An extension to the current 31 October Brexit date is looking increasingly likely, as is a snap General Election, after the Commons frustrated the Government’s plans to fast-track a revised Withdrawal Agreement Bill.
With Westminster and Whitehall developments coming in thick and fast, today’s LDN will hopefully offer some respite from the continuing Brexit chaos. We do however cover General Election related developments from a local angle – focusing on the party’s candidate selections in London constituencies – alongside an array of stories on planning and development, building safety, protests and strike action, as well as a host of people moves.
We also look back on a bumper crop of planning consents achieved by LCA clients over the past two months.
Read on for more on the above, including the lowdown on the London Plan Examination in Public, the latest public hearing at City Hall, South Kilburn’s estate regeneration ballot and the enduring legacy of the Grenfell fire.
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CONSENTS HERE, THERE AND EVERYWHERE
Whilst we don’t generally lead with LCA stories, we think that this week it’s warranted by the sheer number of planning consents we have recently helped our clients secure. Over the past six weeks alone, nine projects we have advised on were approved by planning committees across eight Boroughs – Barnet, Brent, Camden, Ealing, Hammersmith & Fulham, Lambeth, Newham, and Southwark. It’s hard to put a precise value on this for London, but we would estimate it at around £5bn. There’s around 6,000 homes, as well as thousands of square feet of new offices, light industrial, retail and F&B, as well as hotels, a film studio, a care home and a leisure centre. The projects range widely in scale and type, reflecting the breadth of LCA’s work: from British Land’s 53 acre Masterplan at Canada Water to a 42-storey tower by Frogmore as part of its Stratford Centre plans to Thackeray Estate’s new care home in Hammersmith & Fulham (also housed in a refurbished Grade II-listed building). We are delighted to have been part of these projects, which will create new and better places for Londoners to live, work and play.
LONDON PLAN TURNS A PAGE
Deputy Mayor for Planning Regeneration & Skills Jules Pipe revealed that The Panel of Inspectors tasked with running the Examination in Public of the new draft London Plan have issued their final report and recommendations. Pipe, the Mayor himself and a Guardian article highlight ‘tensions’ between the draft Plan and Government policy on fracking, airport expansion and Green Belt/Metropolitan Open Land specifically, where Sadiq’s more restrictive approach is being challenged as incompatible with national policies. However, the Inspectors also recommended a host of other changes, indicatively including a significant reduction of London Boroughs’ ten-year housing targets. They more specifically recommend that the total London-wide target for 2019/20 - 2028/29 be reduced to 522,850, from 649,350 and that every single local authority’s target be reduced (with the exception of Islington, the City and the OPDC). City Hall is evidently squaring up for a fight, but while the Mayor may presently ignore the Inspector’s non-binding recommendations, the GLA Act 1999 does not afford him quite as much power vis-a-vis the Communities Secretary, who should receive the ‘Intend to Publish version’ of the Plan within the next six weeks.
MAYORAL POLLING (NOT)
Readers may have noticed reports in the Evening Standard and City AM about Sadiq’s satisfaction ratings receiving a bit of a boost. The ‘as-yet unpublished’ poll commissioned by the Greater London Authority itself was reportedly conducted last month and gave Sadiq a +4 point rating, up from -1 back in May. We look forward to seeing the detailed polling report as and when it emerges, but are even more eager to see the results of the next poll by YouGov on behalf of Queen Mary University of London’s Mile End Institute. The Institute’s Polling London series is currently the only publicly-available regular polling on Londoners’ voting intentions, offering us valuable insight on voters' preferences in the lead-up to the 2020 Mayoral elections (i.e. on whether any of Sadiq’s opponents really stand a chance). According to the Standard, the results are due sometime next month. It will be the first in this series of polls to also include Rory Stewart, who threw his hat in the ring three weeks ago.
