their candidate (and former Lib Dem councillor) Rajib Ahmed. However, in the Shadwell by-election – where both the Labour and Lib Dem candidates became embroiled in controversy early on in the election process – it was Aspire, the party set up by disgraced former Mayor Lutfur Rahman, which emerged victorious. Aspire’s candidate, Mohammed Harun Miah, won the seat on a swing of 13.4% in his favour.
LONDON ON THE DEFENSIVE?
The past couple of weeks have seen both Communities Secretary James Brokenshire and Housing Minister Kit Malthouse speak at major property sector conferences in London. Their speeches seemed to suggest that the Government has done its bit – and that it’s now up to the Mayor, London’s boroughs, developers and housing associations to just get cracking and solve the capital’s housing crisis. At London First’s Building London summit, Brokenshire’s message was that London should take the money it has been given and ‘step up’. A few days later, at the British Property Federation’s Annual Residential Conference, we heard Malthouse argue that market conditions have never been better and that developers should ‘double down’. Their comments reflect a disturbing tendency among many national politicians to paint London as a thankless sinkhole for government funding. For those who doubt the capital’s significant contribution to the wider UK – and who fail to understand our global city’s particular challenges – we highly recommend Centre for London’s excellent report on ‘Strengthening ties between capital and country’ and an insightful piece by veteran London correspondent Dave Hill.
LONDON'S 'CRUMBLING' NHS HOSPITALS
The Sunday Times has revealed that, in 2017/18, over £3bn was spent on the maintenance of ‘crumbling’ NHS hospitals across England. Shockingly, of the 10 hospitals with the highest urgent repair bills, six are located in London, with the three highest all part of West London’s Imperial College Trust (the rest belong to Hillingdon Hospitals, Epsom & St Helier University Hospitals and Barts NHS Trusts). The Times’ report also found that infrastructure problems in hospitals are becoming increasingly common, putting both patients and staff at risk, with 5,500 ‘serious safety incidents’ recorded last year. On the bright side, Barts NHS Trust announced only yesterday that it is no longer subject to special measures for quality after the Care Quality Commission rated the majority of its services as good. The Trust has been subject to these measures for four years and remains rated as ‘requires improvement’ for quality – it also remains under special measures for finance reasons.
MAKING BILL SHAKESPEARE PROUD
Theatre-going Londoners will be pleased to hear of several brand new venues opening in the capital. Last week, we reported that plans for the redevelopment of the Olympia Exhibition Centre, including a new 1,500-seat theatre, were approved by Hammersmith & Fulham’s planning committee. The Times’ Richard Morrison has more recently covered plans for a number of other new theatres across the city, in a piece which welcomed developers’ commitment to investing in the capital’s creative economy. Morrison highlighted the Troubadour Theatres’ collaboration with LCA clients Stanhope and Quintain, to open new venues at White City’s former BBC Media Village and at Wembley Park’s historic Fountain Studios. The Troubadour White City Theatre will feature two flexible performance spaces (1,200-seat and 800-seat), while Troubadour Wembley Park Theatre will feature a flexible 1,000 to 2,000-seat space, set to open with War Horse. Both venues will open this summer. The Times' piece also references plans, announced by LCA last year, to open a 500 seat theatre in King’s Cross.
- Labour London Assembly Member Fiona Twycross, has announced that she will not be standing for re-election in 2020 – though this does not rule out her reappointment as Deputy Mayor for Fire & Resilience if Sadiq wins a second term.
- The Royal Free London NHS Trust has announced the appointment of Caroline Clarke as its new Group Chief Executive. Clarke has already served as the Trust’s Deputy Chief Executive for the past seven years and succeeds Sir David Sloman, who was appointed joint NHS England and Improvement London regional director last December.
- The London Chamber of Commerce and Industry has appointed former Scotch Whisky Association head David Frost as its new Chief Executive. Frost was previously a career diplomat who served as an adviser to then-Foreign Secretary Boris Johnson.
- Dan Hawthorn, Haringey’s former Director of Housing and Growth, has been appointed Director of Housing, Regeneration and Planning at the council.
- The GLA’s latest Place shaping Capacity Survey, carried out every two years, has found that there is a ‘continued strain on local authorities’ place shaping capacity’ as London’s boroughs have reduced the number of planning staff by a quarter since 2016.
- Knight Frank’s London Report 2019 has found that the capital remains the world’s top destination for office investment. In 2018, £16.2bn is reported to have been invested in offices in London, above the figures for other international cities such as Paris and New York.
- Think tank Civitas has published research which suggests that almost a million more young people are living with their parents than were 20 years ago, pointing to the shortage of affordable homes as the primary reason for the increase – which is particularly pronounced in London.
- Bridget Rosewell CBE’s Independent Review of Planning Appeal Inquiries, commissioned last year by the Government, has found that there are a number of factors which contribute to the current planning appeals system’s delays, including ‘outdated administrative processes’ and ‘poor IT infrastructure’. In the review's final report, Rosewell makes a total of 22 recommendations, designed to ‘drive down the time taken to decide appeals from 47 to 26 weeks’.
SWR STRIKE SCHEDULE AND OTHER INDUSTRIAL ACTION
- The Rail, Maritime and Transport Union (RMT) has announced a new series of strikes in its long-running dispute with South Western Railway regarding the removal of guards from trains. Set to take place on 22 February, 9 and 19 March, the strikes will affect SWR services operating out of London Waterloo.
- Meanwhile, Beefeaters and other Historic Royal Palaces employees again went on strike on 6 February. The employees – members of trade union GMB – are concerned about planned changes to their pension scheme. Further strikes are scheduled to take place on 16 and 21 February.
- London’s minicab drivers have also been protesting, over the Mayor’s Ultra Low Emission Zone (ULEZ). Actions on 4 and 11 February saw drivers blockading London Bridge at rush hour, calling the charge – set to be introduced in April - a ‘tax on the poor’.
CREATING GREAT PLACES THROUGH EVENTS AND ENLIVENMENT
Last week, LCA were proud to host Profile Network’s latest Q&A Seminar ‘Great Events and Why They're Good for Property’. The event looked at the importance of events and enlivenment for the property industry and the role they play in creating great places. LCA’s Account Director Helena Carrie spoke about how PR can help optimise these events, alongside Shaftesbury Head of Group Marketing & Communications Karen Baines and Equiem General Manager UK & Ireland Bronny Wilson. If you missed the event, but would like to know more, get in touch with Helena!
FALL IN LOVE AT KING'S CROSS
This week, LCA has been busy winning over the hearts of Londoners, with the promotion of the King’s Cross Valentine’s Day programme. Whether you’re heading down with your nearest, or with colleagues for after work drinks, King’s Cross has something for everyone, including free wine tastings, handcrafted chocolates, personalised poetry and a romantic supper club. The Canopy Market Valentine’s Special will offer unique gifts, music and romantic workshops. Meanwhile, the Skip Garden is hosting a Valentine’s Supper Club, promising to be a magical evening. Find out more 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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