Recently in urban regeneration Category
It started with a cup of tea and a Twix, as usual (sold to us by Beverley) and culminated in a bottle of wine with the Sheriff of Nottingham (I kid you not. I have photographic evidence, just as soon as I work out how to retrieve same from my wretched iPhone) at the Via Fosse.
Returning to work (with yet more extra pounds) I find myself looking to plan the spring/summer calendar in an attempt to be - uh - strategic. Ha! Well, you may laugh, since our entire schedule is bound up with the UKR Nottingham pilot, of course. I find myself gazing at Gantt charts, calling team meetings and tapping up QSs. We are hell bent on putting a brick on a brick out there!
But... what of cerebral debate around the issues of urban regeneration? I hear you ask. I immediately put to one side the risible pledge of Mr Livingstone to "reinstate the 50% social housing quota" (as some wag pointed out on Twitter, that wasn't remotely near being delivered, even in the boom years) and turn your attention to the real debate on real deliverables; which brings me neatly to one of the key things we are limbering up for - the Place East London Conference which takes place on 20 June at that glorious Victorian pile, Stratford Old Town Hall, E15 (or West Ham Town Hall, to the real aficionado).
And, though I say so myself, I think I leave SK in pretty good shape. And in pretty safe hands. With the amount of visible progress being made, South Kilburn is seriously becoming a "good news" story: multiple cranes can be seen swinging into action every morning and we have nothing short of a phoenix rising from the ashes of a crumbling 1960s council estate, with the decant programme now significantly underway, under the stewardship of the London Borough of Brent, as master developer and landowner.
No, I am hugely in love. The new object of my affections is Martin Kingston QC, the silky smooth planning Silk from No 5 Chambers. Ooh! He is gorgeous! A more fragrant and dapper figure you could not meet! So very clever. And what a mellifluous voice; a voice like Belgian chocolate!
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:
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.