London’s business chiefs step up to transform public spaces at Aldwych, Hanover Square and East Mayfair

London’s business chiefs today threw their support behind three key projects that promise to transform public spaces in Aldwych, Hanover Square and East Mayfair.

The influential West End Streets group, set up by London First, brings together the likes of The Portman Estate, Arup, The Crown Estate and Grosvenor Britain and Ireland to work with the West End Business Improvement Districts to confirm funding and delivery of key London public realm projects.

The group helped deliver the transformation of Leicester Square in 2012 and continues to champion schemes that will make a significant difference to London’s public spaces.

The three schemes unveiled today, in Aldwych, Hanover Square and East Mayfair, are significant projects for London, promising to open up public spaces, improve air quality and conditions for pedestrians and cyclists and deliver benefits to residents, visitors and local businesses. All three schemes are deliverable within the next five years.

• The Aldwych Vision: an ambitious scheme centred on the removal of the Aldwych gyratory and the creation of a new civic space at the heart of the area.
• Hanover Square: the project will renovate gardens at the centre of the square, and pedestrianise part of it, ahead of the opening of the Elizabeth Line station at Bond Street.
• East Mayfair: plans to improve public spaces and reduce congestion on streets including Saville Row, Cork Street, Burlington Gardens, Clifford Street and Old Burlington Street. The improvements will open-up routes through the West End and support the opening of the new Royal Academy of Arts entrance on Burlington Gardens.

Jasmine Whitbread, chief executive of London First, said: “The plans for Aldwych, Hanover Square and East Mayfair promise to transform the areas, making them more open, accessible and attractive for residents, local businesses and the millions of people who visit the West End each year. To make sure they don’t get stuck on the drawing board, business is joining forces to champion the work, delivering real ambition and investment for London and our world-famous streets.”

Bill Moore CBE, Chief Executive of The Portman Estate and Chair of the West End Streets group, said: “West End Streets has been successful in backing schemes such as the Baker Street Two Way in Marylebone and the work to revitalise Bond Street in the preparation for the opening of the Elizabeth Line. The three schemes announced today will continue this momentum. They will improve public realm, reduce traffic congestion, enhance air quality and enable growth in the respective areas, delivering a better environment for residents, workers and visitors. We look forward to working with local authorities, TfL, business improvement districts and other stakeholders to deliver these improvements.”

The West End Streets group was established in 2007 and has helped deliver projects including the transformation of Leicester Square, the roll out of ‘Legible London’, which provides over 200 wayfinding signs across central London, and the ‘Summer Streets’ initiative which sees the annual pedestrianisation of Regent Street for four Sundays in July.

Media contacts

Emma Hutchinson, head of media relations
Ehutchinson@londonfirst.co.uk
020 7665 1422 / 07852 030 305

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A fortnight of action on Brexit priorities

As the clock continues to count down to March 2019, we have been busy setting out our stall on what business needs from government to keep London, and the UK, competitive. Last week, we presented what the capital’s employers want to see from the UK’s post-Brexit immigration approach.

The proposal follows input from over 200 of London’s employers and sets out three key routes into the UK post-Brexit; a minimum salary threshold, identified shortage skills and exceptional talent, with a 2019 cut-off date for EU citizens. Combined with an effective system that reduces unnecessary administrative costs, alongside the robust checks and balances the UK needs to restore public confidence in immigration, this new approach could deliver a fair immigration system that works for the UK.

Our proposal was featured in the Financial Times, with support from The Berkley Group, Mace, The May Fair Hotel, Make Architects and Optimity. We are in discussions with government, and have briefed the Lords ahead of next week’s debate on the EU select committee report.

In the FT Jasmine Whitbread said: “Continued access to the people our economy needs is the number one concern for business. The PM’s reassurance for EU citizens already working here is a welcome first step, but it’s taken a year to get this far and we still have a long way to go. Government has said it wants business input and this is the first test of that commitment. Business leaders across all sectors have worked together to jointly propose a realistic way forward that will manage immigration while ensuring our economy can continue to grow. We are looking forward to the government’s response.”

This week, we also joined an alliance of Londoners, with a letter to David Davis, calling government to rethink its stand on the single market and freedom of movement. The Centre for London’s letter was also signed by key London representatives including Lord Adonis, Sadiq Khan and Cllr Claire Kober.

