Is undoubtedly the theme of this week’s edition, as a report from a leading developer shines a spotlight on a significant lack of it between the public and the sector.
It also underpins several of this weeks stories as, for example, one wonders who is telling the truth when it comes to the latest housing figures? Should the council or the community lead a major estate regeneration scheme? Should the Mayor have overruled the local authority on a major planning application? And what happens when trust between the leader of a major political party and its membership is eroded?
At the very least, we hope that you trust us to bring you the headlines from the last week.
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Sadiq has rejected plans for the controversial Tulip tower in the City. While it received planning permission from the City of London Corporation in April, the application was referred to the Mayor due to its height – at 305m, the Tulip would have been the second tallest building in London after The Shard. Proposals for the building, which was to serve primarily as a visitors’ attraction including a ‘viewing platform with rotating pods’, were met with opposition from many quarters and particularly heritage groups such as Historic England and Historic Royal Palaces. Their concerns were evidently shared by the Mayor and City Hall – as well as the London Review Panel – as all have taken issue with the design of the Tulip and its associated public realm provisions, with particular reference to its potential impact on views of the Tower of London, a UNESCO World Heritage Site. The tower’s developers are now reported to be considering an appeal against the Mayor’s decision - and it remains to be seen whether the current (or next?) Communities Secretary will take a position on this project.
FITS AND STARTS ON HOUSING
Sadiq’s performance against housing targets remains a hot topic. The GLA Conservatives have briefed the press on what they claim is evidence of Sadiq’s failure to build a sufficient number of family-sized homes, and to deliver new homes on Transport for London (TfL) land. The Tory group on the London Assembly have long complained that, unlike previous versions, Sadiq’s Housing Strategy does not incorporate a target for delivering family homes. They have now latched on to figures that indicate the number of three-plus bedroom affordable home starts funded by the GLA fell by 31% in 2018/19, compared to 2017/18. However, Inside Housing notes that, in that same period, the total number of starts funded by the Mayor’s Affordable Housing Programme, regardless of size, rose a not-unimpressive 16% from 12,555 to 14,544. As regards the separate issue of building homes on TfL land, apparently there have been just 322 starts to date, against an ambitious target of 10,000 by 2021, but City Hall says it remains confident it can hit its final target.
KHAN ON CRIME
Following yet another spate of murders on London’s streets, Sadiq has cranked up the volume in efforts to tackle – and be seen tackling – crime. Writing in the Sunday Times, Sadiq recalled the New Labour mantra of ‘tough on crime, tough on the causes of crime,’ as part of a wider media offensive. City Hall has pointed to government austerity as the driving force behind the rise in crime, most recently citing research done by the GLA Strategic Crime Analysis Team for the Violence Reduction Unit (VRU). The research argues that there is a ‘significant relationship’ at local level between serious youth violence and factors such as poverty and educational attainment, and that that the highest levels of violent crime occur in those boroughs with the highest levels of deprivation. These findings will be used to direct the work of the VRU as well as the allocation of money from the Mayor’s Young Londoners Fund for initiatives in areas which experience the highest levels of crime. The Mayor has also co-signed a letter with nine other Police and Crime Commissioners (PCCs) from across England to the two Conservative leadership candidates, calling on the next Prime Minister to prioritise funding for youth and police services.
TRUST IN DEVELOPMENT
Grosvenor has published new research exploring public views on planning and development nationally. Its survey found that only 2% of the public trust developers and only 7% trust local authorities when it comes to planning for large-scale development. An attached discussion paper untangles the causes of this cynicism and pinpoints several potential methods for encouraging meaningful community engagement, such as asking communities to vote on proposals for a place or neighbourhood, or options for the allocation of Section 106 and CIL. This research forms part of wider efforts by Grosvenor to help restore public trust in placemaking and developers - and it is clear that the sector as a whole is doing quite a bit of soul-searching on this subject. Previous examples include a paper on development in the West End by LSE Professor Tony Travers for the Westminster Property Association and a report on the present and future of Public Private Partnerships (PPPs) in development by U+I. More recently - only yesterday in fact - we attended Centre for London’s event on Strengthening Public Participation in London’s Planning System.
