MIPIM day three – grappling with diversity

Friday 15 March 2019

The final day of this year’s MIPIM had more than a tinge of diversity to it as built environment professionals discussed how the sector could start to get its house in order to create a more accessible city – in every sense.

The Mayor of London, said the GLA’s Debbie Jackson, has diversity and growth as key priorities, with inclusion defined across the board covering not just gender but things like sexual preference, disability and social and economic exclusion. Indeed, the subject of inclusion and diversity figures as one of the pillars of City Hall’s Good Growth initiative, Jackson went on, built on the premise that to serve the community, the sector needs to reflect it. Certainly, said Amanda Clack of CBRE, ‘we need to have the best possible talent working in the sector’, with more of an emphasis on the ‘middle layer’. ‘Having diversity on your board is the way that you will get and retain the best talent’, she said. For Amro Real Estate Partners’ Raj Kotecha, diversity needs to be talked about and made ‘front and centre’ in the industry, with efforts made to encourage more students to enter. And for London Festival of Architecture’s Tamsie Thomson, women in particular face ‘enormous challenges’ not least with the attrition rate that shows as the number of women drops with seniority. The LFA, said Thomson, sees its role in terms of democratising the discussion and diversifying audience participation. ‘We are positioning ourselves increasingly as social disruptors’. For London First’s Sue Brown, events such as an all women dinner at MIPIM were important to spread the message and empower women in real estate. Unfortunately, she said, when some women get to the top, they ‘pull the ladder’ behind them. 

The industry is also not seen as one that appeals to everybody, said Kotecha, so more work should be done in attracting a diverse range of young people into the educational field, or perhaps more apprenticeships across the board in all sectors of the industry was another answer, said Thomson. ‘Every senior manager who has told me he can’t get female planners architects engineers and so on onto their boards’, she added, ‘are just not looking hard enough’. 

Transports of delight

When it comes to the streets of the future and given the UK’s continued population growth, could we diversify our transport infrastructure further?

Enfield’s Sarah Cary believes so, the authority having made great strides, particularly in terms of cycling given its mini-Holland funding leading to the creation of some 40kms of segregated cycle lanes. They had, said Cary, targeted the 30% of journeys of less than one mile, and had aimed to get people ‘casually’ cycling to school and supplementing physical infrastructure with a social programme. The borough is set to grow by 20,000 homes over 10 years – ‘if every household had a car and used it regularly, you wouldn’t be able to move on the road’, she said. And with big projects like Meridian Water there was a similar push in play. ‘I took the word road off all our major masterplanning’, said Cary. ‘They’re not roads; they’re streets’. While Declan O’Carroll of SNC-Lavalin’s Atkins Business said that smart tech, 5G and other technologies will also have a major impact on transport, Dar’s Dan Horner pointed to the growth of ‘micromobility’ – e-scooters, roller blades, hover boards and the like. The question for cities in that is essentially ‘where will it go?’, with some newer cities having the space to implement new ‘micromobility lanes’. ‘Cities need to be flexible to accommodate this growing sector’, he said, largely because the ‘last mile’ has an important part to play globally. Tech in streetlighting such as cameras to monitor abandoned vehicles will also come, said Bosch’s Neil Carter, and apps like that created by JustPark, said its Harry Lal, will provide integrated solutions to city traffic problems such as searching, navigating and paying for parking. Although Lal said he was not sceptical about autonomous vehicles, it was clear that we need to create an infrastructure for their arrival.

Other highlights of the day on the London stand included:

  • Waltham Forest talking about using culture as a bond and stepping stone for people in the borough. ‘We are asking developers to put culture into the DNA for their schemes’, said Stewart Murray
  • London should look to other cities and learn from their successes and mistakes on achieving appropriate densities, said Hadley’s Steve Kennard in a debate around the London model
  • News that the GLA is launching its Cultural Infrastructure Plan next Tuesday, Pam Alexander revealing it will have a toolkit and interactive map aimed at protecting London’s diverse culture and creative industries. London has lost a third of its music venues, Alexander added, but the draft London Plan is the most culturally-focused to date. 

Roll on, MIPIM 2020!

By David Taylor, Editor, NLQ

Programme sponsored by Toggle

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London at MIPIM 2019


Join the NLA team at London at MIPIM from 12-15 March 2019. Alongside an exhibition showcasing London’s best development opportunities, the dedicated London area hosts an NLA-curated programme of talks.