London councils are building homes again: huge regeneration projects and housing plans unveiled at MIPIM property conference in Cannes
This week the London property world — developers, councils, planners and architects — have decamped to Cannes in the South of France for the annual MIPIM real estate conference.
With just two weeks to go to Brexit the atmosphere is tense but positive, with 28,000 professionals and politicians taking advantage of the global networking opportunities to mix and match with developers and investors in a bid to secure deals in a less than secure world.
Most years the London Stand at MIPIM is the setting for the unveiling of new large-scale projects.
The uncertainty of Brexit has meant that this year a lot of boroughs and developers are keeping their powder dry.
One of the stars of the London Stand is Darren Rodwell, leader of Barking & Dagenham council, who recently warned developers: “If you’re coming to my borough and doing something my people don’t want, you’re no friend of mine. I didn’t fight the BNP to let developers run all over us.”
A fresh plan for Barking
No one could accuse Darren of being in developers’ pockets but he is keen to attract investment to his borough, whether it’s from the City of London or mainland China. And MIPIM is a good place to start.
Steve Curran, Labour leader of Hounslow council, says such investment is essential: “In these uncertain times, with no clear direction regarding Brexit, we have to look for investment wherever we can find it.
Fresh plan for Barking: new homes and regeneration
“If the borough is to grow and develop to meet the aspirations of our residents, then it is essential that we actively engage in promoting the investment opportunities that Hounslow offers.”
Darren Rodwell’s profile in Cannes is heightened by the absence of London Mayor Sadiq Khan and the fact that he is also representing London’s councils — the association for all the boroughs — Tory, Lib-Dem and Labour.
The Mayor avoids Cannes because he is sensitive to the views of the Left. However, he is now facing increasing criticism from the developers and councils who are trying to build the 66,000 homes he wants for not engaging more actively with them.
The focus is very much on councils delivering their own developments with Barking & Dagenham’s regeneration company, Be First, showing its new Gascoigne East housing scheme, designed by Swedish firm White Arkitekter, bringing Scandinavian experience to the borough of modular construction, sustainability and public spaces.
London’s other developments
Croydon’s housing company Brick by Brick is building infill housing as well as larger developments in the centre of the borough.
Outer London is increasingly a focus for new development with Harrow, Hounslow, Ealing, Enfield, Havering and Merton, as well as the Cambridge Corridor, in the limelight.
In the absence of the Mayor the promotion of London is being driven by London and Partners, his official promotional agency, who talk about London’s ability to constantly reinvent itself; about the innovative architects, engineers, designers and planners that work in London.
They cite schemes such as King’s Cross, Croydon town centre, Old Oak Common and Here East at the Queen Elizabeth Olympic Park in Stratford as examples of powerful collaboration between councils, industry and universities.
This all makes London the world’s top real estate market. Last year £27 billion in commercial real estate investment flowed into the city, the highest of any in the world.
The deputy mayor for planning, Jules Pipe, is in Cannes meeting with both London and international designers, developers and investors.
He’s meeting with deputy mayors from other major cities to learn from their experience and to tell them about London’s policy of “good growth by design” which highlights standards of architecture, spaces between buildings and the size of homes.
It also focuses on how to build more homes, faster, without losing quality. Darren Rodwell thinks we need to do more.
“Look at the Isle of Dogs and Stratford. You’ve got the haves and the have-nots and they don’t intertwine. Stratford was supposed to be a legacy. But for whom?”
In the past, planning was just about buildings. Today the discussion is increasingly focused around people.