MARK LEAVES THE FIELD
Conservative MP for Cities of London and Westminster Mark Field has announced that he will not stand at the next General Election. In his statement, Field said that the period since June 2016 has been ‘fractious, febrile and deeply divisive’ and that he maintains that the UK would be ‘better served’ by remaining in the European Union. Field, who has held the seat since 2001, came under investigation and was suspended from his Ministerial post in June after footage emerged in which he appeared to manhandle a Greenpeace activist who gate-crashed a Mansion House dinner. Field’s announcement will serve as a boost to former Labour-turned-Independent-turned-Lib Dem MP Chuka Umunna, who revealed in September that he is seeking re-election not in his current constituency of Streatham, but in Field’s seat. As it stands, Umunna is the sole contender for the seat from the three biggest parties, as no replacement for Field has yet been announced, and there is currently no Labour candidate, following last month’s suspension of Steven Saxby who had originally been selected as the party’s PPC in February.
STITCHES IN ILFORD SOUTH
Publications from The Sunday Times to The Guardian have reported on allegations from within Labour that the party leadership is ‘stitching up’ candidate selections to favour its preferred candidates. In London, accusations of this sort were first made in relation to the Ilford South selection process when Redbridge Council Leader Jas Athwal was suspended. Athwal's supporters have asserted this was politically motivated and aimed at ensuring Corbyn supporter Sam Tarry secured the candidacy – which he now has done. It is indicative of the level of acrimony within the party that Southwark Council Leader Peter John has stated that the result has ‘the terrible appearance of a fix’. Athwal is meanwhile reportedly considering taking legal action against the party.
...AND BRUISES IN NORTH EALING
Concerns elsewhere stem from the new selection process, introduced by the party's national executive committee (NEC), to speed up selections in the case of a snap election. The change means that the NEC rather than the local party now decides the longlists of potential candidates. In Ealing North, for example, local party members are reported to have written to the party’s general secretary to complain that the longlist for their constituency was too short and omitted several local residents and councillors. According to party-affiliated blog Labourlist, the final three candidates for the seat are Deputy Mayors James Murray and Rajesh Agrawal, as well as local councillor Aysha Raza, leaving out aspiring candidates such as Council Leader Julian Bell and even local councillor Bassam Mahfouz, who had been endorsed by current MP Steve Pound. Meanwhile short-lists for other London constituencies move forward in Enfield North, Erith & Thamesmead, Poplar & Limehouse and Vauxhall.
The 18 October public hearing for a 168-home development in Wandsworth, 9, 11 and 19 Osiers Road, saw Sadiq grant permission for the scheme, four months after calling it in. The original proposals, by developer Hollybrook, had been refused planning permission by Wandsworth Council in May over concerns regarding the height and size of the planned development, which councillors argued would not be in-keeping with the surrounding area. After the application was called in, the total number of homes has remained the same, but the developer increased the affordable component from 39% (33 ‘affordable intermediate units’), to 100% (split 93 shared ownership homes and 75 homes for social rent). It is unclear from the available documentation whether the buildings’ height or massing have being increased to enable this uplift – but mentions of GLA grant funding do provide at least one clue as to how it has been achieved. The scheme will also deliver 4,000 square metres of commercial space, a children’s play area and almost 400 cycle parking spaces. Reacting to the news of the approval, Chair of Wandsworth’s Planning Applications Committee councillor Guy Humphries said that in granting permission for the development, the Mayor had ‘comprehensively ignored’ the views of local people, 350 of whom objected to the scheme.
SOUTH KILBURN BALLOT
Residents of 17 social housing blocks on Brent’s South Kilburn estate have approved regeneration plans led by the Council through a direct ballot. The vote took place over a three-week period, between 20 September and 14 October, with 84% of those who voted approving the plans on a turnout of 72%. This is Brent’s first estate regeneration ballot, but the seventh successful one to take place in London under rules implemented under Sadiq Khan. It is also the largest to date, with more than 1,000 people eligible to take part. Brent’s Landlord Offer to residents pledged to re-provide the 1,400 existing homes on the estate occupied by council tenants, and households living in temporary accommodation – alongside 1,000 additional homes at various other tenures. These plans form part of the much wider 15-year South Kilburn Masterplan, which is almost halfway completed.
ON THE STREETS
London has a rich history of street protests and industrial action – a legacy the city has certainly been living up to over the past week:
- Extinction Rebellion’s ‘Autumn Uprising’ came to a head at the end of last week as activists from the movement sought to disrupt Tube services during rush hour. This method of action is reported to have divided the group, many of whose members were concerned that the disruption of environmentally friendly public transport, which thousands of Londoners rely on, would be a step too far. Their fears came true, as footage emerged of commuters brusquely dragging protestors down from the top of a Tube train in Canning Town. The group is now reported to be planning further, so far unspecified, action in the run up to Christmas.
