Day two of this year’s MIPIM UK looked at what the concept of what good growth might mean – in terms of planning, London’s Towns, from transport infrastructure and in the east of the capital, as well as how workplaces can grow and, just as importantly, retain their talent pools.
The first session dealt with the big picture. What, exactly, does the GLA mean by its concept of good growth?
Jules Pipe, Deputy Mayor of Planning, Regeneration and Skills, said that it is the ‘driving force’ in planning and investment decisions and at the heart of the Mayor’s vision for the built environment in London. But at its core, good growth is about growth that is socially and economically inclusive and sustainable, with a goal of creating a London for all who live and work here, rather than a privileged few. As part of the approach, the GLA’s housing design guidance was proving helpful in getting density and quality, said Pipe, and the threshold approach to affordable housing was already showing a ‘huge shift’. Allocations are ‘well into the 30s’ now, having started at 0-10%, said Pipe, but London’s property industry still had work to do on diversity, with its make-up needing to better reflect that of the city. The city also had to avoid becoming ‘a series of dormitories’, he said, but there was clearly an opportunity to ‘rethink’ industrial land in terms of ‘multi-stacking and intensifying’.
Kingston-upon-Thames’ director of growth Nazeya Hussain said it was important for boroughs such as hers to retain heritage and a sense of place, even in the face of Crossrail, heightened housing targets and the restrictions of the Green Belt. Mount Anvil’s investment director Marcus Bate, moreover, said that although his childhood memories told him that the word ‘good’ was a bland one to be avoided, there was much to be commended in terms of Good Growth’s generosity as a policy thread and its championing of inclusivity.
For Peabody’s executive director of development and sales Dick Mortimer, it was clear that ‘delivering numbers isn’t the answer’; tenure mix was an important part of the housing picture too, towards creating ‘great places in which to live’. ‘We want to say the buildings we’re building now will be the conservation areas of the future’, he said.
Next it was on to outer London. How could the right mix of uses be created here? For Iain Painting, partner at Barton Willmore, it was about quality and flexibility in use and built form; ‘easy words but hard to achieve’. There was a ‘fear of change’ in zones 4, 5 and 6, he said, and we need to look at a new way of assessing schemes in planning from the ‘harmlessness’ approach to a net gain one. And, Painter added, it was time to ‘overhaul the CIL and Section 106 systems, not least because of the lack of transparency behind the former concerning where the money goes. While Waltham Forest director of investment and delivery Jonathan Martin suggested that it was all about capturing support from residents and businesses in supporting growth, building on strong communities and creating healthy streets, for Tony Clements, director of regeneration and housing at Ealing, it was crucial to ensure that growth in his borough means low rent homes and the creation of towns where people want to spend time. Catalyst Housing director of business development Sue Cooper added that there had been a noticeable change from the adversarial approach to planning to one where it was more of a common goal. But the key thing was ‘partnership, partnership, partnership’, she said.
A fair indicator of a strong city in employment terms is the level to which it attracts and retains its talent. Could London’s workplace culture, office design and wellbeing be a major help in this regard?
For conference chair Matt Yeoman of Buckley Gray Yeoman, there had been a ‘massive shift’ in office workplace design since the ‘crash’. ‘There was a massive refocus on what tenants wanted’, he said.
Juliette Morgan, head of campus – Regent’s Place for British Land, said that the developer is now very concerned with building ‘responsible parts of the city’, with the future workplace around knowledge, inclusion and sustainability. As automation increases, it will be much more about collaborating, working creatively and moving things forward, she said, but her tip for the future will be in the use of the ‘supermaterial’ bamboo in more and more building projects as a sustainable resource. ‘I’m convinced we’re going to see it come in’, she said.
General Projects CEO Jacob Loftus agreed that things have fundamentally changed from a situation where buildings were once created simply to sell to a pension fund but now are more focused on the occupier. ‘There’s been a real mindset shift’, he said. ‘When you put people first, you make decisions quite differently.’ It was now less about thinking about where the next cycle ramp should be, and more about how we create genuine aspects of buildings that will be long-term contributors to health and well-being at work.
