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Mayor to abolish Housing Panel amid protests

London Housing Panel

On the day when we are all remembering the Grenfell disaster, we are shocked to hear that the Mayor of London is to abolish the London Housing Panel —the one instrument we have to ensure that tenants and residents have a direct input to policy making. 

The London Housing Panel had its first meeting in June 2019.  Now the Greater London Authority says its work will only be funded up to March 2022 —less than three years from its launch.  We are asking the Mayor to think again and asking the other recipients of this letter to do your utmost to convince the GLA to continue co-funding the work of this unique and essential panel.

The Panel was established to provide voluntary and community groups with a structured way of engaging with the GLA in relation to housing policy and vice versa.  We are assured that the Mayor wants to make sure his housing policies are developed with the involvement of London’s diverse communities. 

In April 2020 the Panel called for commitment from the Mayor on these priorities:
1. Massively increase social housing supply
2. Support all Londoners to be heard and thrive
3. Take action on temporary accommodation 

At this time of greater housing insecurity for so many Londoners, we think the work of the Panel is needed more than ever.  Given the central importance of housing and of retrofit as London battles the climate emergency and the post-Covid recovery, it cannot be wise or politically sensible to scrap such a crucial institution.

The GLA needs to think again about this proposal.

Download full text of Just Space letter to the GLA:

Just Space activity June 2021

January – May 2021, posted 10 June

(This updates previous reports on 19th June 2020 and 18th January 2021)

Estate Watch

Tenants and residents from social housing estates under threat of demolition have attended meetings (by zoom) every 2 months.  Topics discussed have included: the role of independent tenant and leaseholder advisors, how do we win estate ballots, telling the stories of estates through videos and podcasts.

Thanks to LTF and Pablo Sendra’s Alton Estate project, a further 6 months funding has been obtained for estate watch, extending the project to the end 2021.

On 2nd June 2021, the Mayor of London declared a “retrofit revolution” with £10 billion to deliver “large scale low carbon upgrades to the capital’s social housing, whilst supporting the creation of green jobs.”  London will lead a new £3.5 million national centre of excellence to “help social housing providers access funding to make their homes fit for the future and protect the most vulnerable from cold, damp homes.”

Potential action: Could Just Space undertake campaign work directed at the Mayor of London/ London Assembly in support of the demands coming from Estates Watch meetings?  Can we propose a mechanism (e.g. community expert panel or London Assembly sub-group) to enable community groups to be involved in the retrofit initiatives at a strategic level.

Just Collaborate

Just Collaborate seeks greater levels of support from Universities for grassroots community groups. Registration as a limited company was achieved in April 2021, with Just Collaborate chosen as the name, since Collaborate had already been used.  The Directors are:  Mama D, Toby Laurent Belson, Shirley Hanazawa, Saif Osmani and Wilfried Rimensberger.

Just Collaborate is now setting up a bank account and various protocols.  Its first funded project is with Brunel University, to organise Action Learning Sets on decolonisation and power.  

Potential action: Is there interest by Just Space members in an Action Learning Set that looks at the experience of how power manifests itself within and between community organisations and Universities?

People’s Land Policy

A series of 4 seminars on “Land and Food” took place in February and March 2021.  The topics were: Post Brexit Agriculture, the UK food and agricultural system, urban food growing, the Global Food Justice Movement.  Just Space policy positions on food re – the 2019 London Plan EiP and the London Food Strategy were shared.  The outcome is a new chapter of the pamphlet Working Towards a People’s Land Policy (the chapter is currently in draft form).

Potential action: Policy ideas on Land and Food could be included in the Community Led Recovery Plan.  

New Lucas Plan / Climate Change Strategy

The New Lucas Plan group ran a session at the COP26 preparatory event in April, called From the Ground Up II.  Under the umbrella of New Lucas Plan, Just Space was invited to speak about the production of Community Led Plans.  

Potential action: Just Space and/or member groups might wish to formally register with the COP26 mobilisation From the Ground Up.  