- Parliament’s ‘Super Saturday’, which turned out to be not so super after all, saw thousands marching from Hyde Park to Parliament Square in favour of a People’s Vote, or second referendum. Sadiq, of course, was in attendance, as were several London Labour MPs and Lib Dem Mayoral candidate Siobhan Benita.
- Transport Salaried Staffs’ Association (TSSA) members who work on the Transport for London (TfL) network may go on strike over pay after a ‘breakdown’ in talks between the two bodies.
- Parliamentary Health Service Ombudsman (PHSO) staff, members of the Public and Commercial Services Union (PCS), have voted in favour of strike action in an ongoing dispute over pay.
Appearing before the London Assembly Fire, Resilience and Emergency Planning Committee on 16 October, London Fire Brigade (LFB) Commissioner Dany Cotton admitted that the ‘stay put’ advice given to Grenfell Tower residents ‘is no longer viable’. Cotton explained that the advice is used in situations where fire has been contained and will not spread further due to the design and construction of the building. The Commissioner also that there tends not to be a ‘plan B’ for buildings like Grenfell where a ‘mass evacuation’ must take place. The ‘stay put’ advice has reportedly already been withdrawn for 200 buildings in London and Cotton is calling on the Government to not only review the advice, but also speed up the removal of dangerous cladding on buildings: according to the Government’s latest figures, ACM cladding has not yet been removed from 321 publicly owned residential buildings in England. The response of the LFB on the night of the Grenfell Tower fire is expected to come under scrutiny in the Phase 1 report of the Grenfell Tower Inquiry, which will ‘establish what happened on the night’ of the fire and is set to be published on 30 October. The second phase of the Inquiry, which will examine ‘the circumstances and causes of the disaster’ will start in January 2020.
ULEZ, SIX MONTHS IN
The GLA has published its Ultra Low Emission Zone (ULEZ) six month report, evaluating its impact since its introduction in April of this year. The figures indicate that not only has the number of cars in central London fallen since the introduction of the ULEZ, but so have the levels of air pollution within the zone. More specifically, the research shows that between March and September 2019, there were 13,500 fewer vehicles per day entering the zone and between July and September 2019, there was a 29% reduction in nitrogen dioxide levels in the central zone. Despite this good news, nitrogen dioxide levels in central London remain above the legal limit. And while not the only contributor, it must be noted that black cabs remain exempt from having to pay the charge. Commenting on the matter, Lib Dem candidate for Mayor Siobhan Benita has called for a ‘rethink’ of the exemption.
- It has been announced that TfL Commissioner Mike Brown MVO will be leaving the transport authority next May to become the Chair of the Delivery Authority for the Restoration & Renewal of the Houses of Parliament.
- Also joining the R&R Delivery Authority as its new Chief Executive, starting this month, is former HS2 Corporate Sponsorship Director Sarah Johnson.
- Simon Hayes has been appointed as the new Chief Executive of HM Land Registry, formally beginning next month.
- Newcastle City Council Chief Executive, Pat Ritchie, has been appointed as Chair of the Government Property Agency.
- James Saunders has been appointed as CEO of Quintain, taking over from Angus Dodd, who is stepping down from the company.
- Matt Bell will be Grosvenor’s new Director of Corporate Affairs, taking up his new post this week. He will be leading their Trust campaign and building a public platform to communicate their commercial and social purpose.
- London & Partners Board Director Sandie Dawe has been appointed as a Commissioner of Historic England for four years, from 1 January 2020 to 31 December 2023.