Savills’s Nicky Wightman added that in an era when people don’t necessarily ‘need’ to come to work anymore, thinking about creating a flexible and attractive workspace with services that people want and find interesting was a good attractor. It was likely, she added, that more people will come into real estate from outside to do this, and probably from creative backgrounds, as part of a move to ‘curate’ more, especially as Loftus noted, most developers would make lousy curators.
When it came to other predictions for the future of the workplace, Yeoman suggested that there may be more cellularization, people being ‘fed up’ of open plan; there would be more ceilings, and more creches – the three ‘Cs’. Loftus, meanwhile, said he was toying with the idea of making more areas in his buildings free of signal, jamming WiFi and ensuring radio silence for workers who might want to retreat into such an environment.
London, found the next session, is also learning to capture value and unlock growth from its new transport infrastructure.
Graeme Craig, commercial development director at Transport for London said that five years ago his organization ‘did not know what it owned’. Neither did it have a plan strategy or a team in place – ‘no-one who was any good wanted to work in TfL in this space’, he said. Property was not seen as core, but now, with a target of creating 50% affordable homes and a £500 million net profit inside a decade, it certainly is, and is on the way to getting 10,000 new homes started by 2021 using a variety of different construction routes and working with outfits like Pocket. The development team at TfL has grown from 5 to 70, and Craig hoped it could be a place in which young, energetic people can be enticed to work on exciting schemes. But it was ‘bizarre’, he said, that London is built on the back of the transport network and yet we continually have to justify why investment in it is necessary.
Southwark aims to lobby for the extension of the Bakerloo line as a big part of its push for development in the borough, said its director of planning Simon Bevan, especially as it had a better business case for regeneration than Crossrail 2, he felt. And Grimshaw’s focus in this area is on Euston, said principal Annelie Kvick Thompson, ‘generating value through quality places’.
And finally, the East of London got its chance to shout its messages after the West was up in lights at MIPIM UK yesterday. Darren Rodwell, Leader, Barking and Dagenham Council said that deeds will be signed at Christmas on ‘London’s Hollywood’ – new film studios in his borough that form part of an extensive building programme. ‘We are the powerhouse of London’, he said. While Dan Bridge, programme director at the Royal Docks talked about how towards the end of the year a new place brand will be launched for the area that is now ‘really reaching a critical mass’, Sarah Cary, executive director, place at LB Enfield, spoke of the challenges of delivering significant population growth, overlaying what is effectively a large new town, adding 40km of cycle lanes and taking forward the development of Meridian Water on a plot by plot basis. Thurrock Council corporate director of Place Steve Cox said housing was the area’s biggest challenge, but a ‘hugely ambitious’ target of 30,000 homes was what it needed to provide, 6,000 of them in the urban area.
Lendlease development director at the International Quarter London Katherine Rogers said it had a vision to create a diverse business community that was ‘not just work life balance but a work life blend’. And Lyn Garner, chief executive of the London Legacy Development Corporation said that along with more ambitious housing targets, part of its plans include the successful bedding-in of the East Bank cultural quarter without disenfranchising the locals. ‘The danger is they could be seen as alien space craft landing in the park’, she said, ‘That’s a real challenge for us’.
So, what might the panel want to see in the upcoming autumn statement?
For Darren Rodwell it was a true statement that austerity is over, but also a Green Paper for the A13 to be progressed, and to stop costing British business millions. Cary wanted a strong commitment to Crossrail 2, and Rogers more of a sentiment to being more practical and talking up what’s great about Great Britain. Brexit notwithstanding, we can expect more of the last point at the next MIPIM – in March, in Cannes.
David Taylor, Editor, New London Quarterly
For more information on The London Stand at MIPIM UK visit www.londonatmipimuk.com