Planning Aid for London

This organisation had been listed as a supporter of Just Space in our early days but became, in effect, dormant. A year ago it was re-floated, hosted by the Town and Country Planning Association TCPA and funded for the next few years at least by the Trust for London. It offers online and real life advice to individuals and groups dealing with the planning system, with a particular emphasis on building up long-term relationships with significant community organisations. At the moment these include Southwark Planning Network and Barking Reach (TWCP, where Just Space is also active).  There is a steering group with the following membership and a new web site at https://planningaidforlondon.org.uk

The steering group does seem to be listened to and is useful.  We can all help by suggesting documents and links to be added to their web site listing of resources – which is a London-specific pool of information. If you have generated useful material or come across it, please let PAL know (via their web site or via Michael Edwards)

Collective Community Action (CCA)

Launched in January 2021, this is a group of active citizens, built environment professionals, community engagement specialists, educators, consultants and social entrepreneurs coming together to discuss, communicate, provoke and propose the changes needed to ensure communities are at the heart of urban change for the better. Members include Soundings, Grosvenor, Ft’work architects, Manor House Development Trust, Creative Wick and Just Space members Hayes Community Forum and Peckham Vision. 

Much effort has been put into the glossy booklet advocating a Mayoral Statement of Community Involvement (MSCI) and Collaborative Community Training for those involved in educational, professional and public life on planning and engagement, together with good practice examples. Members then approached their known contacts within relevant ‘corridors of power’ particularly to have Mayoral candidates sign up to the MSCI.

Alongside this, Ft’work Trust funded work with Centre for London to develop and launch a ‘manifesto’ said to champion community involvement in the way London is built and managed.

CCA members tried to influence the content and Peckham Vision successfully had inserted ‘ongoing place-based audits’. This ‘Need for Change’ document was launched on 2 March as part of the policy ideas Mayoral candidates had approached the Centre for London for. An article subsequently appeared in the RTPI’s professional periodical (‘The Planner’ May 2021) featuring Eileen Conn on why ‘London needs a MSCI’.

Coincidentally, one of the ten planning-related promises in Sadiq Khan’s mayoral election manifesto was the ‘review how to further involve local communities in the planning decisions that affect them’.  London Assembly member Andrew Boff questioned the Mayor about this (Q-time 27 May) who replied that officers will be undertaking a full review of engagement processes ‘to give full effect to Policy (sic) GG1’, together with digital engagement, stakeholder mapping and learning from best practice.

Potential action: The MSCI is a long-standing ask of Just Space whose scope and content – as published in ‘Towards a Community-led Plan for London’ (PDF) and 2019 EiP – needs updating (e.g. to address digitisation) and re-proposed to the Mayor.

Grand Union Alliance (GUA)

Just Space was commissioned back in Spring 2016 by the London Tenants Federation (LTF) to help LTF deliver UCL Geography community-based research supporting the community network GUA in Old Oak Park Royal area (Mayoral Development Corporation OPDC). Since July 2019 onwards, JS inputs have continued voluntarily on a ‘care and maintenance’ basis whilst the OPDC prepared Modifications to its draft Local Plan as an attempt to satisfy the Planning Inspector’s Interim Findings in September 2019.

These Modifications are currently subject to public consultation and are being actively followed by GUA participants with a view to making representations by 7th July. Regular monthly public meetings are continuing in partnership with the Old Oak Neighbourhood Forum, whose reports can be seen at its website. Co-operation has extended to corresponding with the OPDC, HS2 and various planning applications.

Potential action: Prospects of an OPDC funded community support worker have now refocused on HS2 and other construction impacts rather than planning itself. For the foreseeable future, an un-resourced GUA, in order to continue, will need voluntary support from JS. The GUA is not in a position to become appropriately constituted to find funding.

A Just Space commitment to preparing a Community Handbook on influencing large scale planning as informed by GUA experiences could form part of the MSCI review (see CCA potential action above).

Listen to Locals
This group originates from a 15 year old campaign in Mortlake and is hoping to bring together people London-wide who are affected by planning policy and large developments. The aim was to have a Hustings on planning for the Mayoral election, which happened. Just Space co-hosted. Lucy Rogers represented Just Space in the preparations. See the Hustings video edit here https://www.listentolocals.co.uk/post/local-community-hustings-video-edit-by-just-space 

Following the Hustings, which was felt to be a success, Just Space (Lucy, Eileen, Michael) met with Listen to Locals (Clare Delmar) and Collective Community Action (Clare Richards) to discuss the scope for grassroots collaboration London-wide

Discussion point: To consider the benefits of this collaboration (e.g. communications to mobilise the public to challenge City Hall, campaign against new planning laws) and whether it provides an opportunity to reconfigure Just Space network meetings.

London Plan finally out

2 March 2021 The London Plan has finally been adopted and published. This page on the GLA site has free downloads of the Plan and various linked documents including a summary presentation. Paper copies will be available for £50 and may be pre-ordered now.

