RESTORATION AND RENEWAL
LCA were thrilled to be involved with the launch of the design proposals for Parliament’s Northern Estate today; the essential first step to enable the restoration and renewal of the Palace of Westminster. Read more about it below.
Meanwhile, there was change of a different sort following the local elections in other parts of the country and a bit of a reshuffle at the Greater London Authority too.
Air quality, or the lack of it, continues to rise up the public agenda while strikes look likely for London’s transport network in May.
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FIRST IMAGES OF TEMPORARY HOUSE OF COMMONS CHAMBER REVEALED
LCA is delighted to be part of the team delivering Parliament’s Northern Estate, the group of buildings between Parliament Street and Victoria Embankment, where design proposals have been launched for consultation today. The plans are the essential first step to enable the restoration and renewal of the Palace of Westminster and include a new temporary House of Commons Chamber and associated facilities, together with workspace for all 650 MPs and their staff within a single secure site. The development of the plans follows the decision of both Houses of Parliament in 2018 to temporarily move out of the Palace of Westminster while essential work to the building takes place, estimated to start in the mid-2020s. The plans can be viewed here.
LONDON BRIDGE ATTACKS INQUEST
The inquiry into the June 2017 London Bridge terror attack opened on 7 May, with the delivery of ‘pen portraits’ of the eight victims by their families. Expected to last eight weeks, the inquiry will aim to provide answers to a series of questions about the attack, including understanding why security barriers were not placed on London Bridge, despite the Westminster Bridge attack having occurred just three months previous. The court will hear from witnesses and a senior MI5 officer as well as study CCTV and other footage from the night of the attack.
LOCAL ELECTIONS: LIB DEMS REVIVE AND INDEPENDENTS RISE
Despite the lack of activity in London, we paid close attention to the results of last week’s local elections as the Conservatives lost over 1,300 seats, Independent candidates gained almost as many as the Lib Dems, and the Greens also performed well. Honing in on the South East in particular, it was fascinating to see the increase in the number of Independents gaining seats on councils. While voters may have many motives for voting Independent, there can be no doubt that development on the Green Belt provokes particularly strong feelings, with some of the greatest election upsets coming from areas which have large amounts of Green Belt land which previous administrations had designated for redevelopment - Tandridge, Guildford and Uttlesford being prominent examples. As for the Lib Dems, the party performed well where they were able to draw on existing local networks of activists, such as in Mole Valley, which they have not controlled since a brief period in the mid-90s, but where they maintained a presence and benefitted from local recognition and volunteers in the run up to the campaign. Despite the big reverses, the Tories are still the dominant political force in the South East. However, perhaps the most interesting consequence of the shift away from two-party politics is the surge in No Overall Control (NOC) Councils, which increased by 37 to now number 73 in total. Three key questions now rise over this new political landscape: 1) How will Conservative-run councils respond to the rise of the independents, 2) how will the Independents and Lib Dems respond to the housing crisis?, and 3) how will these NOC Councils work in practice?
AND IN THE BOROUGHS...
Aside from the 8,410 seats up for grabs around England, Wales and Northern Ireland on 2 May, there were two by-elections in London, both in Lewisham. While Evelyn and Whitefoot wards both returned Labour candidates and saw the party retain its one-party dominance in the borough, the underlying figures tell us more. Evelyn’s Labour candidate Lionel Openshaw claimed 52% of the overall vote share but saw a 4.5% swing away from the party to the Greens compared to 2018, and Whitefoot’s Labour candidate Kim Powell saw a 11.5% swing away from her party towards the Lib Dems. The Lib Dem swing, which almost saw them claim a Labour scalp in Lambeth’s Thornton ward a month ago, shows that the party has reasons to be cheerful and that Labour cannot afford to be complacent in the capital.
Meanwhile, Southwark Councillor James Coldwell has resigned from the Labour Party. Coldwell, who represents Newington ward, has been consistently critical of his former party’s approach to Brexit, having been temporarily suspended from Southwark Labour Group in November after he voted in favour of a ‘People’s Vote’. Coldwell pointed to the National Executive Committee’s (NEC) recent decision not to back a second referendum, calling it ‘the final straw’. Coldwell is the first London councillor to resign from the Labour Party over its handling of Brexit – although he may not be the last.
CITY HALL LATEST
With now less than a year to go until the London Assembly and Mayoral elections, we have profiled the Mayoral candidates in our latest blog post, here. However, we await confirmation of the Labour Party’s Assembly candidates. Meanwhile, the Assembly’s AGM took place last week, in which long-standing AMs Jennette Arnold (Labour) and Tony Arbour (Conservative) were elected Chair and Deputy Chair respectively for the next year, set to be their last on the Assembly. There were also a few changes on the Assembly’s numerous Committees – the full list can be found here.
