If Estates Gazette can run an "end of term report" (see the 19 December issue of the magazine) then so can UK Regeneration!
First to say, we are thrilled to report that the Regeneration Commission, established by UKR and EG to underpin our Building a Better Britain campaign, has explicitly recognised that the changed policy and fiscal environment brings both new responsibilities and new opportunities for our sector.
We have been vocal in our rallying call to businesses and localities to step up to the challenge. We set out five principles around which the debate should be taken forward: taking responsibility; engaging with people; valuing the long term; balancing society; getting local.
We are working together to address the challenges facing the sector and forging a future for regeneration.
We may well be experiencing tectonic shifts (and I'm not just talking about my head this morning, after yet more Christmas partying yesterday!). No, the major shifts to which I refer are in property investment trends.
First, there was widespread reporting this week on the trend towards less investment in house-building firms. Citigroup revised its "buy" recommendation in both Barratt Developments and Bovis Homes, prompting share prices in both companies to fall.
I have now been partying - hard - for two solid days, starting with my champagne tea in the Landmark with Alan J Smith OBE DL on Monday (remind me to tell you about "Marilyn, the Dove of Love, in a Jo Malone bag" when I see you. I kid you not. It was hysterical). So I was, understandably, a little bleary this morning as I awoke from my (ahem) beauty sleep to find that the NPPF is yet again the lead item on the R4 Today programme. The select committee report on the NPPF was issued at midnight, and Clive Betts, the committee chair, was certainly up with the lark at 6.50am. And he seemed to communicate that the report was somewhat hostile, with the now familiar whiff of bureaucracy and green tone.
Of course, on closer scrutiny (thanking you Dr Evans) it would appear that the select committee report on the draft NPPF is nothing like as rabid as the press are making out. Rather than calling for a rewrite of the draft, it says: "There was little evidence of any desire to either retain the existing system or to start again on the NPPF." So, actually, this is a right result for Greg Clark and Grant Shapps, who are to be congratulated on achieving this extraordinary degree of consensus in what was a very fevered arena. And they are also to be congratulated on preparing to be open to further improvement when they look at what has been proposed.
So... the Financial Times this morning says that the Portas solutions "will not help" and that its "mixed bag" will do little to reverse the migration out of town. What on earth did they expect, I wonder? Surely, if there was a silver bullet we'd have found it by now.
More hilariously, in The Times the City Diary reports "the self-styled retail guru went on Twitter on Wednesday to attack a journalist who trivialised her "groundbreaking" report suggesting her new series should be called "Mary Queen of Strops"". Oooh I am so jealous! I would so like a series called "Jackie, Queen of Strops" even if it doesn't have quite the same ring (btw, pour amuser, at the Movers and Shakers brekkie in the Dorchester the other day, the great David Jennings described me as the "Queen of Regeneration". Bless. Brian Paddick, Lib Dem Mayoral candidate next to me on the platform piped up "I thought he was going to describe me as "Queen of London"!" Oh love him! Audience just loved it of course).
We had a little UKR Christmas bash last Thursday evening (a bit hard on me, as I had to get up at the crack of dawn the next morning to get to Cranfield) and, given that we are a bit messianic about our stuff, of course, we had a little debate as well as a glass of wine (thanking you Clyde & Co) and we invited a known luminary to give a party piece. Our brilliant speaker (no, I am not naming him, save his blushes) was Someone In The Know on the greatest regeneration debate of our time; a senior chap who was part of the central government team on the Olympics! And, but of course, we were debating Olympics legacy and its potential place (or not) in the firmament of the urban regeneration history books.
The whole issue of "Legacy" is a big part of Olympics thinking these days, our guest reported. And this is partly driven by the hard-nosed political reality that we need to mitigate the vast sums now spent on the games, but partly "because there is something quasi-religious about the whole thing, and enthusiasts really believe the Olympics has some supernatural dimension". This is despite the fact that Barcelona is the only Olympics (or any other major event come to that) where people talk about a positive legacy (and indeed it could be argued that much of the success of Barcelona was as much down to easyjet as Olympics). Nobody ever talks about the Olympics legacy in Athens, Beijing or Sydney, do they? And shouldn't we usefully ask: why not?
Nevertheless "Legacy shtick" clearly played a big part in the London bid, with a particular emphasis on the word "regeneration". Of course bid documents, as we all know (because we've all been there), are generally written by marketing men who have no interest and involvement about if and how these things might be realised. But it is a risky business all this! Because once something appears in the bid it is a "legacy promise" and a "bid commitment" and it has to be delivered.
The announcement of the "delay" to the decision on HS2 this week would not have pleased my hosts at the Birmingham event I attended last Tuesday (in the rather glamorous - and huge - Opus restaurant) with 70 or so of the cream of the crop in the West Midlands property sector.
Courtesy of Harvey Ingram and Savills, the UKR model had another outing and I was delighted to be speaking alongside Anne Marie Simpson of the HCA who delivered a message of real encouragement to the market-facing peeps in the audience. Her overarching theme of unlocking regeneration and her call to action, saying that the HCA is actively seeking to work with the private sector to locate and develop sites, and her willingness to look at risk sharing, commercializing, long-game returns and robust up-front planning, must have poured balm on troubled souls.
And you get a real sense that there's a "grown up conversation" to be had there. The audience liked the UKR concept too and I was offered a number of follow-up meetings (and I will get around to all of you guys, I promise, but I'm a bit in short of supply right now and it may be in the new year, bear with me).
I'm sorry if I went a bit quiet on you all there. Contrary to popular belief, this had nothing to do with the Autumn Statement, which I've sort of blanked (might get around to thinking about it later this week, I guess, once Dr Evans produces a coupla sound bites). And, yes, I've certainly been right busy with UKR but - even more exciting - I've been on tour. As I keep telling my team (not that I think they buy any of it): "I'm like a rock star, me."
Oooh, the glamour! Last week I was in Sheffield on Monday, I was in Birmingham on Tuesday. And I was in... er... the Dorchester Hotel, Park Lane, on Wednesday morning. Well, somebody has to. I hope to get around to telling tales from all of this, but in the meantime, let me tell you this: what goes on tour certainly does NOT stay on tour! I have come back brimming with ideas and new contacts (not to mention a shed load of sites to give the lovely Jon Bull-Diamond of JLL a bit of a headache, ha-ha! Bread-on-the-water JBD, don't you dare complain!). It's been a right giddy whirl!