Dozens of local councils in London and the Home Counties are busy holding their crucial Annual General Meetings (AGMs), which will define their leadership and committee memberships for the year ahead.
Meanwhile, Hammersmith & Fulham are (again) spoiling for a fight in Earls Court, no one can figure out the state of the London property market and the ULEZ seems to be working.
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H&F BID TO BUY OUT EARLS COURT
Hammersmith & Fulham Council has reiterated its intention to attempt a Compulsory Purchase Order (CPO) to take back control of land on the site of the Earls Court Exhibition Centre and the Lillie Bridge Depot. According to media reports, Council Leader Stephen Cowan has resolved to press ahead, asserting that ‘action and bold decisions’ are needed to break the deadlock which has seen Capco’s £12bn masterplan for the area stalled for several years amidst an ongoing battle between developer and Council. Some of the land holdings in question are owned by Capco, but others are owned by TfL and the neighbouring Royal Borough of Kensington & Chelsea. The Council’s enthusiasm aside, it is likely that at least one of the landowners will contest a potential CPO – triggering a complicated legal battle. Just as pertinently, Hammersmith & Fulham will also have to secure the approval of the Communities Secretary and borrow, via the Public Works Loan Board, a not-inconsiderable £200m sum to compensate the landowners.
CRANES UP FOR LONDON?
The inconsistent performances of different sectors of London’s property market continue to baffle observers. Over the past week, retail-oriented developers have seen their shares take a bit of a hit, as has estate agency Foxtons, which pointed to sales volumes ‘at record low levels’ and ‘ongoing Brexit’ as the source of its woes. At the same time, Deloitte’s biannual 'crane survey' has found that the amount of new office space under construction has hit its highest level since the EU referendum, with 37 new schemes breaking ground over the past six months alone across central London and a handful of other ‘emerging’ locations in the capital. Furthermore, M3 Consulting’s latest biannual London Development Barometer (LDB) indicates that while property professionals in the capital are rather pessimistic, the mood has actually improved since M3’s last survey six months ago: 43% of respondents predicted development activity in the capital will decrease over the next five years (down from over 46%) and 32% said they believe development activity will increase (up from 29%). However, the LDB also suggests waning confidence in the Mayor: 35% of respondents believed his policies will have a positive impact (down from 45% six months ago) and 42% believe they will have a negative impact (up from to 32%).
LONDON BOROUGH AGMs
News from London Boroughs’ AGMs has been trickling in and as of tomorrow morning, 31 of the capital’s 33 elected local authorities will have settled their structures and leadership for the year (at least in theory). Over the past week, AGMs in Camden, Islington, Westminster and elsewhere have seen cabinets broadly intact, with a few updated job titles in the mix. But elsewhere, Newham and Tower Hamlets have revamped some briefs and added a new face or two to their cabinet line-up, while in north London the Leaders of Haringey and Enfield have overseen more substantial cabinet reshuffles. Barnet Council is the only one electing a new leader in this year’s round of AGMs, as incumbent Richard Cornelius has stepped down and will most likely be replaced (pending confirmation tonight) by Councillor Daniel Thomas. All of the boroughs named above have also seen changes to their planning committees.
If you are interested in more information about changes at any individual council, please contact us.
LONDON NEIGHBOURHOOD PLANNING LATEST
Neighbourhood planning continues to gain momentum in the capital, with Brent Council and the Old Oak and Park Royal Development Corporation (OPDC) set to run a referendum on proposals for a Harlesden Neighbourhood Plan on 30 May. The plan places an emphasis on the delivery of affordable housing, earmarking several sites for potential development. Community space and amenities also feature heavily in the proposals. If over 50% of votes received are positive, it will be adopted as part of the statutory development plan for the area, and will be the 13th Neighbourhood Plan formally adopted in London. Although the take-up of community planning powers heralded by the Localism Act 2011 has been slower in London compared to the rest of England, dozens of neighbourhood planning groups have sprung up across the city. Indeed, NeighbourhoodPlanners.London is set to present the results of relevant research by Publica at their next meeting on 5 June, with a focus on the uptake of neighbourhood planning in more deprived parts of London.
LONDON TRANSPORT UNDER A MICROSPOPE
Last Wednesday Crossrail Ltd’s past and present leadership were interrogated by the Commons’ Public Accounts Committee. Crossrail’s current CEO told MPs of enduring difficulties in delivering key stations, and particularly Bond Street and Canary Wharf. For their part, the company’s former Chair and CEO both alleged that contractors are ultimately responsible for delays that will see the Elizabeth Line’s central section open sometime within ‘a six-month delivery window with a midpoint at the end of 2020’. Meanwhile, calls for HS2 to be significantly redesigned or even scrapped are seemingly growing louder on a daily basis. Last week, a Lords’ Economic Affairs Committee report called for HS2’s trains to run slower and use Old Oak Common rather than Euston as its terminus to cut costs, while former Brexit Secretary David Davis launched a TaxPayers’ Alliance report listing other infrastructure projects that could be funded if HS2 were scrapped. Beyond the Palace of Westminster, TfL’s executives are having their work dissected at City Hall this week, with the London Assembly’s Budget and Performance Committee discussing its capital investment programme yesterday and the TfL Board meeting to discuss a series of reports on its performance earlier today.
