Last week we confirmed the changing of the guard at City Hall with Sadiq Khan replacing Boris Johnson as London’s Mayor. A great step for diversity and equality in British politics and great to see someone from such humble background do so well. But how does his appointment as Mayor affect construction in the capital.
What does that mean for construction in London?
With Boris at the helm we’ve seen a lot of investment in infrastructure (a lot of which was started before his time), Crossrail, Tideway, cycle superhighways have all ensured that Boris has kept London moving during his time in office, but there are plenty of decisions still left for Khan to ensure we don’t grind to a halt. Heathrow’s new runway, Crossrail 2, the housing and skills shortage will all keep him on his toes. But where does he sit on key topics for our industry?
Khan like most of us knows that the capitals infrastructure is creaking under the pressure of population growth and has promised to secure Crossrail 2, Bakerloo line and London Overground extensions, as well as new river crossings, and move on to discussions about Crossrail 3 and new orbital links. An early win for both city hall and the city’s infrastructure will be the possible green light of the Silvertown tunnel.
One of the more difficult balancing acts for Khan will be how he funds TfLs ongoing improvements and running costs while sticking to his pledge of freezing fares.
Khan however is not a backer of a new runway at Heathrow, preferring a second runway at Gatwick and reviewing previous decisions on London City’s capacity. With the government’s response to the Davis report imminent and pressure to push forward at Heathrow it will be an interesting early sign of how the relationship between City hall and Westminster is to develop over the coming years.
Cycling will be important to London and the mayor during his four years with it viewed as a key enabler to a more connected, greener and healthier city. More cycle superhighways but more ambitious within his manifesto is a pledge to pedestrianise Oxford Street will hopefully see a reduction in traffic on our roads.
Based not far from Oxford Street I see how busy it gets regularly and find it difficult to see logistically how this will work without creating chaos to some other part of London but look forward to seeing the detail on how this may be done.
This is all part of an ambitious target for London to become a zero carbon city by 2050. Although I’ll be much greyer by then I look forward to hopefully seeing this become reality!
One of his key commitments is to housing and more specifically affordable housing. Greater London has generally for a number of years hit the 15-20k mark when it comes to constructing new homes. What feels an overly ambitious target of 50k homes (50% of which is to be affordable housing) must be praised for its spirit but we must realise how difficult (near impossible) it will be to come near this in current market conditions. Khan plan to set up a Homes for Londoners team at City Hall that may overcome some of the bureaucracy that can slow down decision making but it will take time for us to see this make a real difference.
A data driven, simplified, automated and virtual planning system would be a good place to get to but will we ever get there?
Skills for London
What are called ‘innovative plans’ to finance such aspiring housing targets could well come unstuck with the well-travelled skills shortage issue we face.
Khan says he will be a mayor who leads a new skills agenda for London creating a skills for London taskforce learning from the Jobs for New Yorkers taskforce. The aim of the taskforce will be to develop a city-wide, strategic approach to skills, identifying gaps in provision and ensuring that currently disparate programmes and funding streams, across the public, private and voluntary sectors, work in concert. I wonder if he’s come across Skillsplanner which is already doing this for construction??
So what does that really mean?
All in all Khan is a mayor who wants to see London grow and prosper which can only be good for our industry as the importance and prevalence of Infrastructure and housing investment continues to grow.
He may struggle and come under scrutiny if his ambitious targets are not met but we should applaud him for being bold and look to support him by becoming the agile, productive and innovative industry he will need to make it happen.
There are exciting times ahead for construction in London with unprecedented investment required to keep up with population growth. Let’s make sure we make the most of it.
Get in touch at Tim.Fitch@invennt.com or 07816517590 to discuss how it could impact your business.