BORIS IT IS (OK you didn’t hear this first from us but…)
All eyes are turned to No 10 as Theresa May bows out (along with the Chancellor and a raft of other frontbenchers) and former London Mayor Boris Johnson steps up as Britain’s new Prime Minister. But Boris is just the ruffled blond tip of the iceberg in the news this week.
As of LDN’s writing, speculation is still rife – but hard facts elusive – about most of Boris’ top team. We know he has appointed Vote Leave mastermind Dominic Cummings, various other pro-Brexit campaigners and several members of his old City Hall gang as senior advisors. We will be covering appointments to Cabinet and No 10 in next week’s edition, with a focus on key figures for London and the development sector.
This edition covers a variety of other news you might have missed amidst the soaring temperatures (both literal and figurative) including Sadiq’s rent control blueprint, a raft of announcements from MHCLG and, in the same week as Jo Swinson is named as the Leader of the Liberal Democrats, a by-election victory for her party.
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LONDON HOUSE PRICES
‘London house prices fall at fastest rate in 10 years’ screamed the Guardian, while ‘London house prices fall as rest of the country takes off’ was The Times’ downbeat verdict. It is indeed true that, according to the latest Office for National Statistics (ONS) figures, London house prices fell by 4.4% between May 2018 and May 2019. By comparison, the average house price across the UK increased by 1.2%, with prices in the North West of England increasing 3.4% and the West Midlands by 2.7%. Nevertheless, any fears stemming from the above should be tempered by an awareness of the wider context. The capital’s average house price as of May 2019 still towers above the national average for England (at £457,471 to £245,817). While headlines fretted about prices in London falling ‘at their fastest rate since the financial crisis’, that does not mean they are falling at the same annual rate, which hit a low of 7% in August 2009. As Boris takes the helm and heads into the stormy Brexit seas, further market turbulence – up, down and all around – is to be expected.
RENT CONTROLS, MAYBE
Sadiq has finally launched his rent control proposals, drawn up by Deputy Mayor for Housing James Murray and Labour MP for Kensington Karen Buck. City Hall’s announcement has triggered reactions ranging from tenants’ elation, to small landlords’ alarm, and most everyone else’s mild confusion. The reality is that rent controls in London are not imminent as Sadiq himself admits, because he has ‘no statutory powers over the private rented sector.’ For its part, the Government has rejected rent controls on the grounds that they are likely to drive landlords from the market, reduce investment in new housing and even potentially push rents up. Nevertheless, landlords, developers and investors should take heed, as Khan’s proposals mirror the national Labour Party’s position – and the fluid national political environment could yet see a Labour Prime Minister committed to rent controls in No 10 within the foreseeable future. The Mayor’s ‘blueprint’ and ‘technical paper’ have been unpicked by numerous experts since last Friday and while they underline Sadiq’s support for the sector in principle, they also gloss over industry concerns. The proposals only vaguely suggest that ‘properly communicating the terms of the Model’ will be sufficient to reassure landlords and Build to Rent investors, in combination with hazily-outlined partial exemptions from controls for new builds and tax incentives.
CHISWICK CURVE CRASH
Communities Secretary James Brokenshire (now former Secretary) has, for the third time in less than a year, refused a planning application in London primarily on grounds of design. Last December, he turned down plans by Thornsett Group in Croydon and this June he rejected proposals by Sainsbury’s in Tower Hamlets. He has now turned up his nose at a mixed-use scheme of more than 320 flat alongside office, retail and restaurant space in two new towers (of 32 and 25 storeys) at Chiswick Roundabout, Hounslow, which was proposed by a joint venture between Galliard Homes and Kim Gottlieb. The plans were previously refused by the local Council in February 2017, with the tacit approval of City Hall. Following a public inquiry, the Inspector had suggested the scheme was well-designed, adding that it would ‘mark the country’s commitment to quality and sensitivity which will act as a badge to our commitment to the best of the new.’ It seems Brokenshire was less impressed, with his final decision stating that ‘he does not find the proposal to be of such high quality as to be a brilliant response to its immediate context.’ The Secretary also took issue with the scheme’s impact on nearby heritage assets (specifically the Kew Green and Gunnersbury Park Conservation area, as well as Kew Gardens).
