Postcard from MIPIM - Wednesday

Wednesday 16 March 2016

Subjects as wide-ranging as developing schools within high-rise mixed use buildings on the Isle of Dogs, creating a new generation of office buildings with healthy living in mind and easing London’s ‘catastrophic’ affordable housing scenario all came under the microscope at NLA events on the London stand at MIPIM this morning.

The schools point was raised by the GLA’s Stewart Murray at a session on Canary Wharf and South Quay, with 19 new schools needed on the Isle of Dogs to cater for increased need, and some 28 new towers being built in the area. London needed to look to international models in Hong Kong and elsewhere, said Murray, to learn and adopt new models of high density and mixed use.

In a session on active design and wellbeing, there was a similar requirement to look abroad, especially to Australia, when it comes to learning about exemplary techniques in designing office spaces to ‘energise’ workers, said Lend Lease’s Ian Crockford. Never mind the sugar tax - ‘Sitting is the new smoking’, he said. ‘We’re desperate to bring in experience on other parts of the world. The UK is really slow on the uptake.’ At Stratford it is designing the ‘chassis’ of a building which fits the new workplace, with open plan and more visible staircases, and, said RIBA president Jane Duncan, we need to do more than just reports, and move wellbeing further up the political agenda, given the economic and associated benefits.

The benefits of well-designed public space are becoming more important as the lure of cities across the world is changing, according to a session called  ‘Why global cities rule the world’. The global hierarchy is changing fast, said Savills’ Yolande Barnes, with everything is in flux because of the digital age. When you can work anywhere, anytime, the quality of the space you choose is becoming more important. ‘It’s all about people’, she said, and ‘upstart cities’ like Dublin and Berlin are punching above their weight in terms of quality and life, with an era of ‘urban dispersal’ likely to result. ‘The future is still urban’ said Barnes, ‘but it’s about smaller places.’

Perhaps, said NBBJ’s David Lewis, there is a major flip going on where people live their lives more publicly – mostly in the workplace – than in the past. ‘I think there is a shift in how we see our lives.’

The housing supply issue, though, has reached ‘catastrophic levels’ in the UK, said Turley’s Michael Lowndes, and many of the measures in the Housing and Planning Bill may lead to a long-term reduction in affordable housing numbers and a loss of mixed and balanced communities. For London, one size does not fit all, he said, and the capital perhaps needs a more bespoke solution. The GLA’s David Lunts said it was not yet known how the bill’s proposed planning in principle will work, while for Westminster’s Cllr Robert Davis it would be more sensible to think of housing issues on a London-wide basis, since money for the sector could go further in Waltham Forest of Bromley. And for Mount Anvil’s Killian Hurley, the bill gives a few steps in the right direction, but is just not radical enough. After generation rent, what we need is ‘generation availability’, he said, with less political dogma interfering.  Perhaps, said Lunts again, it was time to look at housing afresh, especially given the ‘revolution’ that has gone on in transport. ‘It’s time we started treating housing like we’ve been treating public transport for the last 20 years’, he said.

Finally in this review of MIPIM highlights, there was an interview with LCCI president and Berkeley Group chairman Tony Pidgley, conducted by London Communications Agency’s Robert Gordon Clark, in ‘Michael Parkinson style.’

London needed to rethink its attitude to the elements of the Green Belt which were less idyllic green trees and more scrapyards and unused haulage yards, to bring them back into use. Why couldn’t housing become a force for good, he asked, and why so much Nimbyism? It is housing that leads the economy, and government’s ‘ill conceived’ stamp duty arrangements threaten to derail the economy by ‘locking up’ housing and running it toward  the ‘r’ word: recession. Meanwhile the densities in perhaps 650 of the council estates in and around London could be trebled, said Pidgley and with local authority leaders being ever more the driving force of their areas, why could they not form the Assembly?

Finally, simmering behind it all, there was the prospect of BREXIT. Anything that affects businesses in their day-to-day running, affecting cash flow, hits the market, said Pidgley. ‘It’s having a serious effect and we need it dealt with’, he said. 

By David Taylor, Editor, NLQ.


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