Alderwoman Susan Pearson – Membership of Sub-Committees
The Town Clerk, noting that Alderwoman Person had retained her place on the Committee, representing the Ward of Cripplegate, stated that the Committee were now also asked to consider whether her continued membership of both the Streets and Walkways and Local Plans Sub-Committee were appropriate. The Committee were reminded that membership of both bodies had been expanded at the start of this civic year to ensure that all those interested in participating on those bodies were able to do so.
RESOLVED – That the Committee support Alderwoman Susan Pearson’s continued membership of both the Streets and Walkways and Local Plans Sub-Committee.
Opportunity London Campaign
With the permission of the Chairman, the Committee considered a late, separately circulated report of the Director of Environment and the City Surveyor seeking agreement to continue the City Corporations sponsorship of the Opportunity London campaign and setting out what it has delivered to date, the costs of continued sponsorship and outlining an umbrella programme of key property related events for 2023 that the City Corporation could seek to attend in conjunction with Opportunity London, together with associated costs.
Officers apologise for the timing of this report but clarified that they had only learned last week what action needed to be taken to permit the City’s attendance at MIPIM and the costs associated with this. It was underlined that appropriate accommodation could only be secured once a decision had been taken as to the City’s presence at the event. The report set out an annual programme of engagement to promote the City to domestic and international property investors which was parallel and interlinked to the promotion undertaken on the City as a world-class financial and business services centre. This would be delivered in collaboration with Opportunity London – a new partnership promoting investment into London. Officers highlighted the three areas of consideration today and highlighted that the report was also to be considered by the Policy and Resources Committee and the Property Investment Board. It was highlighted that the total funding seeking approval was £140,000 to be taken from local risk budgets.
Officers went on to underline that the report also sought approval for the continuation of the City’s sponsorship of Opportunity London once the current sponsorship expired in March 2023. Members were informed that, in February of this year, the Policy and Resources Committee had approved the principle of being an initial partner in Opportunity London and committed £25,000 to this given that there were no other bodies at the time promoting foreign investment into London. It was reported that this investment had also helped secure additional investment of £65,000 from the GLA and £45,000 from London Councils as well as approximately £200,000 of private sector funding which equalled approximately £310,000 of total investment against a target of £500,000 with discussions with the private sector still ongoing demonstrating that there was a clear appetite for having a vehicle to promote and deliver on investment into London and the City.
Secondly, it was highlighted that Opportunity London had identified a series of events that would enable engagement with domestic, European and international investors which included MIPIM. Members were informed that over 22,000 people had attended MIPIM last year and paid to go into the conference programme with over 25,000 were expected this year. It was anticipated that an additional 20,000 people would be present and networking around the programme. Officers stated that it was critical for London to be adequately represented here to demonstrate and promote the values of the City as a place to invest and afford strategic engagement with investors. MIPIM was also a key opportunity to raise the profile of and champion the work of this Planning and Transportation Committee as well as to highlight policies that would encourage investment. The budget proposed here for MIPIM was £65,000 which would see a team of eight people attending including the Chairs of this Committee, Policy and Resources and the Property Investment Board alongside the Executive Director, Environment, the City Surveyor and a team of three to support this attendance.
The final element of the report focused on a parallel, umbrella event, attendance at which would be costed at £50,000.
The Chairman stated that part of the remit of this Committee was to promote the City of London and the built environment. However, he added that he would be seeking firm reports back to Committee on this demonstrating the results of these various engagements and outlining the benefits of this.
A Member questioned whether this had been budgeted for in this financial year and questioned whether this was entirely City Fund monies. Officers reported that funding would be across two financial years and that this current financial year would only require funding for Opportunity London and MIPIM for which there were existing budgets set aside for this purpose. It was also confirmed that this would all be from City Fund.
A Member stated that the sole reason that this matter required this Committee’s approval was a result of Member involvement and member travel that needed to be authorised here. They argued that, fundamentally, this was core business in terms of promoting the Square Mile as a place to do business.
A Member stated that a report earlier this year had sought funding for the Chairman to attend an event in New York but that this had subsequently been withdrawn. She asked whether this was also addressed here. Officers reported that this would no longer be pursued but highlighted that there may be a need to engage directly with North America or indeed the Far East alongside the Opportunity London campaign. A budget was therefore proposed for this at this stage in order to allow for the appropriate Member to attend and deliver key messages to the right audiences.
