HERE WE GO AGAIN
It’s been a truly mad week in politics, with the Supreme Court striking down the prorogation of parliament as ‘null and void’, even as Conference season is still in full swing. Parliament is back in session as of today, with unpredictable consequences for the Government, the Brexit process and Tory party conference.
In today’s edition, we share some first impressions from Brighton, where the LCA team got a first-hand view of Labour’s annual gathering. Closer to home, we take a look at the latest manoeuvres of aspiring Prospective Parliamentary Candidates in London, as well as uncomfortable news for the OPDC, Crossrail and HS2.
Other key stories to look out for cover the latest London borough by-election results, planning and transport news from across the city, as well as a busy week for LCA – which included a sneak peek at ‘Mamma Mia! The Party’, London’s latest immersive entertainment experience.
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CORBYN GOES COASTAL
The stormy and unpredictable weather in Brighton very much reflected the mood at the Labour Party's annual Autumn Conference.
An abortive bid to eject Tom Watson MP and eyebrow-raising proceedings in the main chamber (with pledges to phase out private education and phase in a 32 hour working week, as well as retain an, ahem, nuanced position on Brexit), formed the backdrop to our forays into the conference Fringe. Were also there to see what London’s local and regional politicians had to say.
The Mayor of London spoke at several events, backing an out-and-out Remain position for Labour, seeking to mend the party’s relations with the Jewish community and of course defending his record in City Hall. Deputy Mayor James Murray and several of London’s local council leaders and Assembly Members were also on the fringe circuit. They featured in several events on housing, where it became clear that – regardless of who is in Government – they intend to deliver more council homes and extract more social contributions from private developers, using whatever means they have at their disposal.
LCA will also be at the Conservative Conference next week, which Party Chairman James Cleverly insists is still on. LDN readers (as well as our followers on Twitter) can expect further updates on the headline developments in Manchester.
While in Brighton, we made sure to snap up some of Sadiq’s all-new 2020 campaign merchandise; pictured, LCA Board Director Jane Groom with the Mayor.
MORE PPC NEWS
Last week we reported that Leader of Haringey Council, Joseph Ejiofor, may be considering a bid for the parliamentary constituency of Vauxhall and this week it has emerged that keen Remainer Lord Andrew Adonis also wants to throw his hat in the ring vacated by Brexiteer Kate Hoey. If selected, the former Labour Transport Secretary would be the first non-hereditary peer to give up his title and seat in the Lords to stand for election to the Commons. Meanwhile, Labour MP for Bethnal Green and Bow, Rushanara Ali, may face a trigger ballot if three of her local party branches vote in favour of the action. Local Momentum activists are seeking to replace her with a candidate who is more supportive of the party’s current leadership. Ali, a Remainer, had been one of 36 Labour MPs to nominate Jeremy Corbyn for leader in 2015, but in 2016 backed Owen Smith and even went as far as urging Corbyn to ‘do the decent thing’ and quit as leader. As for the Conservatives, Harrow East MP Bob Blackman has confirmed that he has been reselected to stand in the constituency. Rumours are rife about other incumbents stepping down or being challenged – watch this space for more.
BLOW FOR OPDC
The Planning Inspector reviewing the OPDC’s draft Local Plan has released his interim findings and has concluded that the site owned and occupied by LCA client Car Giant should be removed from the plan. The Inspector states that ‘its extinction simply does not make sense in planning terms, nor does its relocation at an expense which would preclude the likelihood of paying for any contribution to necessary infrastructure or affordable housing’ and concludes that the Car Giant site ‘is unviable and ought to be deleted from the Plan’ and that ‘because of its significance within the plan as a whole, its inclusion makes the plan itself unsound’. The OPDC’s response is that it ‘wasn’t entirely unexpected’ and that is was ‘encouraged’ by the Inspector’s comments in relation to the OPDC’s proposed first phase of development. Car Giant maintain that even this phase of development is reliant on a future CPO of its land, which is also unviable to deliver and would have a severe impact on its business operations. Car Giant called the report a ‘disaster’ for the OPDC and has asked for ‘a full independent review of the OPDC spending and strategy’. With most large sites unavailable for development for over a decade, until HS2 opens, the Inspector’s findings would appear to be a significant blow for the OPDC as the Car Giant land is by far the largest site within Old Oak North.