Residents of the Cressingham Gardens Estate in Lambeth have had their application for a Right to Transfer (RTT) approved by Minister of State for Housing Kit Malthouse MP. This could pave the way for the transfer of the housing estate to community-owned company Cressingham Gardens Community Ltd (CGC). The application for the RTT was made in 2016, by residents supporting a ‘People’s Plan’ as an alternative to the Council’s own regeneration scheme. The Minister sided with CGC despite the Council’s warning that transferring the estate would have a ‘significant detrimental effect on the provision of housing services or the regeneration of the area.’ All the above aside, it is understood that actually implementing the transfer is entirely dependent on CGC raising the funds to buy the estate from the Council. Another RTT application, by West Ken Gibbs Green Community Homes Ltd, which wants to take control of the West Kensington and Gibbs Green estates in Hammersmith and Fulham – part of the stalled Earl’s Court masterplan – was rejected by Malthouse on the same day.
Newham Council’s Cabinet has approved plans for the construction of over 1,300 new homes in the borough by its wholly-owned development company, Red Door Ventures, over the next three years. As part of the Council’s Housing Delivery Plan, 1,056 will be for social rent, with a further 371 to be sold at market rates or for shared ownership. According to the Labour-run Council, the homes will be delivered on existing Council-owned plots which are currently underused or vacant and will be funded by £276m from the Housing Revenue Account (HRA). Meanwhile, in South West London, Lib Dem-run Kingston Council has approved plans to launch its own property investment company. Invest Co will use £68m from Kingston’s capital budget to acquire commercial property and generate income for the Council, with the aim of using returns to help fund borough services. It is worth noting that the company might look to invest in property beyond the council’s territory. Meanwhile, research by real estate data analysts at Datscha suggests that local authorities across the UK almost halved their investment in commercial property during the first half of 2019, compared to the same period last year, amid a wider market downturn.
LONDON LABOUR LATEST
Last week’s BBC Panorama report on anti-Semitism in the Labour Party, which aired further allegations of impropriety by its leadership, has led to multiple senior party members and elected officials distancing themselves from Labour HQ and the leader’s office. Deputy Leader Tom Watson, the Parliamentary Labour Party and now one third of Labour’s peers have publicly sided with the ‘whistleblowers’ who spoke to the BBC and have called on Jeremy Corbyn to urgently tackle the issue. At local level, Islington Labour Councillor for St. Mary’s Ward Gary Poole has resigned from the party in protest and Camden’s Labour Leader Georgia Gould is among those to call out party members who “blame and attack those who bravely spoke out.” It remains to be seen what effect this will all have on the party’s selection process for the 2020 London Assembly elections.
On that note, LabourList has published the full list of Labour members seeking to be candidates on the party’s Londonwide list as well as for the super-constituency seats vacated by three Labour incumbents who are stepping down and five seats held by other parties. Prominent names include sitting AM Tom Copley (who has applied for the Londonwide list), Brent Councillor Faduma Hassan (for Barnet and Camden), National Chair of Young Labour Miriam Mirwitch (also for Barnet and Camden), and National Executive Committee member and Islington Councillor Claudia Webbe (for North East).
- Robert Noel, CEO of Landsec, has announced his retirement after eight years at the helm. He will be standing down in 2020, once a successor has been appointed.
- Lesley Chen Davison has been appointed chief investment officer of Seaforth Land. Davison has worked as Delancey’s director of banking and treasury since 2005 and will take up her new role in September 2019.
- Transport for London (TfL) has appointed Andy Lord as its new Managing Director of London Underground and TfL Engineering. Lord has a background in aviation, previously serving as executive vice-president of Menzies Aviation. Lord will start his new role in November 2019.
- Felicity Buchan, treasurer of the Kensington, Chelsea and Fulham Conservative Association, has been selected as the party’s Prospective Parliamentary Candidate for the Kensington constituency.
NLA SHAKES THINGS UP
The Pipers group of organisations, which for four decades has led the way in communicating and championing the built environment, has announced a major restructure. All of Pipers’ brands, including the City Centre, the London Festival of Architecture, the London Real Estate Forum and the London Stand at MIPIM, will operate as a single organisation under the banner of New London Architecture (NLA), a membership organisation launched in 2005. The group has appointed Michael Cassidy CBE as Non-Executive Chairman, with Peter Murray taking on the role of Curator-in-Chief and Nick McKeogh remaining as Chief Executive. For more details on NLA’s plans and new leadership structure, see their press release here. LCA has worked with Pipers for almost 20 years and we are excited to continue our collaboration as they begin this new chapter.
