BRICKS AND BREXIT
This week's edition of LDN drives home the point that any election in the next year, general or otherwise, is going to be about housing and Brexit and even when it’s about the NHS, it’s really about Brexit – see below for the story about the allocation of money for hospitals.
We’ve also got some summer people moves, the new Communities Secretary’s first week of activity and a rather juicy legal review underway in the Home Counties.
We hope that you have had or are about to enjoy a summer holiday. We are planning our own, so there will be no LDN next week but we will catch up with a bumper edition on 21 August!
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Sadiq has called in yet another major housing scheme, the 15th since he took office but the first in Richmond-upon-Thames. The scheme involves the demolition of a Homebase store on Manor Road to accommodate 385 homes (35% affordable), as well as new retail, office and community space, across four buildings of between four and nine storeys. The application from Avanton, a developer chaired by former Minister Michael Fallon (who is still a Conservative MP), was rejected by Richmond’s Planning Committee on 3 July, in accordance with the officers’ recommendation. Councillors and officers alike gave a number of reasons for refusal, including affordable housing and viability issues, height, design, massing and the ‘harmful visual impact on nearby heritage assets,’ as well as energy and emissions efficiency. The Financial Times has branded Richmond as ‘perhaps, the Nimbyest place in the capital’ and the newspaper estimated that between January 2015 and September 2018, Richmond approved just 31% of the applications it received, compared to an average of 86% across London (and the lowest proportion of any London borough).
MAYORAL HOUSING FAIL?
According to research commissioned by Conservative Mayoral Candidate Shaun Bailey, less than one-quarter of new residential developments approved in the capital during Sadiq Khan’s term have met his 35% affordable housing threshold. The headline findings of this research were publicised by an Evening Standard article, which reported that of the 1,540 developments subject to the policy and approved in that time, only 376 (or 24%) met the 35% target. This translates into 48,000 affordable units being approved, ‘20,000 short of what should have been provided under the policy.’ Statistics generated by a political opponent should clearly be accompanied by a pinch of salt, and it should be underlined that these figures include schemes determined by the Mayor, as well as schemes that were not directly subject to his decision-making powers. However, City Hall does not appear to have contested these figures' accuracy and its response, as quoted by the Standard, was that ‘loopholes’ in national legislation are responsible for developers avoiding affordable housing obligations and that permissions granted personally by Sadiq last year included 34% affordable housing. City Hall was also keen to underline that ‘at the end of the previous mayor’s term, affordable housing fell to just 13% of all the homes given permission in London.’ In summary, while Khan may not quite be meeting his own target, he does seem to be doing markedly better than his predecessor.
GUILDFORD LOCAL PLAN
LDN has previously reported on the drama surrounding Guildford’s Local Plan, which is facing no less than three Judicial Review challenges from two parish councils and a local resident, all of whom are opposed to the earmarking of Green Belt sites for residential development. The council’s ruling coalition is led by the Liberal Democrats and supported by a constellation of local groups, who hold a variety of opinions on the draft Plan. This was in turn drawn up and adopted under the previous Conservative administration, just before they were ousted at the local elections in May. Since our last report, a High Court judge has ruled that a Judicial Review hearing will be held. Furthermore, the Council itself has decided to hire a QC to do its own due diligence, while it re-examines whether any of the Plan’s allocation of housing on the Green Belt can be shifted onto brownfield sites. A relevant motion backed by the Liberal Democrats, as well as the Guildford Greenbelt Group and R4GV, suggests that the borough is actively looking to use the legal challenge as an opportunity to significantly amend the plan.
The Prime Minister this week announced a one-off sum of £1.8bn to support the NHS nationally, of which £1bn will be allocated to capital spending, with the remaining £850m to be shared between 20 hospitals on revenue spending, to update their facilities and equipment. In London, the Barking, Havering and Redbridge Clinical Commissioning Groups (CCGs) and North East London NHS Foundation Trust will receive £17m to develop a new ‘health and wellbeing hub’ in North East London, and Croydon Health Services NHS Trust has been granted £12.7m to refurbish critical care units at Croydon University Hospital. However, the Nuffield Trust has suggested that £1bn of the funds promised are in fact already held by health trusts, which have been restricted from spending it by the Treasury. Additionally, the news has only added to speculation that a General Election is imminent, particularly as the hospitals set to receive a portion of the funding are predominantly located in areas which voted to leave the EU in the 2016 referendum, including (in London) Havering and Barking & Dagenham, two of only five London boroughs which voted in favour of Brexit in 2016.