And it does seem that government is now willing to listen. In a positive step from government, business leaders met with David Davis last week at Chevening House. Talent was the number one discussion point and insights we’ve gathered from the session suggest it was a productive, collaborative meeting. Attendees left hopeful of further opportunities for business to feed into the finer details of Brexit negotiations, including shaping the terms of a future transitional agreement. Thankfully, there was no mention of a net migration target.

London First will continue to campaign on behalf of members to keep London the best city in the world to do business: access to talent, the right deal on the single market and, importantly, the investment in the housing, transport and infrastructure this city needs.

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Balancing both sides of the skills equation

This week London First brought together business leaders, skills providers and young people, to grapple with London’s skills debate and look ahead at forging solutions.

Ark’s King Solomon Academy, one of the country’s highest performing state schools made a fitting setting, and there were lessons from all parties on the challenges to be tackled head on.

It was a privilege to hear two year ten students recall some of their opportunities to engage with employers; and the impact this has made on their outlook, confidence and understanding of the workplace. This brought home research from the Education and Employers Taskforce; young people who have four or more workplace encounters while at school are 86% less likely to be NEET (not in education, employment or training) and, on average, will go on to earn 18% more than their peers who did not.

John Allan, as Chair of the London First Skills Commission, strategically addressed the challenge the group has set its self as it tackles the “complex skills equation, from both a supply (skills providers) and demand (employers) side.” The Skills Commission aims to set action plans for London government, central government and business to drive much needed improvement to the current system. However, it is already clear that a crucial ingredient of success will be building a solid partnership between business, government and skills providers.

John acknowledged that “Whilst we may not have all the answers to solve a challenge that’s been about for decades, we can still achieve a great deal.”

Angus Knowles-Cutler, Vice Chairman Deloitte, shared top lines from Deloitte’s recent skills mapping research. The skills question was likened to a moving target, as we try to assess the impact of Brexit, a changing economy and technology developments. However, Knowles-Cutler spoke firmly of the 3Cs that employers increasingly value over traditional, technical knowledge – creativity, collaboration and cognitive skills. These are the skills that will keep the next generation agile and equipped for the evolving workplace.

Angus joined the panel with Amanda Timberg, Head of Staffing Programs, EMEA Google and Hannah McAuley, Ark Schools’ national Head of University and Careers Success. Despite coming at the issue from different angles, there was agreement that work must be done on all sides to better understand one another, with each holding a piece of the jigsaw.

With much work to do, it was good to look ahead at immediate opportunities for business, skills providers and young people to come together, at Skills London the UK’s largest jobs and skills event in November.

If today’s breakfast taught us anything, it’s that opportunities for young people to engage with employers, and access work based learning and work experience are critical to equipping our future workforce.

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Unlocking the potential of public space in our West End – a new sense of urgency

Cynthia Grant, Project Director,  New West End Company

London is a most dynamic city, with evolving public realm being very much part of this. Our streets and public spaces not only allow people to get around efficiently and comfortably, but also create a setting for our world famous buildings and monuments.

The space between our capital’s landmarks has been celebrated, hosting a wide range of activity, from street markets to art and culture, al fresco dining and window shopping. It is important to design these spaces to accommodate all of these – sometimes conflicting – activities.

But, against the backdrop of Brexit and the volatile economic climate, there’s a constant need to reinvigorate key areas like the West End. London’s public realm must stay ahead of the game, continually innovating and improving, in order for our capital to retain its competitive edge and attract jobs, prime retail and visitors. The West End’s famed retail sector needs particular support, given a host of pressures, not least business rate increases and changing consumer trends.

WESt exists to support and promote the delivery of better public realm in central London’s key retail, tourist and business districts. Its broad, high-level business membership provides a valuable input on funding proposals, and developing business case justifications.

In 2007, when WESt was set up, pressure on public space meant developers and leading retailers could see both the broader commercial advantages and the inherent value of making central London a better designed place. There was also a significant change in attitude to managing city traffic. Designs re-assessed the pedestrian/vehicle balance on streets, with much more attention being given to walking and cycling.

Retailers, developers, agents, BIDS, and the pioneers of good public realm, the great estates including Crown, Grosvenor, Portman and Howard de Walden, all came together to push for something better. And they found a willingness in the public sector, with Westminster and Camden boroughs, to work in partnership and capitalise on the impetus initially provided by London hosting the 2012 Olympics.

