What have the Members of Dowgate Ward been up to in 2022? At the end of the calendar year it is worth reflecting on the work in Dowgate – myself as Alderman and my Deputy Henry, Pollard, and Mark Wheatley CC.
Whilst I was fully involved in my role as Sheriff until the end of September 2022, I still made sure I kept up to speed on local matters.
Individual issues given priority
The start of the year saw the tail end of work helping businesses recover from the pandemic with grants for SMEs. The Members advertised this in the Ward and it was taken up by a few of our businesses. As Members there are usually quite a few enquiries on administrative matters and sometimes failures to communicate with the City Corporation or its close organisations. For example:
- a rates dispute nearly came to a court hearing but our intervention saved the day. This was partly exacerbated by people not being physically in the office and not answering phones, a plight we can all identify with in our own lives all too often.
-concerns were also raised by businesses about the cleanliness of the streets, in one case amounting the anti-social behaviour where the Cleansing Department quickly responded.
-cyclists reported that they felt unsafe on Southwark Bridge whilst the works were ongoing and received some assurances on the timescales.
-a business was also concerned about the public seating in Laurence Pountney Hill having become loose and strenuous efforts by Mark resulted in them being refixed to the paved area.
Planning issues and lighting
A planning application was submitted by Ocean House in Cousin Lane to create a new lighting scheme on their development. On looking at this, the amount of light seemed to both be too bright and to clash with the lighting scheme called Illuminated River around the Cannon Street Rail bridge. I objected to this and during the course of the year the plans were changed and finally approved with less obvious intrusion on the night scene. Excessive lighting can impact on the street scene adversely and following a separate complaint about the street lighting I ensured that the specific street lighting was shielded from the windows where the impact was felt most.
Elections for Common Council
March 24th was the date of the Common Council elections. The two existing members were nominated alongside Flora Hamilton who works in the Ward at the CBI. The contest ensured a full poll of voters and concluded in the two existing members being re-elected. Their term is 3 years until March 2025.
We have often boasted that Dowgate is the greenest Ward as it had at one time the largest area of green rooves in the City. 2022 saw two new trees planted. One by the Lord Mayor in Whittington Gardens and the other by the modern Livery Companies on the Riverside Walk. Both are part of the Queen’s Canopy for the Platinum Jubilee. Dowgate was also visited by the Lord Mayor for the lighting of the Jubilee Beacon on June 2nd. Nomura kindly allowed their wonderful rooftop to be the location of the only City beacon lit to celebrate the Jubilee.
One of our occupiers is Historic England who care for the historic environment and manage and determine listed building matters. I was delighted to spend an afternoon with them in the Ward considering the array of properties that need careful curation. I was also pleased that I could reconnect them to the City’s officers in the planning department and built environment in order to ensure that all lines of communication are open.
Business Forum meeting
The voters in the Ward were invited to a Ward business forum in the Old Bailey in September whilst I was still resident as Sheriff. It was a great turn out and the Common Serjeant made an excellent speech about the work of the Old Bailey and the role of the City Corporation in the Justice system.
St Michael Paternoster Royal
A major concern for some of the Liveries and residents was the intended future use of the St Michael Paternoster Royal – the only Church in the Ward. It was occupied by the Missions to Seafarers for many years with the sanctuary used for occasional services and meetings. It is now vacant. I was approached about the plan by Premier Christion Radio to take a lease of the premises and to locate the radio station in the offices. That has been a matter for discussion for some time now and is still under negotiation. Premier will need to submit a planning application for the change of use and works but that has not yet been submitted. Liveries were concerned about the lack of access to the Church for services and the Church of England think that this will be possible as the sanctuary will remain intact. The elected members are keeping a close eye on this as the use of the Church has been a valuable part of Livery life.
2022 marked the sad death of our Queen of 70 years. I was pleased to be sent a video of the only reported visit of the Queen to the Ward when in February 1992 she visited Dowgate Ward to open the new LIFFE exchange in Cannonbridge House. The video shows its age in many ways and not least that the LIFFE market no longer exists! https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=nJAgJV8spFk
The Dowgate Team are all active members of the Corporation’s committees. Henry chairs the Markets Committee and Mark the Barbican Residential Committee. I chair the Magistracy and Livery subcommittee that liaises between the City and the Livery Companies as well as the judicial links.
The Members are all very willing to take up matters raised in the Ward.
It was good to participate again on behalf of the City of London Corporation in the annual meeting for Chile in London. Despite the snow and train disruption the attendance and engagement was high. I led the session on the Low Carbon Economy with a panel consisting of Maxim Vydrine, who co-heads Emerging Markets Corporate and High Yield team at Amundi, Lucas Aranguren, Global Head of ESG & SustainableTech - Santander Corporate & Investment Banking and Patricio Contesse Fica, Vice Chairman of SQM.