In the run-up to tomorrow’s European parliament Elections, a new poll by YouGov and Datapraxis, commissioned by pro-Remain campaign Best for Britain and anti-racist advocacy group Hope Not Hate, has been released. Among 9,000 respondents nationally, the Brexit Party was found to lead with a decisive 34% vote share, followed by the Liberal Democrats at 17%, Labour 15%, the Green Party 11%, Conservatives 9% and Change UK on 4%. The poll’s 900-or-so respondents in London specifically put the Liberal Democrats in the lead with 24%, followed by the Brexit Party with 21%, Labour 19%, Greens 14%, Tories 10%, and Change UK on 6%. London stands out as one of the two UK regions in the poll which did not have the Brexit Party in the lead, the other being Scotland. This latest polling will bolster expectations that the two main parties face a drubbing much like – and likely even worse – than that meted out by recent local elections in England. Of course, who knows how long the newly elected British MEPs will actually hold their seats in Brussels.
We will report on the EU election results next Wednesday, but for LDN followers keen to hear the news as it happens, our chairman Robert Gordon Clark will be on Nick Ferrari's LBC morning show on Monday 27 May (the count is on Sunday) – which is dedication to duty given it’s a bank holiday.
The Grenfell Inquiry has revealed that the publication of its Phase 1 report, which will provide an account of the sequence of events on 14 June 2017, will be delayed until October. The report was originally scheduled for publication in January, but the Inquiry has said that the ‘complex’ and ‘time-consuming’ nature of its work has forced a delay. The Inquiry has said that it still hopes to begin Phase 2 of its work, as planned, in January 2020 and this second stage will focus on understanding how the tower came to be in a condition which allowed for the rapid spread of fire. Meanwhile, the final report of Dame Judith Hackitt’s Independent Review of Building Regulations and Fire Safety – which was launched in the aftermath of the fire – has been published. The report recommends a ‘new regulatory regime’ for buildings with 10 or more storeys, but stops short of advising a ban on all combustible material in cladding systems, leading some critics to argue that it fails to go far enough. The Fire Brigades Union has meanwhile accused the government of ‘complacency’ with regards to the risk of fire in high rise buildings, saying that many services still lack the resources needed to tackle such incidents.
ON THE ULEZ AND TFL DRINKING BAN
Early evidence suggests that Sadiq’s Ultra Low Emission Zone (ULEZ), launched this April, has already been effective. Figures cited by the Mayor indicate that in the first month of its operation, 74% of vehicles entering the ULEZ were compliant with new standards (up from 61% in March and 39% in February 2019) and thus exempt from the higher charge. Behavioural change aside, the Standard has reported that the ULEZ charges are raising £220,000 a day for TfL, as an average of 17,400 drivers a day paid the fee in the zone’s first month. Critics will still, however, demand evidence that the ULEZ has not disproportionately penalised small businesses and poorer motorists. On a similar note, it is worth highlighting that Queen Mary University London’s (QMUL) latest polling asked Londoners for their views on TfL’s ban on drinking alcohol on its services, which has been in force since 2008. While somewhat controversial at the time – and despite the scorn recently directed at the measure from certain quarters – the polling found that no less than 84% of respondents supported the ban.
HOME COUNTIES SHAKEUP
LDN’s last edition highlighted some interesting local election results across the Home Counties surrounding London, where the Conservatives lost control of a number of local authorities. After the shake-up administered by the electorate, the pieces are starting to fall into place and council AGMs have produced several new administrations. Guildford Borough Council now has a Liberal Democrat Leader, Caroline Reeves, who heads up a coalition cabinet supported by the Guildford Greenbelt Group and 'Residents 4 Guildford and Villages'. In Elmbridge Borough Council, the Liberal Democrats have also agreed to enter a coalition with a constellation of local groups, comprising the Hersham Village Society, the Hinchley Wood Residents' Association, the Thames Ditton & Weston Green Residents' Association, and The Walton Society (that would be Walton-on-Thames, not William Walton). However, Woking and Welwyn Hatfield borough councils see the Conservatives continuing to govern through minority administrations faced with larger (and emboldened) opposition groups. It would appear that opposition to property development in particular helped local groups, independents and the Liberal Democrats get elected in many areas. In Guildford, some candidates had talked of seeking a judicial review against the Local Plan drawn up by the Conservatives. Will they take this course of action now that they are in control?
LOCAL GOV RESEARCH
The past few days have seen the publication of a brace of research and polling related to local government in England, with much of it providing valuable insight for London in particular:
- The left-leaning Institute for Public Policy Research (IPPR) has published a report on council tax in London, arguing that the current system is ‘regressive’ and unfairly burdens poorer Londoners. It argues in favour of greater fiscal devolution, more protections for poorer households, as well as a council tax pegged to up-do-date property values.
- Queen Mary University’s Mercy Muroki and Professor Philip Cowley have launched a seminal study on local political black and Asian representation across London, which found that, ‘despite some advances, black and Asian Londoners continue to be underrepresented in most boroughs’.
- The Public Accounts Committee have published a report on local government governance and accountability which found that while most councils’ governance arrangements are ‘generally robust’, many authorities urgently need to improve measures in place to adapt to the ‘more risky, complex and fast-moving environment’ in which they now operate.
The LCA team is proud that no less than five colleagues participated in the annual Hayes Davidson #HD5K race in Hyde Park last Thursday. The event honours Alan Davidson, founder of the pioneering Hayes Davidson design practice and a founding Non-Executive Director at LCA. Alan was diagnosed with Motor Neurone Disease in 2012 and passed away in August 2018. The #HD5K run raised a total of £60,000 for the Motor Neurone Disease Association, surpassing last year’s £52,000. Calum, Charlie, Chris, Nicole and Sarah also managed to beat their respective 5k personal best and came hot on the heels of the eventual winner Taylor Rodgers of Hopkins Architects Ltd. There were 117 runners overall and the full list of results can be viewed here. Thanks to everyone who came down to cheer participants over the line and contribute to fighting MND.
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