Recently in private sector Category
And there is no doubt that the industry is crying out for our type of innovation; I went to event after event with people saying the same thing. But nobody seems to be actually doing it, they all just talk about it the whole time. There is no doubt that we are leapfrogging ahead. And, as a result, UKR has plenty of interest from investors (interestingly, many of them from outwith the property industry, who are interested in the IP/consumer piece) and we're sitting down with a whole bunch more of them tomorrow. And, to meet demand, I have been charged with working up the pipeline, along with getting Nottingham over the line (just not enough hours in the day right now!)
Dr Evans and Twitter drew my attention to the truly excellent definition of the Thames Gateway to be found in the UKR Regeneration Dictionary, viz: The Thames Gateway "A slightly silly name (how can a gateway be 40 miles long?) for a blameless and still largely unknown part of the South East where the standard of living is shockingly below the rest of the region for a surprisingly large proportion of the 1.5m population, and which, with thoughtful long-term planning and investment could become a much better and more attractive place to live and relieve the development pressure on other more congested locations elsewhere; but which had the misfortune to become a focus of government action, and a battleground between ill-informed brownfield romantics, development fetishists, regeneration fantasists and disaster junkies."
And we are only just beginning to catch up with a few things snuck out on press releases by CLG just before Christmas. Honestly, anyone would think that the department was trying to bury bad news. And actually, most of it seems like pretty good news.
One of the releases (put out on 21 December) is that a Peter Schofield has been appointed to be CLG director-general for neighbourhoods. A quick straw poll around the regeneration lags quickly confirmed that none of us know him. And, sure enough, he joins CLG from HM Treasury, where he was director of the enterprise and growth unit.
Greetings to 2012, then! Can I wish (as one of my more shy and retiring friends texted to me on January 1st ) that "the fleas of a thousand camels infest the **** of anyone who gets in your way and may their arms grow too short to scratch it". What a delightful sentiment.
But, before you ask, I've decided (from a wisdom born of years of failure) that New Year's resolutions totally suck. So... I've not made any resolutions this year. But let me be utterly foolhardy and make a prediction: this is the year when the private sector will truly step forward in urban regeneration.
I know I've been preaching a variant of this for some time but I genuinely think it will happen this year. It will always be the case that the quality of places, and the quality of life for the people who live in them, will ultimately depend on a combination of private and public actions. But as the public sector steps backwards, especially in terms of funding and control, the private sector, especially business, just HAS to step forward to fill the gap. So how to do it, you ask? Well the EG/UKR Build a Better Britain Regeneration Commission will continue to give you hints and tips in the weekly articles in the magazine. But, whilst you wait with bated breath for all of that, here are some quick and practical ideas on how to set about it:
The sun was streaming into City Hall (the Thames was twinkling), onto the great and good of the housing industry out in force. Charmaine Young of St George, in the most extraordinary feat, has corralled a massive number of industry leaders to produce the most formidable book Working Together. Delivering Growth through Localism (details can be found at www.berkeleygroup.co.uk/growth-and-localism). And it is a most assured treatment for the enlightened house builder. She is indeed a force to be reckoned with. And everyone was there.
I am seriously glad we are embarked on this course, we've all seen there was more bad news yesterday with the banner headlines on the million young people unemployed, and there isn't a moment to lose.
And this is the week that Greg Clark's (in my view, splendid) Localism Bill became law. Technically, he may have given the Commission the exact tools to do its job.
I have hung rather a lot onto Greg Clark's "General Power of Competence" for local authorities, due to become statute in the forthcoming Decentralisation Bill, and I would sincerely hope that I am not wrong to do so. But only the other day in conversation a (very) leading property developer dismissed it as "smoke and mirrors", which I found a little alarming. I didn't argue with him at the time (well, you don't) but it got me thinking. Having managed to get a number of projects away through the principle that you - ahem - "fake it until you make it" (Paddington being a prima facie example of this) I am quite a believer in "smoke and mirrors" really. I guess any local authority worth their salt which can tell a good story, demonstrate it has the support of the community (and stakeholders and service providers), invoke its powers (planning and what-have-you) and - better still - offer up some land, has all to play for. Call it smoke and mirrors if you like, it would imbue confidence.
It might be helpful to look at examples of proactive local authorities already in action, even now (perhaps, especially now). Regeneration projects are still being delivered though PPP in places like Lambeth of course and another excellent example of a local authority playing in its assets to great effect is at South Kilburn, where the London Borough of Brent is currently master-planning an extraordinary turnaround.
What a laugh we had. He lives up to his reputation for being good company, he and Trevor Moross were on truly excellent form. I asked him whether the tale that does the rounds of the Mayfair Village about him bringing in his own secretary, at his own expense, at the age of 19, when he was working for Edward ("Eddie") Erdman is an urban myth. And, bless him, he confirmed it all to be true. And he went on to tell me stories of how he was just SUCH an upstart that he would, in the days before fax or e-mail, just take it upon himself to deliver letters, from Eddie or others, personally by hand (as a service to the firm, of course). And these to the likes of Lord Beaverbrook or Jimmy Goldsmith. He said: "I would say to the client, never mind what it says in there, this is what I think," and then give his own version of advice to whichever big-wig he was with at the time. We were agreed that he must have been a thoroughly obnoxious young man to have working in your firm (and it is a real testament to Eddie that he gave him houseroom). We rocked with laughter at the thought. As you know, I am always banging on that the property industry needs to modernise, but I still think we need to celebrate our colourful characters: they make the world go around. It was a real privilege to sit in such illustrious company.
Just a bit grand for me, though, all of that. A bit daunting. I've certainly come a long way from being the girl that does community consultation in the Tap Room of the Dog and Duck (might be left behind...but never forgotten).