…is the endearing nickname of Donald Trump’s bullet-proof limousine. If you live or work in central London, you are unlikely to have missed the armada of armoured cars and helicopters ferrying the US President and his sizeable entourage back and forth across the city.
This week, LDN covers Trump’s stormy state visit to London, as well as the first big broadsides of the 2020 London election campaign. Politics aside, read on for more stories touching on tall buildings, industrial sites, neighbourhood planning, permitted development and high streets, as well as some major people moves.
This edition’s Our Week section also contains a few gems, including links to our latest post-election analysis and maps.
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President Trump has been in the UK this week on his first official state visit, the opening two days of which he spent in London. Over the course of meetings and functions hosted by the Royal Family and the Prime Minister, interviews with British media and a press conference, Trump has waded into the Conservative Party leadership race and the UK's Brexit policy. Naturally, he has also taken aim at the Mayor of London, branding Sadiq a ‘stone cold loser’ even before Air Force One had landed at Stansted. The President's comment, made of course on Twitter, was in apparent retaliation to an article by the Mayor in The Observer, in which he argued that Trump is a ‘global threat’. The pair’s very public feud has been further stoked by Sadiq again granting permission for protesters to fly the now-infamous Trump baby blimp above Parliament Square, amid demonstrations which were dismissed by the President as ‘fake news’. All the above aside, Trump’s visit also coincides with a more solemn occasion, namely the commemoration of the D-Day landings' 75th anniversary. The President joined the PM and 15 other world leaders in Portsmouth today to mark the event, which will also be commemorated in City Hall by a London Assembly motion proposed by Labour AM Len Duval.
While Trump and Sadiq spar on Twitter and in the press, the Mayor's domestic critics are also hard at work. The GLA Conservatives have published The Cost of Khan 3, their third report evaluating Sadiq’s performance against the pledges he has made from 2016 to the present. The report asserts that the Mayor has presided over ‘an alarming hike in violent crime, lagging affordable housing targets, and a damaging down-turn in Transport for London’s finances’. It further accuses Sadiq of ‘financial incompetence, a raft of broken promises, and a lack of delivery for Londoners’. While packed with facts and figures to support these claims, the report employs its evidence base… rather selectively and in some places inaccurately. For example, the section on Sadiq’s housing policy states that he has been given government funding ‘to build 116,000 affordable homes by April 2022’, whereas his target is to start building that number. Elsewhere, the report reiterates an assertion that Boris achieved higher affordable housing starts than Sadiq back in 2009/10 and 2010/11, whereas – as we explained in issue 77 of LDN – responsibility for affordably housing funding and delivery was arguably devolved from the Homes and Communities Agency to City Hall only in 2012. The report does however point to numerous challenges that Sadiq has indeed struggled to address. Of those challenges, crime stands out.
PUBLIC ENEMY No1
According to figures from the Metropolitan Police Service cited by the GLA Conservatives’ report, the 2016-2018 period saw an increase in homicides (24%), knife crime (52.3%), residential burglary (36.9%) and robbery (59.3%). Furthermore, the 135 murders recorded in London over the course of 2018 are described as the highest annual rate in a decade. Recent press coverage paints a more mixed picture: On the one hand, the capital accounted for almost 1/3 of the 100 fatal stabbings recorded in the UK between 1 January and 17 May 2019 alone. On the other, Deputy Commissioner Sir Steve House stated only this week that increased use of stop-and-search has contributed to a 30% drop in killings and 20% drop in knife injuries among under-25s in the year to April (compared to the same period in 2018). For his part, Sadiq blames the rise in crime on central government cuts to policing, education and youth services – and has noted that crime is up nationwide and not only in London. The Cost of Khan 3, which unsurprisingly omits any mention of government cuts, confirms that the London Conservatives will seek to convince voters that Sadiq could have done more with the funds at his disposal. For more on the Mayor’s own latest political manoeuvres, see the Caught Our Eye section below.
LONDON PLANNING LATEST
- BBC London recently broadcast an extensive feature on the proliferation of tall buildings in the capital. The programme cited a variety of views on the subject, including those of NLA Chair Peter Murray, who explained tall buildings are vital to helping meet London’s housing need.
- Only two days earlier, Southwark Council’s planning committee approved a hybrid planning application for a 724-home (35% affordable) 48-storey development on the northern side of Old Kent Road, on land owned by the Strathclyde Pension Fund, in alignment with officers’ recommendation (though the plans will now be referred to the Mayor).
- Resistance to industrial development in London has generated headlines in the London press over the past week. The Standard has reported that a petition objecting to plans for a new concrete plant at the Bow East industrial site, on the edge of the Olympic Park, has been signed by over 2,000 people.
- Separately, local media outlets have highlighted a campaign (apparently supported by Sadiq and local MPs) against proposals for a new waste incinerator in Belvedere, Bexley.