- Jonathon Bond has been appointed Non-Executive Chairman of the Grosvenor Britain & Ireland (GBI) board. He joins from Skagen Group, where he spent six years as Executive Chairman.
- The London Legacy Development Corporation (LLDC) has appointed Joanna Adams as its first Chief Commercial Officer. Adams was previously Chief Executive of England Netball.
- Evening Standard Political Reporter Kate Proctor is set to join The Guardian as its new Political Correspondent at the end of August.
MHCLG UNDER NEW MANAGEMENT
The new Communities Secretary has been out and about getting to grips with his brief during his first week at the Ministry for Housing, Communities and Local Government (MHCLG). Robert Jenrick has been on a series of site visits in London and further afield, including Berkeley’s Kidbrooke Village project in Greenwich and Acton Gardens in Ealing, which is being developed by Countryside, L&Q and the Council. He has also visited local community organisations in North Kensington, Acton, Golders’ Green, and Vauxhall. On policy, he has talked up Help to Buy, expressed reluctance about building on the Green Belt, and suggested he wants to see the planning system ‘further liberalise[d] and improve[d]’, while keeping his cards close to his chest as to what he actually intends to do on these fronts. Jenrick has also been appointed Ministerial Champion for the Midlands Engine and, following a meeting with the leadership of the Local Government Association, announced a rather paltry £20m fund to support local authorities’ no-deal Brexit preparations.
CIL FOR THE PEOPLE?
Lewisham Council has approved a new scheme for the allocation of Community Infrastructure Levy (CIL) receipts. Lewisham’s directly elected Mayor Damien Egan (Lab) has promoted the plan as putting the community ‘at the forefront of decision making’ and stated that ‘Lewisham is the first local authority in the country to be devolving a CIL to local communities in this way’, as well as taking into account ‘level[s] of deprivation in distributing the funding’. A closer examination reveals a more complex picture. National regulations already require that councils allocate a minimum of 15% of CIL receipts to ‘priorities that should be agreed with the local community in areas where development is taking place.’ Also, as pointed out by local news website 853, at least one other council (Greenwich) has already experimented with similar methods for increasing public participation in CIL decisions. Furthermore, the relevant report approved by Lewisham’s full Council says that the council has opted to increase the proportion of ‘neighbourhood CIL’ (NCIL) to 25%, which is also allowed for by national legislation. However, the formula devised for its allocation, which earmarks funds based on how much was raised locally and levels of local deprivation, results in some wards receiving much less than others – while a quarter of the total NCIL will be funnelled into ‘a borough fund,’ whose resources will have to be applied for separately.
While a planned strike at Heathrow this week was narrowly avoided, security staff, firefighters and engineers may yet go on strike on 23 and 24 August. The members of the Unite trade union called off their 5 and 6 August strikes after the union and the airport came to a new pay settlement, on which members will now vote. Unite has said that the strikes later in the month remain ‘on the table until the result of the ballot is known’. Meanwhile, over at Gatwick, security staff are set to go on strike on 10 and 11 August, in a dispute over wages, said to come to less than £9 per hour.
GEORGE CLARKE ON SOCIAL HOUSING
A hundred years since the Addison Act, which gave local authorities the power to deliver housing, architect and television presenter George Clarke has launched a campaign calling on the government to increase the supply of council homes in the UK. ‘The Council House Scandal’ campaign and its accompanying documentary contend that the current provision of council housing is failing to meet demand, and highlight evidence that existing stock has been heavily reduced by the Right to Buy policy. Clarke, drawing upon his own experience of growing up in a council house, has launched a petition, signed by over 136,000 people as of writing, calling on the government to build 100,000 new council homes every year for the next 30 years. Clarke insists that the new homes should be well designed and genuinely affordable. The documentary can be watched on the Channel 4 website.
We continue to celebrate London Communication Agency’s 20th anniversary by looking back at key moments in our history. In the latest addition to our timeline, updated today, we reflect on 2002-2003 and the events of that year, including the introduction of the congestion charge. Visit our website to read our latest blast from the past – and see a picture of our youthful management team back in the early 00’s.
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