How can London learn to love regeneration and embrace the idea of ‘good growth’?

by Dave Hill

Next month, On London and the London Society are holding a debate about regeneration and how “good growth” can be achieved in a city which urgently needs to build more as its population rises towards 10 million, yet faces significant resistance to doing the sorts of things required to make that happen. There is a knotty problem here – a paradox, a conundrum, a dilemma. More housing in particular is urgently desired, but regeneration tensions seem to be heightening in many parts of the capital. How can they best be resolved?

The debate panel will comprise Colin Wilson, formerly of the GLA who is now in charge of Southwark’s regeneration plans for Old Kent Road; Waltham Forest Council leader Clare Coghill (interviewed here); Lisa Taylor, chief executive of Future of London (more about her here); and Tim Gledstone of architects Squire and Partners. I will be chairing. And I hope that by the end of the evening, a clearer picture will have emerged of the way forward.

There are some lessons to be learned from the recent past. One example, which I’ve been covering for nine years, is the very large and very stalled Earls Court redevelopment project. Every since the then Conservative administration of Hammersmith & Fulham began pushing the scheme, in partnership with Transport for London and Boris Johnson, it has seemed to me a bad idea: not enough additional affordable housing; a bad attitude to housing estate residents; too few benefits to London compared with the losses, notably of the Earls Court exhibition centre.

Capital and Counties (Capco), the Earls Court project developer, has recently slashed its valuation of the scheme to £1bn and revealed plans to separate it from the rest of its business. The Berkeley Group is reported to have been talking to Capco about buying it, which would usher in a whole new chapter of the saga. Should Berkeley become the new owners, an opportunity to find a creative solutions to the scheme’s many problems might be created and Sadiq Khan, a champion of “good growth”, should sit down with Berkeley boss Tony Pidgley without delay. The local government grapevine says that Pidgley has long been keen to spend more time with him.

Another cautionary regeneration tale concerns a housing scheme alone – the West Hendon estate regeneration in Barnet. This has run into problems for a number of reasons and Adam Langleben, who represented the area as a Labour councillor before losing his seat on 3 May, has written a valuable article about what he has learned about securing and retaining support for estate regenerations from his attempts to stick up for West Hendon residents. He writes:

The West Hendon Estate in my mind remains the most outrageous of regeneration projects nationally. Barnet Council wilfully decided to dispose of a council estate without really getting any meaningful social or long term economic benefit from the disposal. It was so Shirley Porter-esqe you really wouldn’t have believed it was possible in the year 2014.

Adam comes up with six steps for restoring confidence in housing regeneration schemes, describing them as “pragmatic but radical”: Read the whole thing here.

If you want a seat at the On London/London Society good growth debate, don’t waste any time. Most of the tickets have already been sold and there is now a good chance of a full house. Book your tickets via here.

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