Take Me to the River

Stuart Fraser

Partner, Make Architects

As London’s ongoing housing shortage intensifies, so do calls for densification, particularly in the form of mixed use schemes. Flats set over supermarkets have already gained traction, and there’s a growing push to integrate new homes into transport hubs and stadium redevelopments, as we’ve seen at a number of Crossrail stations and at Watford Football Club.

Making the most of London’s limited land requires ever-more creative thinking. I suggest we turn our attention to the riverside, which is home to many industrial sites ripe for development. A number of riverside schemes – like Butler’s Wharf – have successfully transformed derelict warehouses and factory buildings into residential developments. But what if we looked beyond disused docksides and began incorporating housing into functioning ones?

There’s great potential for this in London’s safeguarded wharves – active docksides legally shielded from the ongoing containerisation and construction of deeper docks to the east that have made many commercial wharves extinct. Safeguarding these sites protects them against change of use, and ensures London’s waterways can be harnessed for passenger and freight transport – a key step towards reducing our dependency on road haulage and cutting carbon emissions.

As of 2017, London has 50 safeguarded wharves, 28 of which are upstream of the Thames Barrier.  Is it possible to retain these sites’ industrial use while also incorporating housing?

There’s certainly potential for development atop the large-scale depots dotting the Thames. The principles of this are no different than constructing over a large supermarket box; a structural transfer deck could facilitate horizontal use separation, with residences overtop benefitting from excellent views. Waste transfer stations also have scope to host residential additions. You can see this in action at Battersea Power Station’s Cringle Dock, where a transfer station is currently being rebuilt in an inventive new form so that residential buildings wrap around it. This form visually conceals the transfer station, and controls associated dust, noise and hazards.

Diversifying the uses of these sites will do more than just add much-needed homes; it will help regenerate whole neighbourhoods. Many safeguarded wharves have the potential to support riverboat hubs that link in with key transport nodes across the city – hubs that could quite literally put these communities on the map. By building on the existing uses of safeguarded wharves and integrating high-quality public and private elements, we can ensure they serve a wider segment of the community, from workers and residents to commuters and passers-by. Smart densification starts with this kind of big-picture thinking.


Stuart has been a partner at Make since 2004 and works across a variety of sectors, from residential to commercial to hotels and resorts. He’s passionate about embedding sustainable principles into architecture and has achieved a BREEAM ‘Excellent’ rating for many of the projects he’s led, as well as planning permission for the first zero-carbon home in the North West of England. Stuart is a Wren Technical Forum contributor and a regular guest speaker at conferences and educational establishments in the UK and overseas.


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London vulnerable to brain drain of EU millennials as many consider leaving the capital

  • Nearly two thirds (64%) of London’s under 30, high-skilled EU nationals are considering leaving the UK in the next five years – adding to a significant skills shortage in the capital. –This is significantly higher than the 42% who say the same across the rest of UK
  • Already, there are 30,000 vacancies in London where no applicants have the requisite skills
  • London First are launching the London Employment and Skills Commission – made up of the city’s business leaders – to find solutions to this impending crisis

Almost two-thirds (64%) of the young, highly skilled EU nationals working in London are considering leaving in the next five years, according to research from London First and Deloitte.

London’s businesses are seriously concerned about this potential talent flight as EU migrants play a crucial role in the city’s economy, with 13% of London’s workforce born in other EU countries.[1]

Any loss of highly skilled EU migrants will add to London’s existing skills challenges. Already, there are 30,000 vacancies in London where none of the applicants have the requisite skills.[2]

In addition, there are currently 300,000 people in London who don’t have the necessary skills to find a job, and another quarter of a million held back from progressing in the workplace by lack of skills.[3]

To help tackle this skills crisis, London First are launching the London Employment and Skills Commission. It will identify ways in which business, government and skills providers can work more effectively together to give more Londoners the skills that employers need, now and in the future. It releases initial findings and a call for evidence today

The Commission is made up of top business leaders in London. Members include John Allan, Chairman of London First, Tesco and Barratt Developments; John Holland Kaye, Chief Executive of Heathrow Airport; and Angus Knowles-Cutler, London Senior Partner and Vice Chairman of Deloitte.

John Allan, Chairman of London First, said: “We have launched this commission because the skills shortage in London is approaching a tipping point, unless we do better at building local skills and we remain up to top talent from the EU. London’s workers are the UK’s taxpayers and they generate demand far beyond the capital – this is a national issue. As a community, we must find practical business solutions to the city’s skills shortage. Our Commission will look at where business and Government must invest to ensure we have the workforce the city needs.”

Angus Knowles-Cutler, London Senior Partner and Vice Chairman at Deloitte, said: “The good news is that our wider survey also canvassed highly skilled workers outside the United Kingdom. Among this group, the UK remains the most attractive destination for talented people, well ahead of the US, Australia and Canada. London is also seen as the most desirable city and a significant draw for overseas talent in its own right. So with the right immigration policy, combined with an urgent effort to give Londoners the right skills to fill gaps in the workforce, there are solutions.”

The London Employment and Skills Commission

  • Chairman – John Allan, Chairman of London First
  • Construction/ Property – Mark Reynolds, CEO, Mace
  • Finance – Edward Thurman, Managing Director Financial Institutions, Lloyds Banking Group
  • Professional Services – Angus Knowles-Cutler, London Senior Partner and Vice Chairman, Deloitte
  • Retail – Natasha Adams, People Director UK and Ireland, Tesco
  • Digital – Russ Shaw, Tech London Advocates
  • Hospitality – Chris Vaughan, General Counsel, Whitbread
  • Transport – John Holland Kaye, CEO, Heathrow
  • FE/Training – Sir Frank McLoughlin, ex-City & Islington College Principal
  • Infrastructure – Rachel White, Regional Managing Director for Europe, CH2M
  • Economic/Political – Bob Bischof, Vice President of the German British Chamber of Industry & Commerce

(Source: Deloitte 2017)

About Deloitte’s research
Deloitte’s figures used in the Skills and Employment Commission publication are a new London-specific cut of survey data conducted for the firm’s report Power up – the UK workplace (published in June 2017).