WESt and its partnerships have championed and assisted schemes of all sizes. Legible London, a major strategic intervention, brought coherent and stylish wayfinding to all parts of the city. It sought to make Piccadilly boulevard more human, by taking out the major 1-way traffic systems in Pall Mall and Piccadilly. Westminster City Council was instrumental in delivering these important projects, supported by TfL and the business community.

Building on the success following the Olympics, WESt has since moved on to support other schemes, including the proposals to improve Oxford Street and Marble Arch. Going forward, it aims to encourage, push, support, fundraise and lobby for more vital improvements to our city’s streets under the new chairmanship of Portman Estate’s Bill Moore.

At this evening’s reception, its next phase of projects, selected from an impressive long-list will be announced. We look forward to helping unlock the potential of public realm in these areas.

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Why we need a passenger-focussed Aviation Policy Framework

Liam McKay, Director of Public Affairs, London City Airport

London City Airport operates in a highly competitive environment, not just in London, but across the UK, Europe, as well as with other modes of transport. Airports cannot expect loyalty, it has to be earned.

Time is precious to passengers, and embracing smart solutions across our operations; whether surface access, security, aircraft turnaround times or digital air traffic control towers is key to the passenger experience. But, that’s just part of the picture.

Delay, congestion and inefficiency, as they are today, will continue to be our enemies. Which is why we need an Aviation Policy Framework that acknowledges this and enables airports to be flexible, dynamic businesses that are responsive to trends and provide first class customer service.

Cross-sector working

Airports do have great relationships with our regulators. But what we cannot do is be siloed. An airport experience starts for a passenger from the point of booking to arriving at their destination. And while this opens up some fantastic opportunities for collaboration with airline partners, hotel groups and taxi firms, to name just a few, it also means working smarter with existing partners. For example, at the UK border, airports are not allowed to repair E-gates. This causes unnecessary delay, frustration and buck passing. As we grow, and more passengers use our airports, the challenge will become greater. That’s why I want London City Airport to work hand-in-glove with UKBF so we can offer a border experience which is second to none.

Over the next decade airports will see a substantial increase in passenger numbers. At LCY, we expect to be serving 6.5m passengers by 2025. We, like other airports, will need the ability to maximise capacity. The infrastructure that is being added via the City Airport Development Programme (CADP) is vital, but physical infrastructure alone won’t meet demand.

Transformative tech innovation

Luckily for LCY innovation abounds in London, in particular in East London. We’ve directly benefitted from this as we’ve been able to work with small start-ups and provide them opportunities to improve our passenger proposition, whilst enhancing their profile in the global aviation industry.

Companies like Crowd Vision have allowed us to directly measure the time passengers spend travelling through the airport, while Avtura have enabled us to understand the entire aircraft turnaround process, identify risks and take recovery actions so that we remain on target. And, in an exciting new development, following collaboration with Innovate UK, we are working with another London tech organisation to use Artificial Intelligence in the aircraft stand allocation process.

Then, there is the partnership with NATS and Saab with the Digital Air Traffic Control Tower. Once operational in 2019, it will create a more resilient airport that will give controllers access to valuable real time information which can be supplemented with operational data including aircraft call signs. Controllers, via 14 HD cameras, will have a 360 degree panoramic view of the airfield and will be able to make well-informed, speedy decisions to help us become a more agile, efficient and safe business.

Modernising airspace

Lastly, while enhanced physical and digital infrastructure is essential, airports also need airspace to be modernised to accommodate ever growing demand. London City welcomes the government’s consultation, as it will be critical to avoiding delays, particularly in the South-East. Clearly safety must be the primary consideration but we would also urge the government to consider two things; firstly that all airports’ current airspace is maintained and that future growth is recognised and planned for. And secondly, that clear governance is attached to the airspace change process so that airports and, crucially our communities, can have clarity and certainty on how they can affect change as well as when decisions will be made.

As we all look forward to the next decade, our customers will expect a connected and dynamic airport experience. We are laying the groundworks for just that at London City, but we’ll also need an Aviation Policy Framework that supports this and provides us with the ability to meet the challenges of tomorrow.

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