BAAA...CK TO BUSINESS
Pioneering sheep, hidden museums and old boats all feature in this week’s edition of LDN – London in short. Perhaps all of that will prove a welcome distraction from the political mire that this week has already wrought.
We also look at what today’s Spending Round means for the capital and how new CIL regulations hope to make deals between councils and developers a bit more transparent.
Until then, follow us on Twitter and Instagram and feel free to visit our website for more information on LCA’s team, services, and clients.
It’s only Wednesday but this week’s events in Parliament have already markedly altered London’s political landscape. First came the news that Conservative MP for Putney, Justine Greening, would not be seeking re-election at the next General Election, saying in her letter to the Prime Minister that she is ‘deeply concerned’ about the Government’s approach to Brexit. Greening was then one of the 21 Conservative MPs, including MP for Wimbledon Stephen Hammond, who voted against the Government to allow Parliament to take control of the Commons agenda, and who subsequently had the whip withdrawn. They will now sit as Independents, bringing the total number of Independent MPs in the Commons to 36. Greening’s resignation also means that there are now six London parliamentary constituencies which will definitely have new MPs at the next General Election (whenever it may take place), as former Lib Dem leader and MP for Twickenham Vince Cable will stand down, along with Labour MPs Kate Hoey (Vauxhall), Jim Fitzpatrick (Poplar & Limehouse), Stephen Pound (Ealing North) and Teresa Pearce (Erith and Thamesmead). Perhaps Greening and Hammond were encouraged by the Mayor, who said that he had written to all London MPs in an attempt to encourage them to ‘do everything possible to stop a catastrophic no-deal’, including lending their support to the Benn-Burt Bill (or the European Union (Withdrawal) (No. 6) Bill), which aims to avoid or delay a no-deal Brexit.
The Chancellor’s Spending Round didn’t have much explicitly in store for London, while the other devolved regions all received lump sums, and continued funding was promised for the Northern Powerhouse and Midlands Engine. All may not be lost however, as the Ministry of Housing, Communities and Local Government (MHCLG) was allocated £422m to tackle homelessness and £24m for the Building Safety Programme which was established in the wake of Grenfell. In terms of transport, the Chancellor spoke of an ‘infrastructure revolution’, mentioning the recently launched review of HS2, but also committing £275m to rail improvements and £200m of increased funding for bus services. Vitally for London, to deliver on its commitment to recruit 20,000 new officers in England and Wales by 2023, the Government promised an additional £750m, with the Chancellor asserting that the Government wants to have 2,000 additional officers in place by the end of March 2020.
The Ministry of Housing, Communities and Local Government (MHCLG) has made a series of announcements over the past few weeks:
- From December 2020, councils will be required to publish an annual report on the all the Community Infrastructure Levy (CIL) agreements entered into with developers. The report will be available to the public in order to help them understand how contributions made by developers are being spent in their local area. Restrictions will also be eased to allow councils to fund single, larger infrastructure projects from the cash received from multiple developments, giving greater freedom to deliver complex projects at pace.
- In late August, the Government announced a set of measures designed to help those on lower incomes onto the housing ladder via shared ownership. The new rules will allow homeowners to buy their homes in 1% increments, rather than the current 10%.
- For those who opt to use Help to Buy, the Government has now introduced steps which make it easier to take out 35-year mortgages rather than the standard 25-year term.
END OF THE LINE FOR HS2?
The Government has launched an independent review into HS2. Led by former Chair of HS2 and Crossrail Douglas Oakervee, alongside Deputy Lord Berkeley, Labour peer and longstanding critic of the project, the exercise will aim to determine ‘whether and how HS2 should proceed’ by the end of the year. One of the key concerns is the increased cost. Amidst speculation that the £56bn budget agreed in 2015 could have doubled, Transport Secretary Grant Shapps confirmed in a written statement to MPs on 3 September that the estimated cost is now between £72bn and £78bn (in 2015 prices). Shapps also confirmed that Chair of HS2 Allan Cook believes the opening date for the first phase of the project, connecting London and Birmingham, could be pushed back from its original opening date of 2026 to between 2028 and 2031, with the following phases also significantly delayed. While there is a possibility that the project will be scrapped in its entirety, it seems more likely that alterations will be made, such as work starting in Birmingham rather than London, or the London terminus being changed from Euston to Old Oak Common.