This report surveyed 2,242 non-UK workers across nine economic sectors, and split evenly between higher and lower skills respondents, and between EU nationals (from Germany, France, Italy, Ireland and Poland) and non-EU nationals (from the US, South Africa, Australia and India).

[1] http://londonfirst.co.uk/wp-content/uploads/2017/03/Facing-Facts-The-impact-of-migrants-on-London-its-workforce-and-economyFINAL.pdf


[3] ONS

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Open all hours – the future of London retail

EY hosted London First’s kick-off discussion on what London should be doing to support the long-term future of retail. EY Partner and panellist Julie Carlyle reflects on the discussion.

UK retailers are clearly under pressure. Structural changes throughout the industry require them to run parallel omni-channel operations, invest in integrated systems and fight for new talent. Similarly, the political and economic impacts on currency, labour costs and disposable incomes mean retailers must be constant innovators if they want to maintain their share of the consumer wallet. Together, increased overheads and cautious spending are tightening the margin vice on retailers.

London retail is no exception to this trend. Yet, it faces the added complications of fighting for its share of the global retail market and share of geographical space.

Far from honing in on technicalities, panellists and the audience dissected the wider concept of retail as an essential service. Whether groceries, food & beverage, online vs. physical stores or delivery solutions, it is obvious that making retail options convenient, innovative and accessible impacts quality of life. It’s important to get retail right if we want to ensure a liveable, vibrant city for Londoners.

After polling members on the key issues, what came out on top?

  • The retail and housing development relationship – There is a clear symbiosis between the two; retail anchors great places to live and housing brings customers closer. How does London strategically plan to ensure the right balance?
  • Infrastructure, infrastructure, infrastructure – Retailers want to be where consumers find convenience. Where infrastructure investment leads, footfall and sustainable environments follow.
  • Physical retail is not doomed – Nobody present predicted the slowdown of the high street. But the function of the shop floor and its relationship with online might change. It’s telling that dominant online retailers are acquiring physical space while some traditional bricks and mortar retailers have decided to stay offline. So how do we keep planning flexible enough to adapt to potential demands?
  • Change is nowhere near finished – We’re only just seeing the beginning of services like pick-up points and automated delivery – retailers are still finding their feet with regards to use of customer data and intelligent retail. Should there be broader discussion of issues like the balance between data-driven, personalised experience and online privacy? How do we drive forward the right tech infrastructure to keep pace with Londoners’ expectations as consumers?
  • The B-word – Brexit’s effects, particularly on currency and workforce, have the potential to severely disrupt the industry. Members agreed that they should continue to make the case for stability on behalf of Londoners working in the sector and London residents’ already hard-pressed wallets.

How could London retailers weather the storm? By investing in innovation, focusing on operational efficiency and developing agile and resilient business models. Retailers must also look to generate sustainable, long-term value from their intangible assets, such as brand equity, across all channels.  This will mean thinking outside traditional models and the constraints of tangible physical and financial capital.

London should do its part by planning and allowing for the kind of flexibility that will help the sector create a liveable, workable, adaptable city for all.

I look forward to seeing the outcome of future workshops as London First explore how to scale up existing local best-practice, as well as recommendations on interventions or policy change that could be promoted via the London Plan or London First’s Skills Commission.

Join the debate: @London_First @EYConsumerGoods

Julie Carlyle, Partner and Head of Retail, UK & Ireland, EY




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Breaking news – first reactions on PM’s Florence speech

We’ve campaigned hard for our EU citizens’ rights to be guaranteed, and May’s speech gave some much needed assurance.

May outlined EU citizens’ rights will be enshrined in UK law, with the UK taking account of European Court of Justice rulings. Again, a welcome step.

There was a greater sense of urgency, with May looking for both sides to reach agreement swiftly, in order to give citizens the certainty they deserve.

What’s still to come is the detail that both business and the many EU citizens are still waiting for, and it’s crucial this is ironed out quickly. But we’ve taken a real step forwards today- progress towards London First’s call.

The two year transition period, where existing EU rules will continue, include freedom of movement and single market access. This again is welcome but for this to be effective it needs to be in place by June 2018- as stressed by businesses in our recent survey with Lloyds Banking Group, covered by the FT and elsewhere.

We’ll continue to press on with our calls for greater detail on transitional arrangements and firm guarantees for EU citizens, while analysing the full implications of May’s speech and taking soundings from our members.

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The Labour Conference Line-up

We’re set for a busy few days at Labour Party Conference, using the opportunity to amplify our member priorities and strengthen our national alliances.

As well as our leadership team attending round tables and meetings throughout the conference, we’re hosting two key events next week.

The London Dinner (fully subscribed), with guest speaker Cllr Claire Kober OBE, Chair of London Councils and Leader of Haringey Council. Kindly hosted by CapCo.

Cities and Growth Reception (last places remaining) in partnership with the London Chamber of Commerce and Industry, Institute of Directors and the Federation of Small Businesses. The reception will encourage joint thinking on city growth with Andy Burnham, Mayor of Greater Manchester, Lord Adonis, Chair of the National Infrastructure Commission and Val Shawcross, Deputy Mayor for Transport.

We look forward to meeting many of you at the Conference, and will keep members posted on any key outcomes.

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