- The local referendum on a new Harlesden Neighbourhood Plan, held on 30 May, has resulted in its approval. 89.6% of those who cast a ballot voted in favour of the Plan, though turnout was very low at 11.2%. It is the 13th such Neighbourhood Plan to be adopted in London.
- More criticism has been piled on to much-maligned office-to-residential Permitted Development (PD) rights, most recently in a report by Labour London Assembly member Tom Copley. Copley, who now chairs the Assembly’s Housing Committee, has examined living conditions in homes created using PD rights. According to his findings, only 0.4% of homes built through PD in London since 2013 can be defined as ‘affordable’ and over half (59%) fail to meet national minimum requirement for space. The report calls on Sadiq to lobby the government to scrap the existing system.
SADIQ ON THE DEFENSIVE?
With the Mayoral elections less than a year away, Sadiq and his team are naturally eager to highlight their successes (and reassure the public that any shortfall against targets is manageable). Housing delivery and new cycling infrastructure are two areas where Khan knows he will be carefully scrutinised.
- Last week, Deputy Mayor for Housing James Murray defended City Hall’s performance in delivering affordable housing, in a letter to the Evening Standard’s editor. Murray seemed to concede that half of new homes given planning permission ‘do not get built’ but sought to redirect the public’s attention to evidence that the proportion of affordable homes in developments receiving planning permission has risen to 36%, compared to a low of 13% under Boris.
- A week before that, Sadiq declared a ‘doubling of protected cycle routes’ during the first three years of his tenure and asserted he is ‘on track’ to ‘treble the amount’ by May 2020. His press release clarified that 116km of cycle lanes are now ‘complete or under construction’. Considering 53km were in place when he became Mayor, the Mayor appears to be telling us that he has completed or begun construction on an additional 63km. That would mean that he now has 11-odd months left to complete lanes still under construction as well as deliver (from scratch) another 43km.
- Professor Nabeel Hamdi (a housing and development expert) and Thouria Istephan (partner at architecture firm Foster + Partners), have been appointed to the Grenfell Tower Inquiry Panel before the start of Phase 2, set to begin in January 2020.
- The Mayor has announced the members of his London Housing Panel – an advisory body whose creation was first heralded in April. Raji Hunjan, CEO of the Zacchaeus 2000 Trust anti-poverty charity, will Chair the panel, whose other 14 members are named here.
MHCLG PLANNING LATEST
According to a recent Times article, the government is in the process of preparing draft legislation that will ‘provide greater planning certainty to support the high street and housing delivery’. Early plans, which included PD rights to facilitate changes between retail use classes, were previously put out for a public consultation ending in January 2019. You may find the Government’s own response to this consultation here. A written ministerial statement from the Communities Secretary in March had also confirmed that the Government is set to carry on with its plans – even if majority of respondents to its consultation opposed them.
The Ministry for Housing, Communities and Local Government (MHCLG) has also this week published its response to its technical Community Infrastructure Levy (CIL) consultation. Its proposed reforms aim to provide both local authorities and developers with a ‘less complex and more transparent’ system.
EURO ELECTION FEVER AT LCA
We said we’d take it easy for this election – it was, after all, not even supposed to happen – but we just couldn’t help ourselves. Diligent LDN readers will recall that we covered the European Parliament election results in our last edition and that our Chairman, Robert Gordon Clark, discussed the results on LBC radio with Nick Ferarri in the wee hours of Monday 27 May. This week, we have additionally published our latest political map of London on our website, showing which party received the highest vote share in each of London’s 32 Boroughs and the City of London. To top it all off, Robert has teamed up with Professor Tony Travers of the LSE to analyse the election’s results and their potential influence on the next big electoral contest for London: The 2020 Mayoral and London Assembly Elections. For more insight from Robert and Tony, see their article on the OnLondon website, which is curated by veteran journalist Dave Hill.
ROWING FOR CHARITY
LCA sent a team of 11 to compete in this year’s Dragon Boat Regatta in Windsor, hosted by Grosvenor. Up against 31 other teams, LCA’s ‘How To Train Your Dragon Boat’ crew was not quite fast enough to qualify for the finals, despite winning all their races. More importantly, the event raised £48,000 for Doorstep Library, a charity which trains volunteers to visit some of London’s most disadvantaged families to help introduce books and a love of reading to their children.
Looking ahead, LCA is once again delighted to be the official communications partner at the London Real Estate Forum (LREF) – this year moving to the fantastic HAC grounds in Islington. With over 2,400 delegates set to attend on 11-12 June, LREF remains the premier event for the development community in the UK. Key members of the LCA team are also chairing several workshops as part of the conference programme and we will additionally be presenting an updated version of our Who Runs London graphic, produced in partnership with Professor Tony Travers. Visit LREF’s website for more details.
LCA prides itself on its intelligence-led approach to PR and communications and our dedicated research team monitors London politics, news and issues as it happens. If you would like to know more about LCA or anything in this edition of LDN – London in short please get in touch.
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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