THE TROUBLE(S) WITH TRANSPORT
A Civil Aviation Authority consultation has revealed that revised spending plans for the early phases of Heathrow’s proposed expansion have tripled, from £915m to £2.9bn. This is understood to reflect a re-phasing of spending (frontloading planning, land acquisition and community compensation costs), rather than an increase in the overall budget. However, critics have warned the hike is unwarranted at this early stage in the project and may lead to higher air passenger fees. Meanwhile, London City Airport is progressing with its own expansion plans, recently awarding Kilnbridge a £17m civil engineering works contract for its new terminal facilities, even as two London Assembly Members (Conservative Andrew Boff and Green Caroline Russell) called on the Mayor to oppose their plans on environmental grounds. Less controversially, the Department for Transport has announced £150m in funding to support the expansion of Gatwick Airport’s train station.
The capital’s airports are also facing a number of operational challenges. Last week saw an 'air traffic control systems issue' shut down Gatwick for two hours, causing the cancellation and delay of dozens of flights. Ahead of the busy summer holiday season, passengers face further turbulence in the form of threatened industrial action over pay disputes:
- 4,000 Unite members employed at Heathrow are set for walkouts on 27 July and 5, 6, 23, and 24 August.
- easyJet check-in staff at Stansted are striking between 25 and 29 July.
- Baggage scanners and facility workers at Gatwick are also reportedly considering a walkout over pay in August.
- British Airline Pilots’ Association (BALPA) members may also go on nationwide strike, from 5 August onwards after pay talks with their employer collapsed.
Meanwhile, talks between the London Underground and the RMT union have again ground to a halt, with union leaders rejecting TfL’s latest pay rise offer and moving ahead with plans to ballot 10,000 members on a potential strike.
Following two accidents in London over the weekend (one of which resulted in a fatality), the matter of electric scooter safety is in the spotlight. While technically illegal to ride on public roads, pavements or cycle lanes, these rules are being widely flouted and are not generally enforced. TfL Commissioner Mike Brown recently called for the Government to provide leadership in order to regulate escooter use, while City Hall Walking and Cycling Commissioner Will Norman has called for the implementation of rules mandating brakes and speed restrictions to increase safety. While there is clearly some associated risk, politicians and policymakers in London would appear broadly agreed that if better regulated, their use could contribute to encouraging more sustainable transport, reducing congestion and improving air quality. The DfT is now reported to be (finally) reviewing the legislation currently applying to escooters.
A FORMER MAYOR IN No 10?
It looks increasingly likely that by this time next week, former London Mayor and Foreign Secretary Boris Johnson will be the new leader of the Conservative Party and Prime Minister. His track record as Mayor of London has come under close inspection, after he himself drew on his time in City Hall to illustrate his competence – and his opponents have dredged up real and perceived mistakes he made as Mayor in an attempt to discredit him. Meanwhile, multiple media reports suggest that Boris is poised to reconvene much of his Mayoral top team if he is handed the keys to No 10. We do know that Sir Eddie Lister (Boris’ former chief of staff at City Hall) and Will Walden (his former Director of Communications) are already part of his campaign team. There is also speculation that controversial election gurus Sir Lynton Crosby and Mark Fullbrook will shadow Boris as he starts his new role, having worked on his 2008 and 2012 Mayoral election campaigns
DORA HOUSE IS GO
We are delighted that our client Regal London has been given the green light by Westminster City Council to develop 282 new homes in St John’s Wood. Last Tuesday, Westminster’s Planning Committee unanimously approved the application to replace an outdated sheltered housing scheme with 170 new affordable apartments catering for over-55s, alongside a new 10–storey private residential block with 44 large apartments. Subject to the final hurdle of GLA referral, we look forward to Regal being able to deliver the sheltered accommodation on behalf of landowner Central & Cecil Housing Trust and complete the remaining homes for private sale.
BAILEY ON HOUSING
This morning, LCA attended an event hosted by centre-right think tank Onward, where Conservative Mayoral candidate Shaun Bailey launched his plan for a 'Big Bang' to resolve London’s housing crisis. His peculiarly – for a Conservative – state-driven headline proposal is for the Mayor to 'become the builder' by establishing ‘Housing for London’ - which he described as a new 'taxpayer-owned house builder' with an 'obsessive focus' on delivering hundreds of thousands of new homes across the capital. However, Bailey also said he would reduce the GLA’s headline affordable housing target from 50% to 35% and eliminate 'arbitrary housing targets.' In a subsequent interview with the Evening Standard, Bailey also stated he would establish a minimum of 20 new Mayoral Development Corporations, similar to the existing LLDC and OPDC. Bailey declared that the Mayor needs to own the entire pipeline of housing, challenge the practice of land banking and not be held ransom by developers. But he also suggested that joint ventures and the private sector would be important factors in delivering his plans.
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