The Ministry of Housing, Communities and Local Government has decided to transfer ownership of the Grenfell Tower site from the Royal Borough of Kensington & Chelsea to the Government. MHCLG has also reiterated a commitment to ‘transfer the land to the community if that is their wish,’ assuming ‘an appropriate body has been established and the site has been made ready for future use.’ The government has also pledged up to £32.3m to fund local education and training opportunities. These moves come as the relationship between the local authority and the community remains strained – and according to a report by the Independent Grenfell Recovery Taskforce, may even be deteriorating. Despite the government’s efforts to better handle the direct impact of the Grenfell fire, wider concerns surrounding fire safety regulations and their enforcement in residential buildings persist. Over the past week, the Commons Housing, Communities and Local Government Committee interrogated the Former Chair of the Independent Review of Building Regulations and Fire Safety Dame Judith Hackitt and Minister of State for Housing Kit Malthouse MP and has called on the government to speed up the pace of reform. The latest MHCLG figures show that 327 high-rise buildings in England have not yet completed works to remove dangerous cladding.
Only this morning, the TfL Board convened for a marathon discussion, whose lengthy agenda included the transport authority’s Annual Report and Statement of Accounts for 2018/19. Encouragingly, TfL has met the vast majority of targets on its ‘scorecard,’ while its finances and operations appear relatively stable. However, TfL’s dependence on commercial revenue and borrowing exposes it to the vagaries of a highly uncertain economic environment. Just as importantly, the complete absence of clarity about central government support for new infrastructure projects such as Crossrail 2, the Bakerloo Extension and other Tube upgrades, mean that these remain little more than aspirations. All the above combined also undercut TfL’s ambition to deliver 10,000 homes (50% affordable) by 2021. The cancellation of plans for a bridge linking Rotherhithe to Canary Wharf due to escalating cost estimates, extensively scrutinised by the London Assembly over the past two weeks, is further proof that TfL is struggling to fund new infrastructure. On the plus side, it has been reported that Londoners will be able to access 4G WiFi on Jubilee Line platforms and tunnels between Westminster and Canning Town from March 2020.
Meanwhile, according to the Financial Times, the Chairman of HS2 Ltd has warned the Department for Transport that he may need an additional £30bn to carry his project across the line – bringing its total cost to between £70bn and £85bn. The extra costs are understood to reflect ‘poor ground conditions’ and the demands of a ‘high specification’ railway running ‘at even higher speeds than other comparable rail projects.’ The leak provides further ammunition to HS2’s critics, a group that appears to include our new Prime Minister as well as Conservative Mayoral candidate Shaun Bailey.
WHAT ABOUT CROSSRAIL?
The Commons Public Accounts Committee (PAC) last week published a report entitled ‘Completing Crossrail,’ which piles more criticism on the project’s management by Crossrail Ltd, the Department for Transport and TfL, as well as warns that ‘costs for the programme are likely to continue to climb.’ This report is the latest output of the PAC’s inquiry into Crossrail and follows a Progress Review report published in April. Further concerns about Crossrail’s costs were raised by a Written Ministerial Statement from the Transport Secretary Chris Grayling (published yesterday, before he resigned today), which stated that the cost of delivering the eastern and western sections of the route has now increased by an unspecified amount to £2.8bn, due to ‘some work taking longer than planned.’ The WMS does however offer assurances that these pertain specifically to works by Network Rail, which has taken on the additional costs ‘from within its own internal budgets.’ The Crossrail Update (Pages 71-80) discussed as part of TfL’s Board meeting earlier today outlines all sorts of progress across the project’s construction programme but provides no further clues as to its final cost (currently still estimated at around £17.6bn) or opening date (expected sometime between October 2020 and March 2021).
