London must not forget its ‘scruffy places’ and the importance of industrial and jobs as it looks to solve its ‘accommodation crisis’. But it must also heed City Hall advice and do more to provide successful mixed use than a Tesco Metro on the ground floor of housing projects.
That was according to Fiona Fletcher Smith, executive director (Development and Environment), GLA in her keynote speech at the NLA yesterday.
The event was Work/in London: Can we mix resi with productive workplaces?. The answer was that essentially we must, and Fletcher Smith said that town centres will have a big part to play in catering for the extra housing the capital needs. ‘In London we face an accommodation crisis’, she said. ‘We are running out of all kinds of space.’
Very often, housing schemes have vacant ground floors perceived as long-term problems, and the public view the retail schemes that do get ‘jammed’ into those spaces as little more than cynical ploys to get consent for housing above. ‘We’re encouraging boroughs to think more carefully about these places’, said Fletcher Smith. ‘Think what your town centre or area needs in terms of commercial space.’
The GLA will defend single use in some strategic places, however, and industrial in areas like Old Oak Common and Park Royal will be important, not least logistically. ‘If we’re driving industries out of London, we will grind to a halt’, said Fletcher Smith. The GLA has looked internationally at exemplars in Munich and Brussels and is pushing the idea of ‘stacking’ industrial uses, a move signalled by deputy mayor Jules Pipe elsewhere recently; it has also found what Fletcher Smith branded a ‘fantastic model’ closer to home of successful potential intensification of industrial alongside residential – at Barratt’s scheme on the former Nestle site with Segro.
Other speakers included Barry Jessup of First Base on how Silvertown aims to be a ‘multiple use destination’ where people can live, work and play, while Gordon Adams, head of planning at Battersea Power Station Development Company detailed how the scheme – initially a ‘jobs generator’ when it was built in the 1920s, is effectively a ‘town centre’ with almost half commercial to residential (57:43). Securing Apple for its offices component was, said Adams, a ‘massive vote of confidence’ in the project. Enfield assistant director Peter George, meanwhile, revealed that Meridian Water will now be taken forward by its new preferred developer Pacific Century Premium Development from Hong Kong after the council felt Barratt represented a ‘bad deal for local people.’ George added that he expected the new London Plan to say that the majority of new homes should be provided in outer boroughs but that, since Grenfell, there had been a ‘hardening of opinion against tower blocks.’
By David Taylor, Editor, New London Quarterly