Our view is that the draft plan issued in 2017 was a great disappointment; subsequent changes have included some small improvements but have also made it worse. Our latest view is here and you can trace back to our earlier statements and those of the community groups which make up Just Space.

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Housing Associations: getting the best from them

Maximising really affordable housing in London 2021-2025 What could the Assembly & the Mayor of London do?

Letter from Just Space to Mayor and Assembly Members 3 February 2021 [This follows a letter sent a few days ago calling on the GLA to discuss ways of minimising the ill effects of the New London Plan. See previous post here.]

The new London Plan is now finalised and there is wide agreement —including by the Mayor— that it will not secure as much low-rent social housing as London needs. Totally inadequate investment in social rent housing will continue from 2021 to 2025, and grant funding from MHLG via the GLA is likely to remain biased towards intermediate tenures. But despite this, boroughs and the Mayor of London could still deliver much more, by positively influencing housing associations and adopting better planning policies and development management practices. Londoners’ experience during Covid adds urgency to the need for low-rent homes.

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London Plan: damage limitation

On 1 February Just Space wrote to the GLA calling for urgent steps to reduce the negative impacts of the latest changes to the Plan.

From Just Space to Jules Pipe, Deputy Mayor (planning)

Cc to Tom Copley, Deputy Mayor (housing), Members of the London Assembly, London Plan Team, London Councils

Dear Mr Pipe and colleagues

New London Plan: mitigation of adverse impacts

Now that the new London Plan is cleared for printing and London is, in effect, stuck with it for a few years, we are writing to urge you to launch an urgent study of how the negative impacts of the Plan can be mitigated through any of the GLA’s powers or the powers of boroughs or other bodies and to collaborate with community groups in doing so.

Many community and grassroots organisations, and others, struggled long and hard through the last five years of consultation & planning to make the London Plan a more equitable and powerful instrument to achieve the inspiring egalitarian ambitions held by the Mayor and captured in his City for All Londoners, in his preface to the London Plan and in the Good Growth Policies. Both the process and the outcome have been a tremendous disappointment at successive stages. The interventions from the SoS have made matters worse.

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London Plan going to the printer

News 29 January 2021: Secretary of State (Mr Jenrick) has agreed to the Mayor’s latest set of revisions so now the Publication London Plan is being sent to the printers. It was a developer’s dream from the outset & is now even worse, especially for low- and moderate-income Londoners, for most ethnic minorities and for productive enterprises. Scroll down to the end of this post for our assessment.

15 January 2021: Deadlock was reached between the Mayor of London Sadiq Khan and the Secretary of State (SoS) Robert Jenrick but the SoS has pulled rank and dictated changes to the Plan which are now embodied in a new version from the Mayor.  This seems bound to give us an even worse London Plan than we were expecting a year ago and reads like something from a past era. What happened? A summary…

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Wrong reforms proposed for planning

1 Nov 2020: Democracy down; developer profits up; free gift of rights to landowners; few silver linings. Consultations have closed on the government’s proposals for changes to the planning system in England with very strong criticisms being made by community groups and others. Just Space groups have declined to answer the government’s leading questions and instead present refreshing insights on what’s wrong and what’s needed:

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New Planning System?

August 10 + later updates through October 2020: The UK government is preparing a number of major changes to the Town and Country Planning System in England (not Scotland, Wales or Northern Ireland where devolved bodies make these decisions). We shall add material to this page in the coming weeks to help member groups in London to prepare responses, so this is a good post to bookmark: click on the heading above first. Please do contribute.
A number of consultations are finished and have been moved to the bottom of the page. This is the big one remaining:

Planning for the Future: white paper Consultation ends 29 October 2020 2345h.

This is the Just Space response to the consultation, submitted on 28th October.

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Estate Watch

Demolition or neglect: Are the Mayor of London’s ballots offering tenants a fair choice?

WEDNESDAY 17th JUNE

Over 35,000 homes across more than 100 London estates are earmarked for or undergoing demolition according to Estate Watch, a new resource for affected communities.

This despite the Mayor of London’s Estate Regeneration Guidance (2018), which was supposed to give council tenants and leaseholders a better deal.

Launching today, the Estate Watch website has been produced by community organisations Just Space and London Tenants Federation (LTF) to provide tenants and residents with independent facts and resources about the realities of demolition and possible alternatives.

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