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The London Property Summit 2016 – highlights

The 5th annual London Property Summit took place last week bringing together some 400 delegates and speakers from local and national government, the planning and development sector and housing associations. This year’s theme was, ‘The Building Blocks for London – Entering a New Era’, focusing on the changes facing a city with a new Mayor, under a new government and with an uncertain relationship with Europe.

Panel discussions focused on the impact of Brexit on the housing market, placemaking, and how local and national governments can work with developers to create solutions to the ever increasing demand for housing.

During the morning session, borough leaders discussed:

  • The need for individual boroughs to be distinctive in their design in order to retain London’s character.
  • The emerging pressure on outer London boroughs to build housing, as well as inner London boroughs.
  • How tower blocks were not the only way to increase density in the city.

The afternoon session opened with the ministerial address by Minister for Housing Gavin Barwell MP. His focus was on placemaking and the cross-sector obligation of borough leaders, planners and developers to ensure that London retains its status as a world class city. The Minister acknowledged that parts of London have been neglected and that this must change in order for the city to retain its reputation as a desirable destination for work, play and living.

Placemaking, he stressed, is not only about constructing quality housing, but about paying attention to the spaces that fall in between and around residences such as parks and communal areas. He closed by urging delegates to take full responsibility for placemaking in order to sustain and enhance London’s global and national desirability.

Another focal event of the day was the keynote address by Deputy Mayor for Housing, James Murray. Focusing on the city’s housing crisis, Mr Murray outlined how he hopes the GLA, planners and developers and London’s residents can work together to achieve the common goal of providing affordable housing for the city.

This collaborative approach is integral to the objectives of the Fifty Thousand Homes campaign which is calling on housebuilding in London to double to at least 50,000 homes a year by 2020. He also emphasised that the focus should be on supply and that it’s vital to provide housing of various tenures.

The Deputy Mayor drew on three key themes that had been informed by his cross-sector consultations:

  • Availability of land; the London land audit highlighted the large amount of public land that is unused and has development potential.
  • Funding; this must be used in a flexible way in order to support a range of tenures and different products.
  • Planning; viability assessments must be well communicated in order to prevent slowing down the planning and development process.

Advocating the build to rent sector and high density planning as providing real solutions, Mr Murray emphasised the importance of including Londoners in the planning process and ensuring that the benefits of new developments are clearly communicated. Summarising his speech, the Deputy Mayor explained that the process would be a marathon and not a sprint and that a collaborative approach would be the only way to move forward in tackling the housing crisis in London.

The final session of the day pitched the question, ‘who will deliver homes for London?’ to a panel of property and development experts. A lively debate ensued and key discussion points included the role of innovative approaches to production and delivery of homes, the impact of Brexit on the market and an agreement about the difficulty of accessing public land for development.

You can find out more about the key themes of the summit by watching these short videos.

Contact: Sue Brown, sbrown@londonfirst.co.uk

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