London looks to private sector in infrastructure push

Tuesday 11 December 2018

Despite the delays associated with Crossrail, London is getting better at planning and delivering big infrastructure projects that help bring forward development. But it still needs more help from the private sector in raising finance, has to press the case for key regenerative catalysts like the Bakerloo Line Extension, and must work harder at being more ‘joined up’ across the region.

Those were some of the key points to emerge in a wide-ranging conference – Joined-up London: infrastructure and development – held at NLA last week.

Transport for London consultant Stuart Robinson presented the case for TfL, not just regulating traffic and operating transport services, but helping Mayor Khan in his pledges to build homes for Londoners, especially given a push to provide more income, given its budget cuts and ‘parlous’ finances. The organisation is seeking to ‘exploit its resources’ – including ‘opportunistically’over stations – with a plan to create 10,000 homes by 2021, 50% of them affordable. In so doing TfL plans to create ‘healthy streets’ as a means of creating value, said Robinson, along with building up its build-to-rent portfolio. ‘We’re looking at some pretty heroic sites’, he said. ‘If we’re going to deal with the housing crisis, we need to use every means possible’.

It is a ‘no-brainer’ to integrate infrastructure and development, said Kate Morris, director, strategic planning and advisory, transportation, EMIA, AECOM, but we are at a real ‘turning point’ in terms of what we need to do. This despite the fact that ‘infrastructure is everyone’s business’ and critical to national growth and social progress, she said. But with the public purse under pressure, new funding mechanisms were needed, Morris added, with the private sector needed more at the table.

The Elizabeth Line, when it is complete, will bring many more benefits than had been previously envisaged, said director of regeneration and spatial planning at GVA Martyn Saunders. Values are already 30% higher than forecast for example, and the new line will prove perhaps more beneficial in regeneration terms to outer London than to inner. The line may end up bringing some £20bn of total value, he added. Crossrail 2, moreover, will learn from the lessons of Crossrail 1, with new rail infrastructure sure to unlock growth, said the line’s transport planning manager Chris Moores. ‘The region needs Crossrail 2’, he said. ‘It can be more than just a railway’, but the challenge remains to make it more affordable and raise funds from those who might benefit. The line will connect into Euston, itself the subject of wide-scale regeneration and redevelopment, as what Camden director of regeneration and planning David Joyce called central London’s last remaining opportunity. Lendlease has been brought on board to work on a masterplan, and Studio Egret West commissioned to think about how the area could work in future.

The conference also heard from MICA director Gavin Miller on the thoughts behind his practice’s ‘Growth Lines’ exhibition at NLA, while Levitt Bernstein associate director Vinita Dhume talked about the prospect of reviewing green belt land around key nodes. Head of regeneration at Old Kent Road for London Borough Southwark, Colin Wilson, and Claudette Forbes, regeneration advisor at the London Borough of Lewisham presented a convincing case for the ‘bargain’ extension of the Bakerloo Line and the ‘Bakerloo bounce’ they believe will result. The £3.5bn project has the potential to unlock some 100,000 homes and 120,000 jobs. Finally, OPDC interim CEO Mick Mulhern showed how infrastructure, including a larger HS2 station at Old Oak Common, was crucial to its success, the wider 650ha area of industrial land now moving into ‘delivery mode’, aided by its Mayoral Development Corporation status. ‘It’s as big as the whole of the City and the South Bank’, Mulhern said. ‘That’s massive, and it’s large-scale city planning that will take 30 years to deliver’. As with Wren’s initial plans for London after the Great Fire, it was important to allow for change in order to deliver a great place. The OPDC is recruiting 15 extra staff to its team in order to ‘deliver a fantastic place’, he said. And although the UK was getting better at delivering major infrastructure projects, full joined up thinking was still missing, said Gavin Miller. Everybody knows the threads’, he said. ‘But so much is contentious or waiting for funding that it makes it difficult for anybody to take a risk’.

By David Taylor, Editor, NLQ

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