SHARING IS CARING
The Ministry for Housing Communities and Local Government has made several notable announcements over the past week, beginning with confirmation of a ‘package of measures to help people on lower incomes get onto the housing ladder’ initially announced back in August. The plans are centred on a ‘new national model for shared ownership’, which will allow social housing tenants moving into new homes to buy a 10% minimum initial stake (cut from 25%) and enable them to buy the rest in 1% instalments (down from 10% at a time). Tenants in new-build housing association homes specifically will enjoy an ‘automatic right to buy a share of their home’ starting with as little as 10% and up to full ownership. Also linked to the MHCLG’s efforts to boost homeownership is the Ministry of Defence’s recent decision to extend the Forces Help to Buy scheme, which is aimed at military personnel, for a further three years (until 2022). Separately, the Communities Secretary has teamed up with the Culture Secretary and Historic England to announce a new heritage protection campaign to ‘challenge every single local authority across England to draw up lists of buildings of significant historical and cultural value’ and empower local communities to nominate heritage assets (see also the relevant Written Ministerial Statement).
HEATHROW BACK IN COURT
Campaigners have been in the Court of Appeal since 17 October, appealing against the High Court’s May ruling that the expansion of Heathrow Airport is lawful. The legal action is being led by Friends of the Earth and supported by four London boroughs, the Mayor and Greenpeace. They argue against the expansion of the airport on environmental grounds, arguing that the addition of a third runway, which will allow for an additional 700 flights per day, is out of step with the Government’s environmental targets. The hearing is expected to last six days.
SHOPPING SOUTH OF THE RIVER
There’s mixed news for retail in southern parts. In Southwark, local campaign Up the Elephant is applying for a judicial review of Delancey’s regeneration plans for Elephant & Castle shopping centre and the surrounding area – which were approved by the council’s planning committee back in July after a long, tortuous process and several amendments to the plans. Relevant hearings began yesterday and are expected to last for two days in total, after which judges will decide whether the judicial review can proceed in earners. The SE1 Community Twitter page is live-tweeting the proceedings. Meanwhile, it has been confirmed that the Croydon Boxpark will remain in its current location next to East Croydon station for at least another five years. Croydon was the second of Boxpark’s four London locations, opening in 2016. While intended as a meanwhile use for the site, pending the progress of plans for the redevelopment of the site to accommodate the Ruskin Square mixed-use development, Boxpark Croydon is now looking rather like a permanent fixture.
MADE IN DAGENHAM (BY DAGENHAM)
Ambitious plans for a new film studio complex in Barking and Dagenham hit a road bump last Wednesday, when US-based investor Pacifica Ventures said they were ‘forced to put the project on hold until the Brexit uncertainty has been resolved’. Pacifica Ventures had won a competitive bidding process back in March 2018, to partner with Media Content Capital and the council’s wholly-owned regeneration company Be First. The partnership planned to redevelop a site vacated by Sanofi Pharmaceuticals, to deliver 12 soundstages spanning 264,000 square feet, as part of a wider 17-acre science and business park. But it’s far from the end of the road for the project: Be First has announced new plans, approved by the council, to push forward with design work and securing planning permission, as well as ‘continue discussions with potential operators, investors and joint ventures’. While Pacifica Ventures has been cited as stating that it ‘remains very much committed to the Dagenham Studios project’ and offering assurances that it has ‘definitely not dropped out’, Be First Managing Director Pat Hayes has explained that the new plans will no longer include Pacifica Ventures, as its ‘exclusivity period as a preferred bidder has elapsed.’ Meanwhile the shortage of studio space in the capital continues, with demand high.
CfL ON THE HEALTH OF LONDONERS
Earlier this month, LCA was pleased to host Centre for London’s roundtable on health and wellbeing at our offices. The event centred on the findings of the autumn edition of The London Intelligence, which has now been published in full and covers a range of different health indicators, including obesity, exercise and mental health. The report, sponsored by Therme Group, found that citizens’ health varies widely from place to place and that, on some measures, East London - home of the 2012 Games - has fared worse
GIVING BACK WITH GROSVENOR
Last week we were delighted to roll up our sleeves and spend a day volunteering with the Octavia Foundation in Victoria, alongside colleagues at LCA client Grosvenor. As well as deploying our not-inconsiderable PR skills on the shop floor and handing out flyers, we also got busy steaming donated clothes and even became real-life mannequins for the day. The Foundation does sterling work supporting people affected by unemployment, ill health, social isolation or low incomes in central and west London. To find out more about how you can help also, visit their website or one of their 17 shops around London.
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 firstname.lastname@example.org.
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