KHAN'S NEW (R)ULEZ
Less than a week before the official Brexit date, the UK is seeking yet another extension. London is meanwhile getting on with things.
This week marks some good news for Londoners’ health, with the implementation of the ULEZ and improvements to major east London hospitals recognised by the CQC.
But there was less good news for the Conservatives, as polling suggests the governing party is heading for a hammering at next month’s Local Elections, taking place in certain English councils and across Northern Ireland.
This week’s edition covers all the above and more, from the latest housing statistics to a big win for one of our clients, people moves, industrial action and… the Sultan of Brunei.
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Sadiq’s flagship environmental policy, the Ultra Low Emission Zone (ULEZ), launched on Monday with some fanfare and of course controversy. Those who have opposed the policy have tended to argue that the additional costs will disproportionately impact those less able to pay, namely small businesses, charities and the poorest Londoners. This argument has been cited by London cabbies and minicab drivers, hauliers, and many motorists – and has been echoed by the GLA Conservatives. The London Tories are adamant that they support the policy in principle but claim that it was introduced too fast and with too little warning. For his part, Conservative 2020 Mayoral candidate Shaun Bailey has promised to delay the planned expansion of the ULEZ to the north and south circulars, currently scheduled for October 2021, if elected.
Elsewhere, the policy has been hailed as welcome news – and many are calling for its expansion to be accelerated. In a piece for OnLondon, Centre for London’s Ben Rogers, welcomes the ULEZ but also writes that the scheme ‘feels a little retro’, and calls for a ‘simpler, smarter and fairer’ system which would take into account factors such as the distance travelled by polluting vehicles. A much-publicised letter to the Mayor last week, signed by over 800 teachers, parents and doctors, called for the ULEZ to be expanded ‘as soon as possible’. These sentiments are widely shared by campaigners from the Green Party, Mums for Lungs and the British Heart Foundation.
So what does the latest polling and scientific evidence tells us?
- Polling commissioned by the London Chamber of Commerce and Industry (LCCI) does indeed suggest that 44% of London businesses did not know about the impact of the ULEZ on their businesses – suggesting that perhaps more could have been done to warn Londoners and support their transition to less polluting forms of transportation.
- But research published by the GLA on the day of the launch demonstrates that there has been a marked change in behaviour since the introduction of the ULEZ’s forebear, the Toxicity Charge, which Sadiq launched in February 2017 – also derided by its critics as too much, too soon. The past two years have seen a reduction of the total number of vehicles operating in central London, and a 38% increase in the number of ULEZ-compliant vehicles in the zone.
- And the fact remains that, as confirmed in a recent study by Kings College London, approximately 1,000 Londoners per year are hospitalised for health conditions related to air pollution.
BARTS IMPROVES MARKS
Last week, the Care Quality Commission raised its rating of two Barts NHS Trust hospitals in East London, The Royal London Hospital (in Tower Hamlets) and Newham University Hospital, having found ‘significant improvements’ at both. The CQC inspectors more specifically rated Maternity inpatients services and End of Life care at The Royal London Hospital as Good Overall, from a previous assessment of Requires Improvement. At Newham University Hospital, maternity inpatient services are now rated Requires Improvement – up from a previous assessment as ‘Inadequate.’ Barts Health as a whole has been working hard to address issues with service quality and only exited a broader special measures regime this past February.
BEING FRANK ABOUT HOUSING DELIVERY
A new report by Knight Frank provides a handy if somewhat concerning overview of the residential development sector in London, covering a range of indicators, from house prices, to the supply and delivery pipeline and construction costs. Most striking amongst its findings is that in 2017-18, 31,723 net additional dwellings were added to Greater London’s housing stock. Not only does that fall short of the 66,000 homes-a-year need identified in the new London Plan, but suggests a 13% decline in the number of additional new homes compared to the previous year. Interestingly, Knight Frank’s analysis attributes this trend mainly to the decline of the use of permitted development rights (PD) to convert offices into homes. The report suggests that the majority of offices that could have been converted into homes through the use of PD already have been. At borough level, its analysis of figures from the Ministry of Housing, Communities and Local Government (MHCLG) shows that a mere five London boroughs met their housing needs in 2017/18, when measured against the government’s benchmarks, and 20 boroughs delivered less than 50% of the new homes the needed.
LCA clients VU.CITY, providers of the largest and most accurate interactive 3D digital model of London, have been awarded £600,000 of grant funding by government agency Innovate UK to help transform the way the public engages with the planning process. Working in partnership with Colouring London (led by the Centre for Spatial Analysis at UCL), VU.CITY will develop an app-based programme that will crowdsource and map – real-time and in 3D – people’s responses to changes they see around them. It is hoped the project will help foster a two-way, equitable conversation between the development industry and the public, that in time can inform new changes to the built environment and better deliver what communities genuinely need and want. Initially focussed on London, the YOUR.VU.CITY app sits alongside a wave of disruptive technology – known as PlanTech – that looks set to change the real estate sector irrevocably, and is becoming increasingly hard for practitioners to ignore.
- Specialist regeneration developer and investment firm U & I Group PLC has announced the appointment of Professor Sadie Morgan as an independent Non-Executive Director. She will continue in her other roles including Chair of the Independent Design Panel for HS2, a member of the National Infrastructure Commission (NIC), as well as a Mayoral Design Advocate.
- LCA client South London and Maudsley NHS Foundation Trust (SLaM) has announced the appointment of David Bradley as its Chief Executive. Bradley, who for the past seven years has led South West London and St. George’s Mental Health NHS Trust, will succeed Dr Matthew Patrick, who steps down in July.