The by-election for a seat in Richmond’s East Sheen ward on 18 July was held by the Liberal Democrats. The seat was left vacant after Cllr Mona Adams passed away. Julia Cambridge won with 59% of the vote, a 13 point swing to the party according to Britain Elects. The Conservatives came second with 35.5% of the vote, and the Women’s Equality Party and Labour a distant third and fourth, with 2.9% and 2.7% respectively. The Greens did not contest the seat. The victory is one of several wins for the Lib Dems in London over the past few months, following their success in the Cannon Hill by-election in Merton in June, as well as their strong performance in May’s European Elections. Local media have speculated that this latest by-election raises the threat level to local MP and former Conservative Mayoral candidate Zac Goldsmith, who only won back his Richmond Park constituency from the Lib Dems’ Sarah Olney in 2017 with a wafer-thin majority of 45.
- Rickardo Hyatt has been promoted from his current position of GLA Assistant Director of Housing to Deputy Executive Director of Housing and Land. Hyatt will be taking on further responsibilities, as Executive Director David Lunts increases the number of days he allocates to his role as interim chief executive of the Old Oak and Park Royal Development Corporation (OPDC). Lunts nevertheless remains the GLA’s Executive Director of Housing and Land.
- Ade Adetosoye OBE has been confirmed as Bromley Council’s new full-time Chief Executive. Adetosoye served as Deputy Chief Executive of the Council from December 2016, before his appointment as Interim Chief Executive in December 2018.
- Kim Wright has been recommended for the role of Lewisham Council’s new chief executive. Her appointment is expected to be confirmed at this evening’s full Council.
- In Islington, Linzi Roberts-Egan is the Council’s preferred candidate for the role of Chief Executive following the retirement of Lesley Seary. Roberts-Egan is currently Deputy Chief Executive and Director of Families and Housing at Waltham Forest Council. A final decision is expected tomorrow.
- The London Chamber of Commerce and Industry (LCCI) has announced that its recently appointed CEO David Frost is leaving to take on a role with the new government. While details of his new position have not yet been disclosed, the LCCI has said that Frost ‘will be a key asset to the UK in the next stage of the Brexit negotiations’.
- Rob Noel, the outgoing chief executive of Landsec is to be appointed to the board of Taylor Wimpey as a non-executive director in October.
- Professor Roger Scruton has been re-appointed to the Building Better, Building Beautiful Commission. Scruton was sacked from the Commission in April, following the publication of what appeared to be controversial comments in an interview with the New Statesman in April. The magazine has since published an apology alongside a full transcript of the interview, admitting that his views ‘were not accurately represented.’ Scruton will join current Interim Chair Nicholas Boys Smith, as Co-Chair.
HUFFING AND PUFFING?
Sadiq met with Hammersmith & Fulham Council’s Leader Stephen Cowan (Lab) last Thursday, to discuss what can be done to kick-start the long-stalled regeneration of the Earl’s Court site. In a statement following the meeting, Sadiq reiterated that he has no confidence in the ability of developer Capco to deliver on its ambitious plans and that he would back the Council if it attempts a compulsory purchase order (CPO). While Sadiq stated that ‘all options for breaking the current impasse must be considered’ it is unclear what these other options might comprise. The completion of a CPO strategy for the Council by planners Avison Young, is expected to be submitted to H&F’s cabinet by the end of the year.
POOR DOORS NO MORE?
There has been a surprising flurry of activity from MHCLG in the run up to the expected shakeup of ministerial teams under Boris Johnson’s premiership. James Brokenshire has announced the planned implementation of measures which would put an end to so-called ‘poor doors’, following allegations earlier this year that housing developments continue to ‘segregate’ private owners and renters from affordable housing tenants, by restricting the access of the latter to amenities such as playgrounds and swimming pools. While understood to stop short of an outright ban on specific designs or tenancy terms, the proposed measures will see changes made to planning guidance to ‘promote best practice in inclusive design.’ Meanwhile, in London Sadiq has included an explicit ban on segregated play areas in the latest version of the draft new London Plan. Over the course of the past week, MHCLG has also released no less than 21 updated planning guidance documents, launched a consultation on reforming access to rogue landlord databases, as well as published a report which ‘articulates the department’s vision for stronger local communities.’
