Jasmine Whitbread's speech at Building London Summit 2020
29 January 2020
Morning everyone. Welcome to Building London, hosted by London First and Grosvenor.
This is the beginning of a new decade.
Ahead of us lies:
A new industrial revolution, with transformative potential for public services, business and quality of life…
A renewed appetite for investment, with businesses keen to channel money into facilities, equipment and training…
And most of all, a new opportunity for London to leverage both of those things in the interests of the whole country. Cities, towns, villages. North and South. East and West.
To make this the new ‘roaring twenties’, financial services, manufacturing, utilities, academia, government departments, trade unions – everyone needs to do their bit.
And for everyone involved in Building London, whether through policymaking, running businesses or even carrying the hods, there is an inescapable role to play.
And as we make the capital an attractive place to live, work and play, we all acknowledge the need for the whole of the UK to see the benefit. What we must avoid is a zero-sum game.
Absolutely vital to getting this right is:
One: spending on infrastructure – unlocking private funding, leading to massive economic payback. HS2. Crossrail 2. Northern Powerhouse Rail. Projects that that connect the entire country;
Two: grip a housing crisis that has left an 8.6 annual billion-pound black hole in the middle of London’s housebuilding ambitions – we need more land, more money and better ways of building;
And three, particularly relevant as we move into the Brexit transition period in two days’ time: create a fair and managed immigration system, so businesses can access talent while their upskilling programmes take root.
Acting on those three things would be great. And they are all 100% in the government’s gift.
But it isn’t all down to them.
Whoever becomes Mayor in May will have huge influence when it comes to shaping London in the 2020s.
We’ve all been delighted to see so many references to the built environment from the candidates. From housing, to business premises, to tree-planting.
But there’s still room for more ambition. So how about these for some ideas:
For starters: make the high street work or risk it dying a slow death. We’re launching a new report today on how we think you do that.
I get why we only want a certain number of vaping shops or cafes per street.
But like it or not, current planning rules and restrictions around change-of-use can encourage the proliferation of vacant spaces, in search of a dreamland of butchers, bakers and candlestick makers.
So why not relax those rules?
Why not make it easier for short-term tenants to fill empty shops while the owner searchers for longer-term residents?
Our report is brimming with ideas – from a database of pop-ups through to new creating a new vision for our town centres – all of which have the single aim of keeping the high street at the heart of our communities, making it work for residents, entrepreneurs, developers and businesses alike.
The thread that runs through these recommendations is flexibility.
Today’s planning and zoning restrictions are well-meant. But they are also proscriptive.
At London First, we’ve seen huge changes throughout the capital since our foundation. From Soho to Docklands to Paddington.
Everyone bangs on about London’s creativity. Well let’s prove it: let’s encourage creativity in our planning laws to ensure commercial developers can deliver truly visionary spaces that work for an ever-changing London.
Because London never stands still: today, we’re announcing the winning schemes that will be backed by the West End Streets Group, as we continue to improve the public realm.
Marble Arch will be reimagined as the gyratory is reconfigured and the arch is given a more deserving setting. Charing Cross Road will be improved, smartened up and decluttered, connecting theatre land via streets worthy of the great names treading the boards. We’ll be backing them all the way, while continuing our support for the Strand/Aldwych project.
Later today we will hear from four runners in the race for City Hall. And I hope they will also use today as an opportunity to listen:
To the will of the property sector who create the thriving spaces that help to keep London at the top of its game…
To the ideas that we have…
And most of all, to the needs of 21st century London, and Londoners.
Ultimately, as people go to cast their vote, they will be looking to the next Mayor to provide solutions to these issues: starting with the housing crisis and flowing all the way through to our high streets, our communities and our infrastructure.
Thank you. Have a great day, and I hope to speak to as many of you as possible.
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