WHEN IS A MUSEUM NOT A MUSEUM
The fate of a little-known museum in Camden is set to be decided by a Government planning inspector. Located in a terraced house in Primrose Hill, the museum is dedicated to Dr Bhimrao Ramji Ambedkar, India’s first law minister and widely celebrated civil rights activist. The museum was established after the house, where Ambedkar once lived, was bought by the Government of the Indian State of Maharashtra in 2015. However, it has never officially been registered as a museum, and its status was brought to the attention of Camden Council following complaints from two neighbours (though other local residents claim that they did not even know the museum existed). Camden refused a ‘change of use’ application for the house last October, but the State of Maharashtra has appealed the decision and a public hearing will now take place on 24 September to determine the future of the museum, which attracts approximately 50 visitors each week.
BUSES (STILL) AT VICTORIA
Transport for London (TfL) has confirmed that it has scrapped plans to move Victoria Bus Station. TfL had planned to move the coach station to a site at Royal Oark near Paddington, but this was met with opposition from local residents and politicians alike. The alternative proposals now include changes to the existing facility and TfL is also in the process of identifying potential sites for ‘satellite’ bus stations elsewhere in London which would ‘complement’ Victoria. Coaches using the station will now also need to meet stricter emissions standards in line with the Low Emission Zone Standards.
BOATS ON THE THAMES
New health and safety standards for boats which operate on the Thames have become the subject of much controversy. The new rules, set out by the Maritime and Coastguard Agency (MCA), an arm of the Department for Transport (DfT), target older vessels and are supported by the Port of London Authority (PLA). The required changes, which address buoyancy and resilience, will be expensive, at up to £250,000 per boat and will affect heritage vessels such as those which were involved in the evacuation of Dunkirk in 1940. Concerns surrounding the new safety standards have previously been raised in the London Assembly by Conservative AM Tony Arbour, while the latest figure to speak out against them is Falklands veteran Admiral Lord West, who is leading the Save London’s Passenger Boats campaign and who has called the new standards ‘draconian’. Opponents argue that the cost of the changes is too high and that the requirements will alter the boats drastically. The second consultation on the review of standards for older passenger ships ended in July and it is expected that the Government will finalise the regulations before the end of the year with a view to implementing them over a two-year period.
LONDONERS, ON TRANSPORT
Both the London Assembly Transport Committee and the London Chamber of Commerce and Industry (LCCI) have recently commissioned surveys on the capital’s transport, the results of which London’s Mayoral candidates would be sensible to pay close attention to ahead of next May’s election. Carried out by YouGov, the Transport Committee’s survey found that the most disliked features of London’s public transport system are the overcrowding, heat and cost. Despite the Mayor’s partial fare freeze, 32% of non-regular public transport users (who use public transport once a month at most) say that they would use it more regularly if it were ‘more affordable’. The LCCI meanwhile focused its questions on the attitudes of the capital’s businesses to strikes on the Underground. Undertaken by ComRes, it found that 65% of businesses are in support of banning Tube strikes at peak times, 73% are in favour of unions guaranteeing minimum services during strikes and just over half (51%) are in favour of a blanket ban on all Underground strikes.
SHEEP ON THE HEATH?
A flock of five sheep could be found roaming a small part of Hampstead Heath last week as part of a trial to introduce them permanently for the first time since the 1950s. If the trial goes well, the sheep will be kept as an alternative to noisy and polluting machinery to keep vegetation at bay, which would in turn improve the area’s biodiversity. The idea has apparently been inspired by John Constable paintings which depict cattle grazing on the famous London parklands. The scheme is being run by the City of London Corporation, which manages the heath, alongside the Rare Breed Survival Trust, Heath Hands and the Heath and Hampstead Society, which described the programme as both ‘romantic and practical’.
LCA 20th ANNIVERSARY LATEST
With the beginning of September comes the end of our look-back at LCA’s last 20 years. However, as part of our 20th anniversary celebrations, this month also marks the start of our forward look at the year ahead. As LCA enters its third decade in business, Managing Director and co-founder Jonny Popper considers the company’s future and shares a few personal reflections. You can give Jonny’s blog a read here, and if you missed it, check out our 20th Anniversary Timeline, here.
TOTALLY THAMES 2019
Meanwhile, our Executive Chairman Robert Gordon Clark will be out and about in September in his role as Chair of the Mayor’s Thames Festival Trust, which has organised over 100 events to take place throughout the month under the Totally Thames banner. Highlights include the ‘Foraging on the Foreshore’ exhibition focusing on mudlarking, an exhibition on the ‘Barking Stink’, the mooring of The Ship of Tolerance in front of the Tate Modern, a young artist’s project called ‘My Story of Water’ and the return of regular favourites Kids Choir and the Bascule Chamber Concerts. For more information about the events (the majority of which are free to attend), visit the Totally Thames website.
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