- Uber drivers across the UK staged a strike on 8 May. The nine hour boycott of the app was organised by the United Private Hire Drivers Branch of the Independent Workers Union of Great Britain (IWGB) over pay and work conditions.
- Fans travelling to see Watford take on Manchester City in the FA Cup final next Saturday could face major disruption as over 1,000 London Underground maintenance and engineering workers plan to strike. The striking staff – members of the RMT union - oppose the new preparation and inspection schedules which they claim will ‘have a devastating impact both on service reliability and public safety’. The strike is planned for 17- 20 May.
- Above ground, London Overground Travel Safe Officers have announced that they are planning a second 24 hour strike on 16 May in a dispute over pay.
New campaign, Address Pollution, is aiming to increase awareness of the dangerously high levels of air pollution in London by specifically targeting the property market. As well as an advertising campaign, they also plan to have a tool on their website so that potential house buyers and renters can look up air pollution levels near their properties just as they might investigate crime stats or school catchments. This is a citizen-led, crowdfunded initiative from non-profit group the Central Office of Public Interest (COPI); they will direct visitors to their website to write to their MPs and demand the implementation of eco-friendly measures in their area. Air quality has never been higher up the public agenda and this campaign follows the launch of the Ultra Low Emission Zone and the Extinction Rebellion protests and the announcement that there will be a new inquest into the death of Lewisham schoolgirl, Ella Kissi-Debrah, who suffered a fatal asthma attack thought to be connected to the extremely high levels of air pollution near her Catford home. Her family want to see air pollution listed as her official cause of death, which would be a legal first, in order to urge the Government to take more drastic action on pollution.
The Ministry for Housing, Communities and Local Government (MHCLG) last week joined forces with the Meanwhile Foundation and Meanwhile Space CIC to launch Open Doors to match landlords with empty properties with community groups in need of space. The Centre for London’s report on meanwhile use, published in October 2018, showed that there are over 20,000 empty commercial units across the city, with 11,000 of these having been vacant for over two years. One such recent example is the conversion of the former Clerkenwell Fire Station into a temporary homeless shelter. Empty since 2014, City Hall, Islington Council and the London Fire Commissioner are turning it into a homeless shelter and centre. The first beneficiaries are The Outside Project and Stonewall Housing who will run it as an LGBT facility. In the long run, Islington Council hopes to convert the building into social housing. The relevant City Hall press release suggests that Sadiq is eager to encourage private developers and businesses to come forward and allow City Hall to put their vacant properties into use as homeless shelters.
The Mayor has announced the second round of funding from his Skills for Londoners initiative, with over £57m allocated to 17 education projects in 11 boroughs. The funding is set to benefit almost 20,000 Londoners, and allow for the provision of almost 10,000 apprenticeships and work placements in the digital skills and construction sectors. £7.2m of the funding has been allocated to projects which fall under the Mayor’s Construction Academy, a scheme which is designed to boost construction skills in the capital. The first round of funding, £25m, was released last year.
- The Northbank BID has appointed Andrew Hicks as Chair of its Board. Hicks is Estate Director for Covent Garden at Capital & Counties Properties PLC (Capco) and has been a member of the Northbank BID Board for the past two years.
HKS: PERSPECTIVES (ON HEALTHCARE)
Last Thursday, we supported our client HKS Architects in devising, managing and coordinating the first of an events series running through the year, held at their London offices, in celebration of the practice’s 80th birthday. Titled HKS: Perspectives, the first event focused on healthcare, asking the question of how UK healthcare infrastructure projects of the future could be funded. The panel, chaired by TV news presenter Ben Bland and including representatives from Bevan Brittan, KPMG, Guy’s and St Thomas’ NHS Foundation Trust and HKS, explored new approaches to innovating and better rationalising the healthcare estate in ways that support the future trajectory of healthcare policy and increasingly specialised clinical services. If you would like to attend or participate in future events, please get in touch with us.
KING'S CROSS THEATRE
London Theatre Company (LTC) and King’s Cross Central Limited Partnership today announced their joint venture for a brand new 600 seat theatre in King’s Cross. The new theatre designed by Stirling Prize-winning Haworth Tompkins Architects in collaboration with TAIT, will include a flexible auditorium, capable of a streamlined transformation between formats to support a varied programme of new commissions and classics. The theatre will be housed within the same building as Facebook, designed by the prestigious AHMM. LTC is best known as the group behind the Bridge Theatre. LCA were pleased to promote the news, securing an exclusive in the Evening Standard.
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