Today’s Spring Statement from the Chancellor offered only two items of particular interest to London. Of course, meanwhile, most of the country’s time and energy is still being sapped by ongoing Brexit uncertainty.
Brexit and Hammond’s speech aside, this edition covers the latest in planning from Islington and Southwark, news from the Grenfell fire inquiry, a host of people moves across sectors, stories relating to Heathrow and plans for new bridges across the Thames, as well as an exciting – and sun-soaked – week for LCA!
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In the midst of Parliament’s deadlock over Brexit, the Chancellor today delivered his scheduled Spring Statement to the Commons. Philip Hammond was upbeat in his assessment of future GDP, jobs and wage growth, as well as government finances, though he also warned that a no-deal scenario risks a “smaller economy” and the need for “restructuring”. The Chancellor also said that he will, “assuming a Brexit deal is confirmed over the next few weeks”, launch a three-year Spending Review before the summer recess, to be concluded in time for the Autumn Budget.
There were just two items in the Statement of interest to London specifically:
- Hammond pledged “£717m from the HIF to unlock up to 37,000 new Homes on sites in West London, Cheshire, Didcot, and Cambridge”. The Old Oak and Park Royal Development Corporation (OPDC) subsequently issued an announcement confirming that it has secured the full £250m it bid for last year. This will be welcome news to David Lunts (see people section).
- The Chancellor announced that the Government will release, over the course of the year, an additional £100m to police forces in England and Wales, “ring-fenced to pay for additional overtime, targeted specifically on knife crime and for new Violent Crime Reduction Units”. While it was later clarified that London’s police forces are among seven areas which will receive “the majority of the funding”, final allocations “will be confirmed in due course”.
The Chancellor’s Written Ministerial Statement and a further statement from the Communities Secretary today, do reference a number of important planning issues which we will cover in more detail next week.
With both Brexit votes and the Spring Statement looming, the last week has seen some significant lobbying efforts from London’s political and business leaders:
- As reported last week, Sadiq teamed up with the G15 group of housing associations and London Councils to lobby for reforms and more funding to boost housebuilding in an open letter to Communities Secretary James Brokenshire. This morning, Sadiq reiterated his long-standing calls for more investment in affordable housing, as well as policing and air quality. Following the Chancellor’s statement, Khan characterised his police funding commitments as no more that “a drop in the ocean”.
- Every single London Labour MP, joined by Liberal Democrat Leader (and MP for Twickenham) Vince Cable as well as The Independent Group’s London MPs Chukka Ummuna, Joan Ryan and Mike Gapes co-signed an open letter by Rosena Allin-Khan MP (Lab, Tooting) asking for more spending for the Met “to allow police to tackle violent crime more effectively”.
- London Councils has responded the Spring Statement with a warning that local government services are “under incredible strain” and a call for the Spending Review to provide a viable long-term plan for councils’ future, “grounded in greater investment, reform and devolution”. The association of London’s local authorities has additionally welcomed the government’s funding boost for policing.
- London First has spent the past week reiterating calls for “stop[ing] the clock on Brexit” to give Parliament more time to secure a deal, or alternatively go “back to the people” for a second referendum. It also focused on this in its reaction to the Spring Statement.
- Centre for London has highlighted six items stemming from the Spring Statement that the think tank will be watching out for, beginning with the Spending Review.
There has been much debate about the use of public land and especially leveraging it to produce as much affordable housing as possible. Well, housing association Peabody has bought the HMP Holloway site in Islington from the Ministry of Justice for £82m with the help of a £42m loan from the Mayor’s Land Fund. They intend to build over 1,000 homes there, 60% of which will be affordable (70% at social rents and 30% available for shared ownership or London Living Rent). In response to longstanding demands from local campaigners and Islington Council, a women’s centre will also be delivered on the site in addition to green space and a temporary homeless shelter. Pending planning, Peabody hope to start construction 2022, with the first affordable homes ready in 2026.
Southwark Council has greenlit the development of a major mixed-use scheme on the site of the Cantium Retail Park on the Old Kent Road. The project will deliver commercial, retail and office space as well as 1,100 homes, including 34% affordable (of which 237 social rented and 126 for shared ownership). The scheme, proposed by Aviva Investors and Galliard Homes, is also expected to create 580 jobs. Their plans were approved unanimously by Southwark Council’s planning committee, despite concerns regarding the height of the proposed towers, which will be 48, 37 and 26 storeys high. Local residents had complained that the height of the towers will have an adverse effect on neighbouring properties, whereas Historic England suggested that they would be damaging to nearby conservation areas. However, a planning report assessed that the benefits of the towers, most notably in their contribution of hundreds of homes, many of which will be affordable, outweighed the potential adverse impact of the development.
Following the end of the first phase of the Grenfell Inquiry in December 2018, it has been reported that potential criminal charges over responsibility for the disaster will not be lodged until the inquiry is complete, which may not be until 2021. The second phase of the Inquiry is expected to start at the end of this year, with over 540,000 documents already having been submitted for consideration. Meanwhile, a group of leaseholders from cities across England have formed the UK Cladding Action Group to increase pressure on authorities to remove dangerous cladding from towers. This came as figures published at the end of last month by the Ministry of Housing, Communities & Local Government (MHCLG) revealed that 26,500 social homes and 17,400 homes in privately-owned buildings remain covered in Aluminium Composite Material (ACM) cladding panels such as those used on Grenfell tower. The figures also showed that, since the Grenfell tragedy, just 79 residential and public buildings have had their cladding removed, leaving 354 buildings still to be remediated.
- It has been confirmed that David Lunts, the GLA's long standing Executive Director of Housing and Land, will be taking on an additional role as interim CEO of the Old Oak and Park Royal Development Corporation (OPDC), succeeding Mick Mulhern. Lunts will carry out his new responsibilities whilst continuing in his current role.
