Skills are the challenge, not land, says New Londoner of the Year Tony Pidgley

Friday 8 July 2016

Tony Pidgley speaking at the New London Awards annual lunch © Agnese Sanvito

Berkeley chairman Tony Pidgley made a clarion call for the UK to ‘get on with it’ in life after Brexit as he accepted the NLA’s New Londoner of the Year award yesterday at the Guildhall. But he warned that the ‘big elephant in the room’ was ‘labour’ – 60% of which comes out of Europe – and the construction industry’s lack of skills in its bid to ease the housing crisis.

Pidgley was speaking as the NLA handed out its annual awards, including the overall winner to Peter Barber Architects for the practice’s Holmes Road Gardens Project.

Pidgley revealed that although he was ‘very much for remaining’ he felt the outcome was a protest vote from ‘disaffected working class people’ and now was the time to ‘get on with life’. ‘We have a great city, we have a great nation and we have to accept it, and I wish our politicians would get on with it’, he said. ‘We need certainty, a period of stability and we just need to be allowed to get on with it. We’re out of Europe now and we just have to accept it’. And although his own firm was ‘not having quite as bad a time as everybody wants us to say’, the concern now was that there are not enough brickies and other trades to go around and homes were taking ‘twice as long to build as it should do and used to do’.

‘I don’t think land is the challenge’, said Pidgley. ‘I think skills are the challenge’.

Pidgley also spoke of what he felt was the secret behind the success of Berkeley in creating places like Kidbrooke - essentially ‘just talking to the people’. ‘We listen to what they want’, he said, ‘we accommodate it’. But we have to build communities that will stand the test of time, he added, showing ‘respect’, as Berkeley did at Kidbrooke, and ‘saying please and thank you’. And he urged that more public land be released, that government take a decision on Heathrow and the much-needed Crossrail 2, and that stamp duty – ‘a tax on supply’ – be reviewed.

David Taylor, Editor, New London Quarterly

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View Tony Pidgley's speech in full here.

For the full list of winning projects click here.

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