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Notes from MIPIM: A sideways glance at the property summit

Our chief executive, Jo Valentine, was at MIPIM this week and kept a diary of her time at the world’s leading property summit.

Monday 9 March 2015

Bumped into Ian Mulcahey of Gensler at the JLL drinks (our joint pre MIPIM event which has become a MIPIM staple – informal and good networking; Ed Lister [London’s Dep Mayor for Planning] was in good form. JLL had red squares which you walked on at the entrance which generated power for the marquis – cool).

Ian is a creative brain who thinks big about international cities. You may recall Gensler came up with the idea for a river park along the banks of the city a few years ago. And they won an award again at our London Planning Awards this year for an idea for creating cycleways in disused tunnels.

Anyway, the point is he told me that the New York Times has just moved its digital media head office to London. Alongside the Guardian and the Mail digital media centres, and Bloomberg, etc. this is beginning to make us a serious hub.

So then we got to speculating. All the media moved out of Fleet Street to follow their printing presses a while ago. But now that Goldman Sachs is about to leave the old Telegraph building in Fleet Street, isn’t it time for digital media to return to the location of their forebears?

And finally, in passing, one of our new meeting rooms is called “Fleet” after the hidden river that passes by.

Tuesday 10 March 2015

Took our new partner, Winckworth Sherwood to breakfast in the Carlton. €126 for three of us! Wow. Just for coffee (or the vert in my case) and a croissant (although Faraz [Baber, London First head of planning policy] had beans on toast). Karen Cooksley, partner at Winckworth Sherwood, was wearing a glamorous red dress. She says she always wears something loud at MIPIM so she can be noticed. We sorted out opportunity areas, infrastructure investment and tax. Despite the cost, it was a very civilised breakfast in the sun on the terrace.

I’m hoping Karen’s infrastructure partners will come to our London Infrastructure Summit on 25 March. Should be good value, finishing with Lord Adonis, Baroness Kramer and Steve Norris in a transport fisticuffs.

Tuesday 10 March 2015 cont.

Good lunch with Ric Blakeway, London’s deputy mayor for housing (who incidentally has in the past advised the government of Somaliland). His topic was how do we get house building up to 50,000 a year? We all concluded that was very difficult . . . But some insights . . .

The Greater London Authority should have a group of planning officers which it lends out to boroughs when there are big, complicated projects locally which they simply don’t have enough resource to deal with. Westminster Property Association has paid for planners in Westminster Council, can’t we do the same London-wide? If you were to build 200,000 houses a year nationally it would require an increase in the labour pool of one million people in house building. Is it realistic to expect the construction industry to cope?

Negotiations about viability are time consuming – surely there’s a better way? Some sort of fixed tariff? But how do you agree the tariff?

Ric is also looking for private rented accommodation on a third of new housing zones.

Anyway, the upshot was, if we are going to double house building in London we are going to have to explore new paradigms. We need the mayoralty to try some new approaches on public sector land – like covenants for PRS, fixed tariffs, tax breaks for innovations etc.

The Chancellor and the Mayor announced a new land commission to get some of the public sector land in London out to market. Let’s see some trailblazing on this land. And as Ric pointed out, he’s only got a year left of this Mayoralty so what’s to lose?

Wednesday 11 March

An AECOM breakfast this morning. Steve Norris, chairman of Soho Estates, arrived just in time chair as his blackberry was still on English time.

Good report on London 2065 by AECOM, particularly making the point about the need to plan across the South East. (They’re working with us on our Global Cities Business Alliance – where we’re bringing together business leaders from across the world – which is helpful.)

Some stats that hit home:

  • 20 million people live in the South East. We are already a mega city, with many of those commuting into central London.
  • To satisfy housing requirements we would need to build three garden cities a year.

There were also worries about the consequences of climate change on London in this time frame. Will our financial district and the Thames Gateway be under water?

Robert Evans, executive director and partner at Argent, in good form as my neighbour – speculating on AECOM’s suggestion that Brent Cross needs to become a mega node since they’ve got projects there. As an aside we had a chat about “dashboards”, “KPIs” and the like. He has a new alternative to “smart” objectives: “DUMB” – meaning dubious, unmeasurable, manufactured and biased!

Steve concluded with the words “the future begins tomorrow”.

Thursday 12 March 2015

Ah. I have just come from playing the piano on the Arup yacht! Well, and giving a brief speech on “transport leading to development”, followed by a discussion. Victoria Hills, director at the Old Oak and Park Royal Development Corporation, also spoke on the Old Oak Common Mayoral Development Corporation. Both a huge challenge and opportunity. Having both a Crossrail and HS2 station is quite something.

Ed Lister was in thoroughly good form at our annual bash for about 100 of the leading property people in Cannes.

He rightly claimed that London had done well on investment in infrastructure and jobs growth during this Mayoral term. However, we are less productive than New York. If we could match their productivity that would equate to 500,000 jobs.

He referred to the new cultural quarter in Stratford (the one Boris calls Olympicopolis) and how the V & A, UCL and Saddlers Wells moving in were helping to completely redefine the area.

We talked about how to get house building up. His advice to the next Mayor is “do more Mayoral Development Corporations”.

He also urged everyone to reply to the current consultation on S106 (developer contributions to the wider community) which is suggesting that these should be agreed within 16 weeks (some take as long as two years!)

Very good tone to the event generally – and pleased that George Iacobescu, chairman and chief executive of Canary Wharf Group, came straight from the airport to attend. (Just in case anyone’s confused by takeover arrangements he’s very much still in charge!)

I also saw Claire Kober, leader of Haringey council. All sorts of interesting bits and pieces – making sure we get speedy rail access to Stansted as soon as possible, the football club and its expansion plans, further regeneration plans around Tottenham Hale with a wonderful green lung. Good news on investment in rail access within London (known as the star project).

On to lunch with Segro. who own land around Old Oak Common; everything connects in MIPIM) – I think the biggest industrial land owner in London; Park Royal and much more, plus what was called the “Slough Estates” – important connection to Heathrow.

A parting thought, since we recently released a report on the truth about the greenbelt – last night someone described the Wormwood Scrubs greenbelt land as a “dogs’ toilet”, which should be traded for some much better open space.

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