Day two on the London at MIPIM stand represented something of an exploration of collaboration and communities.
Curating diverse places
While there was an example of bad collaboration in the current government, said Ros Morgan of the Heart of London BID, the general BID model provided the other end of the spectrum. But another way of ensuring that communities prosper is to curate sufficient mixed tenure schemes, said Jonathan Martin of Waltham Forest in a session on ‘maximising value’. The Blackhorse Workshops in his borough are a good example of this, providing much needed workspace that has already been expanded twice to meet demand. And when it comes to consultation, the wider the audience, the better the process, said VUCity’s Jamie Hawthorn. The key to that lies in engaging with time-poor people, with web-based platforms providing a potential solution.
Back to basics – and ‘experience’ - for high streets
Perhaps, though, it is a more traditional approach that is needed when it comes to attending to the needs of the high street. Ravaged by a sries of recent high profile CVAs and closures, high streets across the UK have had a bad run of late. But maybe it is time to recognise that they need much more than just retail in their new iterations, found a panel exploring town centres 2050 and whether communities have a role in shaping them. Revo’s Edward Cooke said there is ‘only a life for urban centres beyond retail’. ‘Places will only exist with a greater and more diverse mix of uses which retail will remain absolutely at the core of’, he contended, albeit complemented by residential, cultural, leisure, and other uses. Indeed, High streets need to be, in essence, more about ‘experience’ said First Base’s Steve Eccles. Retail has a place, but we may see something of a harking back to Victorian times with what Lambert Smith Hampton’s Dr Steven Norris termed the customer-service-based approach with the ‘old traders of yesteryear’ - the butcher, baker, and candle-stick maker.
Communities need to shape our cities because they are the ones using it, said dRMM’s Sadie Morgan, who also cited Jane Jacobs that we ‘need to reinvent our city centres where the theatre of life can thrive’. The industry must refocus on improving people’s quality of lives. ‘We need to be sure that we are regaining our specialness’, said Morgan, ‘and town centres are where that can happen’
Good growth as housing’s golden thread
Housing is a big part of that picture too. A session on ‘Good Growth – delivering the homes London needs’ opened with Homes England’s Sir Edward Lister emphasising that the key message the GLA wanted to get across is that it is all about ‘design and place’ in the push to build more homes. And London has ‘no choice’ but to bring in new forms of construction including modular given the backdrop of a sharo decline in construction skills. The GLA’s Debbie Jackson echoed that, saying that 65,000 units are the goal but are not enough – good growth is that which enables all Londoners to share in their benefits and is the ‘golden thread’ running through City Hall. Stuart Baillie of GL Hearn said that tall buildings will play a major part in providing some of those homes, but it was ‘staggering’ that there are some 290,000 unimplemented planning permissions in London. Growth has also got to include things like culture and learning, said Croydon’s Shifa Mustafa, as they are in her borough, which RIBA president Ben Derbyshire said he ‘loved’ especially in a campaign against permitted development rights, the ‘biggest undermining factor in causing human misery in our city’.
Brexit, of course, will have an impact, and Jackson said it was at the top of GLA’s risk register, staff being at pains to talk to other cities to demonstrate the mayor’s view that we are as much a part of Europe as we were yesterday. But there is no doubt that the impact on knowledge and skills will be really serious and difficult to recover from and especially if a no-deal outcome emerged, Derbyshire said, a position the Institute had been disseminating.
Build to rent, and building trust
Build to rent has also a part to play in the housing picture, but, said Simon Harding-Roots of Grosvenor, is a tricky one to make stack up. The key to it is a genuine depth of offer, he said, and the area ‘has got to be given a chance to unlock the housing issue’. For Ealing Council’s Julian Bell it was trust that needed to be re-established, and it was important for politicians like himself to associate with developers, be at places like MIPIM and say why they are here. Ealing has a track record on housing delivery, is ‘open for business’, was the first borough to deal with the issue of estate ballots and ‘takes its residents with us’. But although Ealing has advantages of connectivity, the downside is that this is making it more unaffordable, and the borough intends to bear down on rogue landlords allowing residents to live ‘in pretty terrible conditions’. The trick to build to rent for Aecom’s John Lewis is having a product that has long term rental with movement across generations in your scheme. Successful build-to-rent schemes will also be those that are more about service and community and make people want to live there long-term, rather than as a ‘pit-stop’ he added. A sustainable future also lies in the creation of an affordable rental product, said Avison Young’s Richard Stonehouse.
New visions, Old Kent Road
Finally, the Old Kent Road was the subject of a session chaired by Paul Finch, who said there were a series of ‘development opportunities’ there that could be great for the local communities despite the opposition that terms sometimes brings forth, but that much was focused on ‘meanwhile transport’ – areas waiting for key transport projects to happen. For Farrells partner Max Farrell, the OKR was a great example of pro-active planning, with a well thought-through action plan. Farrells are the architects behind one of the first schemes to come forward, at Ruby Triangle, with tall buildings of 47, 39 and 29 storeys among them. But a lot of this, though, is predicated on the Bakerloo Line Extension coming through, and it was critical to get the government to give more certainty about that happening, with its cost-benefit analysis coming up very well in comparison with Crossrail 2.
For Peabody’s Dick Mortimer it is key to bring the OKR principles on and through into lower density areas in Kent, but it was worrying to see planning permissions with sites not developed out. NLA’s Lara Kinneir said that one thing that will hopefully help will be the creation of a new ‘urban room’ at 231 Old Kent Road to engage the community and bring developers together in one place and disseminate information and schemes about the area. It will also aim to bring together some of the council’s different departments, ‘bringing the pieces together’, she said. And Steve Kennard of Hadley Property Group said that the extraordinary thing about the Old Kent Road Action Plan was that it sets out a clear vision for the area, with an ambitious thrust, and represents a good, potentially replicable argument for having an identifiable person such as Colin Wilson for similar regeneration projects, at its helm.
By David Taylor, Editor, NLQ