Day one of this year’s MIPIM opened in bright sunshine in Cannes – always an enticement to those visiting the London Stand, run by Pipers with the programme by NLA, with a series of talks on issues from housing to Harrow.
But it was digital that caught the eye early on, with London’s poor showing on connectivity something of a concern in a lunchtime session on the issue. The UK capital figures as 26th out of 30 in Europe, but at least its ISP providers offer a better service than New York, said Tom McClellan of Wiredscore. In a survey, though, said Cluttons’ Head of Telecoms John Gravett, some 62% of millennials would want a rent reduction if there was not good enough connectivity, and this area remains a challenge for keeping talent and small businesses from leaving for other cities. Lendlease’s Sherin Aminossehe explained that when looking at digital it was important to look beyond the four walls of schemes, however, with the firm investigating how to provide future-proofed digital infrastructure to allow for better ways of working in schemes like its newly-won Euston project. ‘Workplace doesn’t stop at the edge of our buildings’, she said.
Old Oak Common, meanwhile, is looking to provide new ways of working across its 650 hectares in a project whose scale is ‘almost overwhelming’. For that reason, the Old Oak and Park Royal Development Corporation has broken down the project into ‘achievable, bite-size chunks, leveraging on items like the HS2 station. Firms like Segro, said its business unit director Alan Holland, are also seeking to provide a ‘transformational change’ to the area, which he described as a ‘unique opportunity for London’, investigating how best to intensify and create housing alongside or even above industrial uses. Certainly, said OPDC chair Liz Peace, the time was right to ‘get cracking’ on housing with some early wins in a northern ‘arc’ of development near Willesden Green, and hopefully to secure the right level of funding to provide for the kind of infrastructure such a major area – effectively a new town – needs. ‘You wouldn’t believe how many bridges we need’, she said.
Over in the City, the thrust was back to ‘smart’ streets, and the way in which the Square Mile is having to attend to its public realm with the onset of Crossrail. Chairman of the planning and transportation committee Chris Hayward said that the City is aiming to make its streets more efficient, adaptable and enjoyable to use, with public realm enhancement projects to cater for the 300,000 more people within half an hour’s commute, on top of the 483,000 already commuting into the Square Mile. ‘We’re projecting phenomenal growth’, he said, saying there were more cranes on construction projects than any time since the 1980s. ‘We need City streets and spaces to become multi-functional’, he said, with the City no longer able to be a place where white vans can deliver single parcels to individual people. There should be more of the kind of experimental transport work of the kind Bank Junction represents, said Arup’s Richard di Cani – all of which may be helped with a new 25-year transport strategy for the City which Hayward said will emerge by the end of next year.
Other highlights of the day included the Club Peloton cyclists, who arrived from London after battling through rain and wind on their 1500km journey, raising around £700,00 in the process for Coram, and the opening of the London Stand, with Pam Alexander finishing on a positive, note. Some 40% of all the speakers on the London Stand, she said, are women in line with a new, more diverse tone set by many for MIPIM this year. Long may it continue.
By David Taylor, Editor, NLQ