ACTION ON ROUGH SLEEPING
Regional and local authorities in London have this month stepped up efforts to help people sleeping on the streets. The Mayor has launched a new ‘Rapid Response Team’ of outreach workers, funded by City Hall, to help homeless people access accommodation when alerted by members of the public using the Streetlink app. While the exact size of the team has not been disclosed, it is intended to operate in 23 boroughs, with Sadiq supporting ‘local arrangements’ in the remaining 10. The Mayor’s Budget for 2019/20 sets aside £18m for tackling rough sleeping – up from £8.5m in the year he came to into office – and he has raised almost a quarter of a million through crowdfunding. Also last week, Westminster City Council launched an advertising campaign at several major bus and rail stations, encouraging visitors to give money to charities instead of directly to rough sleepers. The latest annual Combined Homelessness and Information Network (CHAIN) report found that a total of 8,855 people were seen sleeping on London’s streets between April 2018 and March 2019, 18% more than the year before. Westminster alone accounts for almost a third of the total. You can easily donate to charities helping the homeless, such Westminster’s The Hidden Network and the city-wide London Homeless Charities Group.
NATIONAL PARK CITIES
London has been awarded National Park City ‘status’ following Sadiq’s decision to sign up to the National Park City Foundation’s (NPCF), International Charter for National Park Cities. The non-binding charter represents a statement of intent to ‘make London a greener, healthier, wilder, fairer and more harmonious place to live.’ The charter does not appear to be linked to any specific actions, beyond the fun and games of this week’s London National Park City Festival and the policies the Mayor has already pledged as part of his 2016 Manifesto and London Environment Strategy. The capital is currently one of the greenest cities in Europe, with public green space covering almost 17% of the city, an estimated 8m trees and 15,000 species of wildlife.
It has been confirmed that the GLA has granted a further £10m in funding to the Old Oak Park Development Corporation (OPDC) in advance of the organisation being able to secure the £250m of Housing Infrastructure Fund (HIF) money it has been provisionally allocated from MHCLG. The ‘supplementary’ money comes on top of their existing budget and means the total GLA spending on the OPDC for 2019/20 will be up to £19.95m. The OPDC are locked in a battle with LCA client Car Giant and have confirmed that they are seeking to acquire up to 25% of Car Giant’s site for a first phase of development. Meanwhile the additional meeting held by the Inspector conducting the Examination in Public of the OPDC’s Draft Local Plan ended inconclusively, with the Inspector stating he was likely to still have further questions to ask before making his final recommendation.
2019 STIRLING PRIZE SHORTLIST
London Bridge Station is among the six buildings nominated for the 2019 Royal Institute of British Architects’ (RIBA) Stirling Prize for ‘British building of the year.’ The station reopened fully in 2018 following a five-year, £1bn redevelopment designed by Grimshaw Architects. It is the only London building to be nominated for the award this year, with the remaining five nominees a house made of cork in Berkshire, the Macallan Distillery in Moray, a Leicestershire opera house, energy-efficient council homes in Norwich and the Yorkshire Sculpture Park visitor centre. The winner of the prize will be announced in October.
PARKS STRIKE UPDATE
Royal Parks maintenance staff are to be balloted on potential strike action. Union United Voices of the World says that cleaners are being paid less than the London Living Wage.
We were pleased to see our client HKS feature in this week’s BBC Horizon documentary, ‘The 250 Million Pound Cancer Cure’. The documentary, filmed over a two-year period, focuses on the stories of all those involved in the design, construction, engineering and clinical implementation needed to bring high-energy proton beam therapy to the NHS. HKS were responsible for the design and interiors of the Proton Beam Therapy Centre at The Christie, Manchester – the first of the two centres – to be ready to treat young cancer patients like Mason, who features in the programme. The programme follows a fully-booked guided tour of the facilities held last month for clinicians and academics from across the globe, as part of the 58th Annual Conference of the Particle Therapy Co-Operative Group (PTCOG58), which was supported by HKS. You can watch the documentary – which we thoroughly recommend – by clicking through here.
JOSEPH & PARTNERS
LCA supported clients Joseph Partners and U+I as they announced their ground-breaking partnership with Barnet Council this week. The partners will explore the potential to renew North Finchley High Road and later this year will launch a major community engagement campaign to gather local views before drawing up proposals.
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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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