The final day of this year’s MIPIM on the London stand featured a major thrust towards placemaking, and how London must ensure that it keeps what makes it special as it embraces growth and a quest for housing numbers.
One area where this quick transformation has come sharply into focus is Nine Elms on the South Bank where, claimed Wandsworth’s Kathryn Stewart, we are seeing a place emerge, founded on a successful partnership model. This area is an ‘amazing development’ of housing, but also with twice as much retail space to come than Westfield Stratford, said Fiona Fletcher-Smith. Battersea Power Station, moreover, said its head of planning Gordon Adams, has been a ‘phenomenal success story’ with Apple set to take their six floors inside in 2020 and a lot more happening thanks to a flexible planning framework and collaboration. It was only 10 years ago that the total ambition for the wider Nine Elms area was 1500 homes, said Homes England chairman Sir Edward Lister, which has jumped to what will probably ‘top out’ at 25,000. ‘Go back to 2008 and it was a wasteland, that’s all it was’, he said. But the key to the area’s success lies in placemaking and not ending up with a soulless new development, said Adams. More affordable housing is also on the way too, after earlier criticism particularly levelled at the Battersea Power Station scheme.
Planning, said the GLA’s deputy mayor Jules Pipe, has a strong part to play in placemaking and ‘good growth’ – which should not be at any cost. ‘Good growth by design is the mayor’s plan’, he said, calling on ‘everyone in the built environment professions to help realise that vision’. There should be more consideration of the neighbourhood scale, Pipe went on, and with design review ‘embedded and adding value’ across the whole of London, plus a shift to a design-led approach helped by the creation of Public Practice, brokering planners to authorities.
For Carolyn Dwyer of the City, place matters ‘more than ever’, especially with the need to ensure that people ‘stay in love with London’. The City is becoming more of a 24/7 place, with its contribution to culture – the Square Mile is the fourth biggest funder of culture in the UK. Its status in popular culture has now also been signalled by the fact that Banksy has even done some graffiti in the City. ‘We were absolutely delighted’, Dwyer said. And areas like Wembley are becoming a place thanks to investment from firms like Quintain, its chief operating officer James Saunders declaring that over half of everything it does is public realm, with the expectation of good returns – but also more liveable places.
All of this will be crucial with a city planning for 10 million people, a session around the Pipers Model of London heard, with GL Hearn’s Stuart Baillie saying that tall buildings will undoubtedly be part of the argument. Data the firm is collating with the NLA will confirm the growing impact of tall buildings when it is released next month. Active travel must also be a key consideration, said NLA chairman Peter Murray, with an imperative for London to achieve healthier, less polluting streets. Bank Junction is one of the areas being transformed in this regard, and could be a ‘world-leading new public space’ that we should celebrate as part of the new London Plan. Other speakers included EYG Planning’s Paula Carney, on some of the problems arising from London’s many opportunity areas, and Old Oak and Park Royal Development Corporation’s Victoria Hills, who even suggested taxing those who did not develop adequately around or above railway station sites in a push for more density. Urban Catalyst’s Ken Dytor, meanwhile, warned that true placemaking had to consider more than just the chase for housing numbers. ‘It’s not all about home’, he said. ‘It’s about the social infrastructure that we should be building in.
Finally, in the last talk of the show, and moved to London stand from Manchester’s because of the city’s unfortunate brush with the elements (its stand was flooded, leading to it having to move inside the Palais), Sir Richard Leese, Dagenham and Redbridge’s Darren Rodwell and property adviser Liz Peace chewed the fat over what had emerged at MIPIM this year – beyond just the two days of glorious sun and the last of torrential rain. For Leese this was partly the recognition that it was as much about people, sustainability and diversity – a major theme across the whole event – as it had been about physical development. Rodwell agreed that it was not just about profit but ‘bricks and mortar and hearts and minds’, with regeneration investment needing to work for everyone. And for Peace it was partly her mission to deliver the kind of property that ‘puts the bad property developers out of business’. While the housing market is ‘broken’ in London (Redmond) with ‘no coherent responses to the housing crisis’ (Leese), and Brexit a key concern to both, the job of both Manchester and London is effectively to ‘feed off each other’, not least in terms of required major infrastructure, and with it, effective placemaking. Roll on, MIPIM 2019.
By David Taylor, Editor, NLQ