CROSSRAIL COST QUESTIONS
At the latest meeting of the Transport for London (TfL) Board, Crossrail Ltd Chairman Tony Meggs warned that the project may turn out to be even more expensive (and late) than previously thought. Last summer, Crossrail had announced that the initial opening date of December 2018 was impossible and put the estimated opening window back to sometime between October 2020 and March 2021. As LDN readers will know well, Crossrail has been forced to secure extra funding over the past year, increasing its budget from the £14.8bn envelope agreed in 2010, to £17.6bn over the course of 2018 and £17.8bn in July 2019. Last week, Meggs said that there is a ‘possibility’ of a further four to six month delay and revealed that Crossrail’s current cost projections suggest a most likely scenario of £42m over budget and a relatively improbable worst-case scenario of £400m over budget. Meggs mainly attributed these potential setbacks to the challenges of completing the project’s unique signalling system, as well as ongoing difficulties in delivering Bond Street station (which Crossrail Ltd had already warned would likely open long after the rest of the line is up and running). For now, these are simply possible ‘projected’ risks to delivery and Meggs offered the TfL Board assurances that that strenuous efforts are underway, to deliver on time and mitigate the need for any additional costs.
ET TU, HS2?
It looks increasingly like HS2 is in the same boat as Crossrail. New analysis, submitted to the inquiry commissioned by Government to review the project, estimates the new rail line may ultimately cost £106bn – double its original budget. It is understood that the inquiry’s final report will be drawn up next month. Meanwhile, its Chief Operating Officer, Richard Robinson, has resigned after a year to ‘take up a new senior role in the private sector.’ His role will reportedly be covered by existing staff in the short term, with succession plans as of yet unclear.
BUT £6M FOR YOU, CROSSRAIL 2
Things looks slightly more positive for Crossrail 2, as details of the Government’s 2020/21 Spending Round begin to emerge. The project’s Managing Director, Michelle Dix, has confirmed reports that the Department for Transport has committed £6m to support the further development of the new rail line. Crossrail 2 submitted a new [fifth] strategic outline business case to the Government during the summer and it is understood that the results of the Infrastructure and Project Authority’s Project Assessment Review will be ‘produced’ in early October (though it remains unclear whether they will be published in full). Not everyone was so lucky, as City AM has reported that a TfL request for money to carry out Piccadilly Line signalling upgrades was not successful. The upgrade is one of several major projects to be shelved in response to budgetary pressures and while TfL made the case that, given its linked to Heathrow the line is a ‘national asset’, the Government was evidently unconvinced.
H&F BY-ELECTION AND LIB DEM LATEST
Labour held on to the Fulham Broadway seat which was up for grabs in a by-election last week. Triggered by the resignation of Councillor Alan De’Ath, after he took on a politically restricted role, the seat was won by Labour’s Helen Rowbottom who secured 44% of the vote, albeit with a 12 point swing away from the party. The Lib Dems came second, with Jessie Venegas managing a significant 22-point swing in her favour. In Barnet, Garden Suburb ward Councillor Gabriel Rozenberg announced that he had left the Conservatives to join the Lib Dems, saying in an interview published by OnLondon that he feels that he is merely ‘the first domino on the Council’ to defect. He will be joined by Ben Seifert, who as reported in a previous edition of LDN, had been the Conservatives' London Assembly candidate for the North East superconstituency but resigned from the party over its positions on Brexit. Seifert has now confirmed that he too has joined the Lib Dems.
In sadder news, former Lib Dem Islington Council leader and Whittington Health Trust Chair Steve Hitchins has passed away.
HARINGEY PLANNING PERMISSION
A Government Planning Inspector has granted planning permission for a high street scheme in Wood Green, which had previously been rejected by Haringey Council. The plans, to redevelop a former Marks & Spencer site on the High Road, will deliver 121 homes as well as retail space. They were rejected by councillors, mainly on the grounds of insufficient affordable homes, even after the developer increased the scheme's offer from an initial 9% to 25%. The councillors had also expressed their concerns about the design of the scheme and fears that it was representative of overdevelopment in the area. The Inspector, however, quashed these concerns, agreeing with developer PPR Estates that the proportion of affordable homes was the maximum viable amount and that the design of the project was in keeping with the surrounding area.
