The Greater London Authority’s move to its new home in The Crystal, Newham have been delayed. Issues with renovation and security have meant that the building will not be available until next year. Conservatives have slammed the holdup as a sign that the move from City Hall is poorly thought out. However, Labour officials have insisted it is necessary as a way of saving over £60m. But is the move solely about cutting costs or are there political interests at stake?
The move takes London’s regional government into the East End, and deep into London Labour heartlands. Newham’s political history is dyed firmly red; it has been controlled by Labour since its creation in 1964 and the Party has won every available seat at the last three local elections. This streak is unlikely to be broken next year.
For Sadiq Khan, the attraction of moving to the area is clear, he wants to further entrench an association between London politics and Labour. The symbolism is powerful and could impact on future electoral prospects. This is why Conservatives who might traditionally advocate for fiscal belt-tightening, are instead in favour of higher rents at City Hall.
The London Assembly’s move will add greater momentum to the wider revitalisation of the Royal Docks. Directly elected Mayor of Newham, Rokhsana Fiaz, has called it “the most ambitious growth area in the Capital”. It is currently London’s only Enterprise Zone, a designated area that provides tax breaks to encourage international investment. In 2018, when the zone was launched, it was estimated it would generate 60,000 new jobs and 25,000 new homes over the next twenty years.
Regeneration has also taken place in other areas of Newham over the past decade, most famously in Stratford with the hosting of the Olympic Games. This process is in no way finished however, and development continues at a rapid pace. The East Bank, a cultural district designed to rival those further west is already under construction. When complete it will host organisations such as the BBC, V&A, and UCL, bringing with it a wealth of new opportunities for growth.
Between the two major growth areas mentioned, a further £3.7 billion project is underway in Canning Town. Old housing estates are being replaced with 10,000 new homes, as well as a new town centre containing leisure, health, and community facilities. The Council has committed to a review of its Local Plan in 2022, and developers should keep an eye on this process as it may lead to changes in planning policy or additional sites becoming available.
Newham Council is also at the forefront of innovation in community engagement. In July it launched the country’s first permanent Citizen’s Assembly, with the aim of improving local participation. Currently the Assembly only focuses on select local issues, but as it evolves it may begin to take a role in the planning process. Developers should view this as an exciting opportunity to achieve early engagement with a well-informed group of residents, as this could help to reduce opposition further down the line.
Newham is an area where change is taking place at breakneck speed, and developers will need help to keep up. Snapdragon at PLMR has a good understanding of the borough and its local politics, and the expertise to undertake challenging community engagement work. Sadiq Khan may have to wait to move into his new home, but for developers there is no time to lose. Political attention is on Newham, and it will be at the centre of further eastward growth in London.