- Althea Loderick has been appointed permanent Chief Executive of Newham Council, to replace Katherine Kerswell, who has filled the role on an interim basis since August last year. Loderick is currently Brent Council’s Strategic Director of Resources.
- Graham Stallwood, Executive Director of Planning and Borough Development at the Royal Borough of Kensington and Chelsea, has resigned his position in order to take up a post at the Planning Inspectorate.
- Alexander Jan, Chief Economist at Arup, has been appointed Chair of the Bee Midtown Business Improvement District (BID).
- John Prevc has joined HOK as Regional Leader of Urban Design in London. Prevc has been a co-founding partner at Make, where he has spent the last 15 years.
- Kevin Bundy, Head of Phase 2 of Battersea Power Station’s redevelopment, is set to leave the Battersea Power Station Development Company (BPSDC) in the spring. The Evening Standard reports that BPSDC Chief Operating Officer Simon Jenner and Head of Delivery Matt Lusty also resigned last week. The company has announced several internal promotions to fill at least some of these roles, with Ian Feast, currently head of Phase 3, becoming Head of Delivery (in turn replaced by Scott Grant takes as Head of Phase 3) and Nigel Parrish being promoted to the new position of Head of Commercial.
- Darren Gill has been appointed Managing Director for McLaren’s London business this week. Gill left his former role at Bouygues, where he had spent 22 years, late last year.
HEATHROW JUDICIAL REVIEW
High Court hearings on several legal actions against the government’s decision to build a third runway at Heathrow airport began this week, questioning the legality of the relevant national policy statement (NPS) adopted by the government. Five separate legal challenges are being heard together, with one being brought forward by a partnership of five local authorities (Hillingdon, Wandsworth, Hammersmith and Fulham, Richmond upon Thames and Windsor and Maidenhead), alongside Sadiq Khan and Greenpeace. This particular challenge argues that the NPS does not sufficiently address the impact of the proposed expansion on pollution, climate change and noise. On the first day of the hearings, which are expected to last for two weeks, attendees heard that the projected 60% increase in passengers and the addition of 260,000 flights annually caused by the expansion would in effect create a ‘new airport’. If it is to go ahead, construction on the new runway will be begin in 2021, and is expected to be operational by 2026.
Ealing Central and Acton's Labour MP Rupa Huq has been granted a thirty minute end-of-day adjournment debate on 15 March to discuss the Garden Bridge after she and fellow London Labour MP Steve Reed questioned Culture ministers – responsible for the Charity Commission – about the failure of the project. Meanwhile, naming rights for a long-awaited bridge designed to connect Fulham and Battersea are to be sold in a bid to finally complete the project, which has stalled since 2016 due to a lack of funding. The project, known as the Diamond Jubilee Bridge, has a cost of £36m, £18m of which was raised by Wandsworth Council through the Community Infrastructure Levy (CIL). Sadiq and Transport for London (TfL) have refused to contribute to the cost of the bridge, citing their focus on river crossings in east London instead. A public consultation on the Rotherhithe-Canary Wharf Crossing is expected to take place this year. As for the proposed Nine Elms-Pimlico Bridge, Wandsworth Council has given its support for its preferred location as chosen by its design team. The bridge’s developers will now execute ‘further technical validation work’ and engage with relevant stakeholders.
SPURS STADIUM OPENING DATES
Tottenham Hotspur Football Club has announced details for two test event matches at its new stadium ahead of the first home game in April. Spurs are required to hold the two test event matches with increasing levels of attendances in order to achieve a formal safety certificate for fixtures to be held at the new stadium. The two matches will provide local residents and fans the opportunity to see the new stadium and allow fans to familiarise themselves with their match day route.
- Sunday 24 March – Test Event Match One – Tottenham Hotspur v Southampton, U18 Premier League Match, kick-off at 3pm
- Saturday 30 March – Test Event Match Two – Tottenham Hotspur Legends match, kick-off at 5.30pm
- In respect of their first opening game, it is anticipated for early April. However, this is subject to both a safety certificate and the outcome of Brighton & Hove Albion’s FA Cup match on Sunday 17 March.
LONDON AT MIPIM CANNES
LCA has been at MIPIM this week, taking in the seaside air, talking property with peers, partners, politicians and clients – and of course supporting New London Architecture (NLA) at the London Stand. Our Managing Director Jonny Popper yesterday chaired a session on designing spaces to maximise wellbeing, while Board Director Jane Groom today moderated a discussion on the common goals London shares with the wider south east. We were pleased to see the GLA and London Boroughs strongly represented at the conference, banging the drum for London: From Deputy Mayor Jules Pipe, to the Leaders of Barking & Dagenham, Ealing, Hounslow and Wandsworth and senior officers from Croydon, Enfield, Harrow, and Waltham Forest – among others! The London Stand itself has been packed with more people than in previous years and the mood has been surprisingly cheerful despite the unfolding drama of Brexit in the background - although the concerns for how this might impact jobs, growth and investment are ever present.
INTERNATIONAL WOMEN'S DAY AT LCA
We are proud to announce that LCA’s very own Board Director Jane Groom has been recognised as one of The Planner’s Women of Influence for 2019. Every year, to mark International Women's Day, the official magazine of the Royal Town Planning Institute (RTPI) publishes a list celebrating the impact of women working in and around planning. Jane figures among 55 other leading professionals across the public, private, academic and third sectors.
... AND OTHER DISTINCTIONS
We are also pleased to report that our founding Chairman Robert Gordon Clark has featured again in this year’s PR Week Power Book 2019 – an annual publication listing the most influential and respected comms professionals in the UK today, spanning a variety of sectors and specialisms.
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