TIMBER CLADDING WARNING
Following the third fire at a block of timber-clad flats in London in the last few months, this time in Clapton, Hackney, calls have been renewed for an urgent review of the Government’s ban on combustible cladding materials. An investigation by Inside Housing has found that there are currently almost 5,000 development projects using timber cladding (of which 859 are for social housing), at various stages in the planning and construction pipeline nationwide. As highlighted by, among others, Deputy Mayor for Housing James Murray, the ban only currently applies to buildings which are over 18 metres in height and the majority of timber-clad developments fall short of that. With ever more questions being raised about building regulations and standards for cladding, this clearly continues to be an area of pressing concern for the sector.
CAR FREE DAY
London took part in International Car Free Day on 22 September, which saw 27km of London’s roads closed to vehicles to help ‘reimagine’ the city as a car free zone, as well as encourage more people to walk and cycle. In the longer term, the initiative is aimed at helping realise the Mayor’s air pollution and ‘modal shift’ targets (City Hall aims to ensure that by 2041, 80% of journeys within London use sustainable modes of transport). 15 of London’s 32 boroughs took part, prompting the Mayor to criticise non-participating authorities as ‘anti-walking, anti-cycling’ and failing to take the issue of air pollution seriously. However, critics of Car Free Day, including Conservative London Assembly Member Susan Hall, have said that the day was merely a gimmick, arguing that the money spent on the initiative would have been better spent on eco-friendly buses or charging points for electric vehicles.
PEDAL TO THE METAL (OR NOT QUITE)
TfL has extended Uber’s operating licence by two months, meaning it will still have to reapply for a longer-term license this winter. Uber lost its licence in 2017 but was, following an appeal, granted a 15-month extension which would have expired today. For the past two years, Uber London Limited (ULL) has been working to improve its services and reputation in order to meet TfL’s requirements. TfL’s press release acknowledges these efforts but adds that it is ‘requesting additional material from ULL and [that] this additional information will help inform any future licensing decision’. The company featured prominently as the headline sponsor of this year’s London First Infrastructure Summit, where it was keen to show off its extensive efforts to support the electrification of its drivers’ vehicles, improve passenger safety features, as well as launch its new electric Jump bikes. Meanwhile, Serco, which runs TfL’s Santander Cycles service, took the opportunity of Car Free day to show off its own electric cycles (but has not yet revealed whether these will be rolled out more widely as part of the existing fleet).
LCA and friends of ours have been lucky enough to attend some of the previews for Mamma Mia! The Party, which has now opened at the O2 in Greenwich to fantastic reviews. Described by Matthew Parris in today’s Times as ‘a blessed escape from Brexit’ this is a fun, upbeat and immersive theatrical and dining experience serving up some timeless ABBA classics in a purpose-built Greek taverna. When all is said and done, we would wholeheartedly recommend that LDN readers take a chance and visit. Tickets are on sale now at https://www.mammamiatheparty.com/gb/en/
FUTURE OF EDUCATION – JOIN THE DEBATE
Our client HKS Architects is turning its attention to the future of education at the next in their series of debate-style events celebrating the practice’s 80th anniversary. A panel of experts will be tackling a range of fascinating topics, including the purpose of education for the YouTube generation, how we can design out obsolescence in school buildings and how we should be educating our children for jobs that do not yet exist. Chaired by broadcaster and journalist Ben Bland, the panel includes Sacha Corcoran, Principal of the Big Creative Academy; former New Schools Network chief Luke Tryl; Sarah Counter the CEO of Canary Wharf College Trust and Ty Goddard, CEO of the Education Foundation, alongside HKS’s Education Lead Rachel Moulton. We expect a lively debate. Places are limited, but if you would like to attend please email Sarah Rawlings at firstname.lastname@example.org
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.
If you would like to know more about anything covered in this or any other edition of LDN or if you would like to know more about LCA please contact Duncan Hepburn on 020 7612 8480 or email@example.com.
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