With its significant Thames-side presence and very good transport links into the southern parts of the borough, Lambeth will always attract development opportunities. Planning committee digest readers – and those developing in the borough – will have noticed that over the past couple of years, the borough’s planning committee has behaved increasingly erratically.
In a couple of weeks’ time, the borough will have a new leader. Will Jack Hopkins’ tenure lead to a more consistent approach? Here, we profile the borough’s new leader.
Councillor Jack Hopkins will be formally elected as leader of the council on 13 February. Hopkins was the favourite and defeated challengers including planning cabinet member Matthew Bennett.
Now aged 38, Hopkins is a south Londoner who attended school in Catford before studying politics and international relations at Warwick University. When Labour regained control of Lambeth in 2006 Hopkins worked as a policy officer in Steve Reed’s leaders office, and as a strategic partnerships officer for the council, before moving to a similar job for Hackney council; his role involved advising the crime and disorder reduction partnership on working with the council.
At the 2010 election Hopkins gained a seat in Oval ward from the Liberal Democrats. He was chief whip of the Labour group for two years before being appointed cabinet member for public protection; when Lib Peck took over as leader his portfolio expanded and was renamed ‘safer and stronger neighbourhoods’. He was named Community Champion of the Year by the LGIU in 2014 for his work on the neighbourhood enhancement programme.
In a reshuffle after the 2014 election he moved to the jobs and growth portfolio, which included responsibility for regeneration and planning policy. His post included overseeing some projects which were massively controversial: a shipping container business park, ‘Pop Brixton’, was shifted away from food and environment projects towards entrepreneurship; he was criticised for not preventing Network Rail evicting businesses in Brixton Arches to make way for regeneration, and an attempt at a community-led affordable housing scheme on Somerleyton Road failed.
In April 2017 Hopkins unexpectedly stood down from the cabinet, announced that he would not be standing at the next council election, and subsequently set up in business. His company Good Planners Ltd consisted of Hopkins and Brandan Wilkinson, who had been a planning officer in Wandsworth; they had a contract to advise clients of Kinleigh Folkard and Hayward on planning issues.
In the run-up to the 2018 election, Hopkins reversed his decision to stand down and was re-elected in Oval ward. After the election he returned to the cabinet as deputy leader, taking on the jobs, skills and performance portfolio; having now been elected leader, Hopkins is currently winding up Good Planners Ltd.
As with many of the leading Labour councillors in Lambeth, Hopkins is on the Blairite wing of the Labour Party. He voted for Liz Kendall in the 2015 leadership election, and backed Owen Smith’s leadership challenge in 2016. His partner is Joanne Simpson, a fellow councillor who is vice-chair of the planning committee.