- The Labour party has announced that Alex Cunningham MP (Stockton North) will be taking up the role of Shadow Housing Minister. He succeeds Melanie Onn MP (Great Grimsby), who resigned the frontbench after the party whipped MPs to vote for a second referendum – which she opposes.
ELECTIONS & POLLING: THE BIG PICTURE
Elections in 248 English local authorities (all outside London) and 11 councils in Northern Ireland are scheduled for 2 May. If that weren’t enough, European Parliament Elections look increasingly likely and a snap General Election is always possible. The media have this week publicised one particularly grim assessment of the Conservatives’ electoral prospects, by prominent Tory polling expert Lord Hayward. Speaking at a ComRes event, Hayward said May’s local election will very likely see the party lose seats, even in its traditional heartlands (and especially if a Brexit deal has not been secured by polling day). Indeed, many Tory activists are reportedly refusing to canvass for their party, attesting to mutinous stirrings in the party’s ranks. Meanwhile, the Hansard Society’s annual Audit of Political Engagement offers a rather depressing birds-eye view of how Brits perceive the powers-that-be. It found that opinions of the country’s system of governing are ‘at their lowest point in 15 years’ (lower even than in the aftermath of the MPs expenses scandal) and that no less than half of its 1,200 or so respondents think the main parties and politicians ‘do not care about people like them’.
LONDON POLLING LATEST
Meanwhile, LCA’s Research Team has recently been poring over some other, particularly interesting polling results, which provide valuable insight in the lead up to the 2020 London elections.
- Centre-right think tank Onwards have released a report into ‘generational voting patterns, policy priorities and political values’. Their nationwide poll of 10,000 people and focus groups pinpoint the Conservative Party’s electoral weak spots, reinforcing evidence that the Tories need to reach out to younger, as well as black and minority ethnic voters. Both are key voter groups, especially in the capital where roughly 41% of people are BAME and the 25-34 age bracket makes up about 24% of the inner city population (16% of Outer London’s).
- Indeed, the results of somewhat unconventional smartphone-based polling methods by POLITICO across ‘battleground constituencies’ also emphasise the uphill battle faced by the Conservatives in the capital. Of 757 respondents in the London constituencies of Battersea, Putney, Kensington, Cities of London and Westminster, Chelsea and Fulham, 59% considered the Tories ‘out of touch’ and only 20% thought they represent ‘people like me’.
Meanwhile, we are keenly awaiting the next tranche of polling by Queen Mary University of London’s Mile End Institute and YouGov, as the regular survey on Londoners’ voting intentions
Trade unions TSSA, RMT and Aslef have said they are prepared to strike, having rejected TfL’s proposed pay increase of 2.5%. The unions had been seeking a pay increase for employees of the Underground, claiming that their Overground and TfL Rail counterparts receive higher salaries, as well as concessions regarding annual leave and travel perks. The threat of more strikes, which would bring the Tube network to a standstill, will be a major concern for Sadiq (especially in the run up to next year’s election), as he pledged to reduce the number of strike days on the TfL network in his 2016 manifesto and campaign.
Meanwhile, Mitie employees at London City Airport have unanimously voted to go on strike over several days in April and May. Primarily employed as security staff, the employees are seeking changes to their pay and sick leave, as well as improvements to their break facilities.
LONDON VS THE SULTAN OF BRUNEI
Last week, it was revealed that the Sultan of Brunei has approved a penal code that includes strict laws forbidding homosexuality and threatening LGBT people with brutal punishments. Londoners have rallied round to protest this flagrant – though sadly not unprecedented – violation of human rights. While minuscule, the autocratic city-state is extremely wealthy and has extensive interests in London. In the wake of the news, concerns were quickly raised about adverts for Royal Brunei Airlines on the TfL estate. Following pressure from constituents, London Assembly members urged the Mayor to order the removal of the adverts in his capacity as Chair of TfL. The transport authority has since done so. On Saturday, protestors gathered outside the Dorchester Hotel in Mayfair, one of several hotels owned by the Brunei Investment Agency (BIA), an arm of Brunei’s Ministry of Finance. Many event organisers, including those in the property industry, have cancelled events scheduled to take place at the hotel. Meanwhile, the Conservative MP for the Cities of London and Westminster (and Foreign Office minister) Mark Field has come under fire for appearing to qualify his condemnation of Brunei’s new laws by rather diplomatically saying that the Sultan of Brunei has been “a great friend” of Britain and suggesting that the implementation of these new laws are in part a result of his having become “a little more devout as he has got older”.
CUNDY STREET QUARTER
LCA were delighted to support the public consultation launch for Grosvenor Britain & Ireland’s new residential-led development, the Cundy Street Quarter, in southern Belgravia. The ambition is to create an inclusive mixed-use neighbourhood, including new homes, community facilities, public green spaces, shops and more. Along with members of the project team, architect DSDHA and landscape designer Todd Longstaffe-Gowan, we welcomed over 300 people to the public events over three days last week. Grosvenor is changing the way it consults, to ensure that the community is clearer on how their feedback has been listened to and influenced design outcomes. One step the business has taken to broaden engagement and improve communication is to adopt Built-ID’s new platform aimed at reducing barriers to engagement. The team is now analysing the feedback and preparing initial designs before returning to the community again later this year.
WHAT'S CRACKING THIS EASTER AT KING'S CROSS
With the Easter holidays in full swing, LCA has been busy this week with the promotion of the Let’s Play: Easter festival at King’s Cross. It's going to be a cracking Easter, with a jam-packed two weeks of fun activities for all the whole family, including an array of arts and crafts workshops and a Flower Power installation in Coal Drops Yard, as well as a grand finale in the form of an Easter Canopy Market, which will transform West Handyside Canopy into an urban farm, complete with petting zoo. Find out more about all the egg-citing events at King’s Cross this Easter here.
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