I was happy to speak about the leadership role that the UK had taken bolstered by the Presidency of COP26 in Glasgow. The UK leads the league tables for signatories to the Net Zero Banking Alliance, part of the UN Environment Programme Finance Initiative (UNEPFI). More UK financial services firms have science-based net zero strategies than those in other markets. Businesses seeking funding for sustainability projects can find investors with the appetite and expertise to invest in green in the UK. In other words, green ESG and low carbon investing is growing so that it is becoming the norm rather than the exception. Some of this is voluntary, driven by investor and stakeholder demands and some is regulatory governed both by the Government and Financial Conduct Authority. The UK Government has been driving this agenda by:
• Committing to the UK being the world’s first net zero aligned financial centre,
• Making it mandatory for firms across the economy to disclose their climate-related risks and opportunities – the first G20 country to do so. New Companies Act requirements came into force from April 2022, making climate-related disclosures mandatory for large UK-registered companies, including private companies. There are plans to make it mandatory for financial firms to publish transition plans. A Transition Plan Taskforce has been established to set the gold standard in this area,
• Delivering on its green finance roadmap,
• Continuing working with the UK industry and regulators to implement the recommendations of the Asset Management Taskforce’s stewardship report which seek to enhance and embed stewardship across the investment chain. This supports the world-leading stewardship standards set out in the Financial Reporting Council’s UK Stewardship Code 2020. In March 2022 the Code had 199 signatories including asset managers with £33tn in global assets under management.
• Promoting global consistency and comparability in sustainability reporting, enhanced climate-related financial disclosures and improved transparency in ESG. This will not only make the transition easier and more cost-effective for businesses but will also help drive the change needed to achieve net zero,
• Continuing to develop the UK’s green taxonomy, which sets out the thresholds at which specific economic activities count as environmentally sustainable and
• Continuing to invest and grow voluntary carbon markets. The UK Voluntary Carbon Markets Forum was established in April 2021.
In response it was good to hear about the early start that Chile made in issuing green Sovereign Bonds, including in 2022 a sustainability linked bond. The capital markets are moving fast to encompass green and ESG principles. Amundi has committed to a net zero methodology that makes it a leading asset manager in this area. Whilst the Chilean Association of Investment Fund Managers calculated that there is about $6 billion under ESG principles this is still growing fast. Investments in green bonds are growing faster than those not so branded.
Lucas Aranguren of Santander spoke of the strides being made to transition to low energy. Chile is leading in the production of green hydrogen and batteries as well as e-mobility, These are needed to help the world’s change of dependence on fossil fuels. However the transition is not easy and there often needs to be a synchronicity of infrastructure to make it all work efficiently. SQM spoke about how it is working with the communities and landscapes in which it is placed and that its use of water and natural resources is fast reducing due to technology and proper engagement. They have created a holistic approach so that they are not just looking at low carbon but the widest of remits around social issues and governance – their Board Chair is the lead and in direct touch with the local indigenous communities.
The exploration of ideas with an engaged audience added to the benefit of the day and the continuing good relationship between the UK and Chile.
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Dowgate Ward is unique in the City of London as it houses the only Fire Station that serves the City of London and beyond. Based on Upper Thames Street in my Ward, it is not only an active fire station but also the home to the London Fire Brigade Fire Investigation Unit. This means that there is present at any one time a Mercedes Benz Atego 1327 Dual Pump Ladder (DPL), 5 Ford Transit Custom L2 Fire Investigation Unit vans and one customised van for the Fire Investigation Dog Unit. The Dog Unit is very popular with visitors but they are working dogs. They are specially trained to identify a variety of ignitable substances which makes them invaluable in any criminal investigation to determine whether a fire has been started deliberately. The speed at which they can sniff out these substances has reduced the time required to investigate the scene of a fire. The dogs are used after the fire has died down but do wear slippers to prevent them being inadvertently hurt by the "under-paws" aftermath of a fire as they review scene.
With a designation of A28 you will see the name of Dowgate on the side of the pump when it is out and about across London. The Borough Commander is James Chapman who has been based at Dowgate for a few years now and knows the City well. Newly promoted this year is the Station Commander Chloe Van Dop. They are both passionate about serving the City and engaging with the businesses and residents here. The London Fire Brigade are plugged into all the work of the City and are partners in the Safer City Partnership as well as the combined work of the City around the many dangerous incidents on the City bridges. Alongside the Police they will respond to any 999 call. Indeed they had just returned from an incident of an injury in a nearby business as I arrived. They had been able to attend on foot and provide medical emergency assistance.
I was pleased to see an electric charging point on the forecourt of the Station. Not everything is yet electric but there are plans to move towards an all-electric fleet. An announcement was made in June 2022 about this plan. As with all heavy goods vehicles the logistics are more complicated especially as the usage of energy in pumping water at high volume and for long periods is very intensive. https://www.london-fire.gov.uk/news/2022-news/june/brigade-further-electrifies-efforts-to-decarbonise-fleet-and-support-london-s-clean-air-goals/
The Station had been visited by the City’s MP, Nickie Aiken, earlier in the year and is planning further open days for local businesses and visitors.