A Member stated that she had some concern around this coming from the Environment Department budget as opposed to Policy and Resources which she felt should be the umbrella Committee in terms of funding this. She went on to state that, in terms of public perception, it was difficult to justify funds being directed here as opposed to towards street cleansing for example. She underlined that she also had concerns around references to assisting developers given public perception, the need for impartiality and the fact that the Planning Committee ought to have an arm’s length relationship with the industry. Officers stated that the budget for MIPIM attendance had previously been held by the CPAT team but had now transferred across to the Environment Department due to new arrangements enacted by the Target Operating Model. It was reiterated that this budget had been provisioned for the purpose or promoting the City as a place to invest and do business.
Another Member echoed the need for robust and comprehensive feedback reports and stressed that there did not appear to be a proper business case set out for this.
A Member commented on proposed MIPIM attendees in terms of Members. She questioned why the Chair of this Committee was required to attend given that this Committee had a quasi-judicial role and had to judge each application before it on its merits and policy as opposed to promoting investment. Secondly, the Member questioned what seminars or events the City were providing as opposed to just attending in order to promote the City and justify the costs set our here.
A Member commented that their understanding was that the Chair of this Committee was invited to attend MIPIM was so that they could better understand what was going on in the market as opposed to to discuss specific developments. As well as sitting in a quasi-judicial capacity, this Committee also had a broader remit around things such as the City Plan and what the City was going to look like over the coming decades and for this reason they felt that the Planning Chair’s attendance was necessary here.
A Member questioned how investment trends had fared during the pandemic when attendance at these events had not been possible. She also stressed that physical attendance at these events might not be the only or indeed best way to do business any longer and that it might be preferable to invite investors to events in London as an alternative in order to better showcase the City. Officers confirmed that a large part of the Opportunity London campaign was around hosting events in the UK and London. The Opportunity London Summit had taken place in September and the London Real Estate Forum would also be looking to engage with investors. However, they also underlined the need to travel to events such as MIPIM where the biggest concentration of investors could be found which would be the approach taken by other cities.
Officers confirmed that there was a very tight and specific programme in place for MIPIM which included opportunities to push the City’s key messages on the London stand and at various breakfasts, lunches, dinners and meetings with investors. This focused on their attitude to investment and not individual applications or developments. Members were informed that attendance at MIPIM was considered essential in order to push key messages.
In response to further questions, Officers reported that total attendance had been reduced by two in relation to previous years and that the total budget for this had been reduced down from £95,000 to £65,000. In terms of flight and hotel costs, it was reiterated that hotel bookings would not be released until such time as the City had agreed to take a stand. Ideally, attendees would be seeking to stay in Cannes given that the days programmes were from 7.30am-midnight. Officers confirmed that they intended to be frugal in terms of hotel bookings.
The Chairman asked that Officers give further consideration as to where the budget for this was held and also to the reporting cycle for this work going forward. Members highlighted that they also intended to raise this point at the Policy and Resources Committee when this matter was considered further here.
I. That the Planning and Transportation Committee agree that £25,000 from the Environment Departments(Partnership and Engagement) local risk budget should be used to fund the ongoing sponsorship of Opportunity London;
II. That the Planning & Transportation Committee approve that the City of London Corporation should attend MIPIM 2023 with a total budget of £65,000 to be funded via Environment Departments (Partnership and Engagement) local risk budget (£40,000).
III. That the Planning and Transportation Committee agree that £50,000 from the Environment Departments (Partnership and Engagement) local risk budget should be used to fund the attendance of an umbrella programme of property related events being supported by Opportunity London.
Barbican Podium – Phase II works
A Member raised the finances of this which would be public expenditure drawn from street parking funds.
A Member questioned whether this was considered sufficiently urgent by the Chairman to be raised at this stage. The Chairman permitted the Member to continue.
The Member stated that he was keen for Members to be aware of what was happening here and underlined that his concern was around the majority public expenditure being utilised to repair the membrane which did not have any public benefit but would fix leaks into a gym, conference centres and carparks. To balance this, a lot of money was also to be spent on an area of public realm above however the City’s own City Plan indicated that the pedestrian density extrapolated out to 2026 on this particular area was one of the lowest in the City. It was stressed that a concerted effort was therefore needed to show how the public might be encouraged to use this space and thereby justify this public expenditure and for studies to demonstrate that this had been successful thereafter.