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London businesses call for new approach to estate regeneration

A report launched today from London First, Winckworth Sherwood LLP and Terence O’Rourke has called for a new approach to regenerating London’s estates. The recommendations include: making the most of so-called ‘infill development’ opportunities – building on disused space, such as empty garages, or adding another level to existing mid-rise estates; ensuring a more flexible procurement process; and delivering a deal that puts residents at the heart of any regeneration scheme.

Making use of empty, unloved space on estates – so called infill development – has the potential to build thousands of new homes and these projects could also help cross-subsidise improvements across the estate, improving the quality of existing homes or building new community facilities for example.

The report highlights the importance of engaging with the local community right from the start, and delivering a deal that works for both residents and the developer. The ultimate ambition could be the creation of a joint enterprise or company to undertake the regeneration that includes residents on the board.

Jonathan Seager, housing policy director at London First, said: “London needs to build 50,000 new homes each year to house its growing population and keep the city competitive.  A new approach to regenerating London’s estates can play an important part in realising this goal. But it will be critical for any new scheme – either a large-scale redevelopment or building new homes in existing spaces – to deliver the right deal for residents as well as those building the homes. By unlocking more private investment, the benefits of regeneration in London will be seen.”

The report also recommends that development agreements for regeneration schemes, which can span decades, must reflect the commercial reality of undertaking such long and complex work. While developers must stick to their commitments, contracts should include clear provisions for adapting to new circumstances. All parties should be able to agree changes to ensure schemes can progress, homes get built and residents secure the benefits of regeneration.

Roger Fitton, Managing Partner and Co-Head of Real Estate at Winckworth Sherwood, said: “The world never remains static, which is why these contracts – which can span a decade or more – need to have inbuilt flexibility. This is not just to take into account shifting economic cycles, but innovation in construction methods, new models of delivery and changing social context.

“In these cash-strapped times it’s difficult to take a leap of faith, but thinking outside the box is going to be essential to provide the homes London so desperately needs.”

Tim Hancock, managing director of Terence O’Rourke, says: “We need to see central government and City Hall encourage local authorities to look at the estates they have and make it easy for them to form partnerships with developers and local residents to regenerate them.

“If adopted, the series of recommendations presented in today’s report will go some way in helping to unlock the barriers and red tape that still exist in delivering the best possible outcomes for social and physical regeneration.”

Alongside these key recommendations, the report identifies several policies for government, both national and in London, which would help provide greater confidence for developers and encourage further investment in estate regeneration. It also supports the aim of the Fifty Thousand Homes campaign which calls for housebuilding in London to double in order to sustain the growing population of the capital.

Read the full report here.

Contact: Jonathan Seager, jseager@londonfirst.co.uk

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