What does the future hold for regeneration?

24 March 2015


With news of the re-development of London's Royal Docks to create the capital's next business district, and a £500 million plan unveiled to create Birmingham Smithfield, regeneration continues to make headlines. But delivering such projects and building sustainable communities, takes huge investment and commitment in order to get things done.

In an exclusive round-table event chaired by Estates Gazette and supported by Wragge Lawrence Graham & Co and Savills, a panel of experts came together to discuss what the future holds for regeneration. Ahead of the general election, they considered what are the key elements for supporting regeneration projects in the UK?

Three themes emerged. Here, we take a brief look at each and the views of the experts: Richard Beckingsale, head of regeneration at Wragge Lawrence Graham & Co; Rob Tincknell, chief executive of the Battersea Power Station Development Company; Jackie Sadek, chief executive of UK Regeneration and policy adviser to cities minister Greg Clark; Dominic Grace, head of London residential development at Savills; and Glenn Howells, director at Glenn Howells Architects.

Leadership

The need for strong leadership formed a central part of a speech on regeneration given by Lord Heseltine at last month's inaugural Estates Gazette/Peter Wilson Lecture in Cambridge.

A champion of regeneration, he highlighted that one of the challenges facing schemes in deprived areas of the UK is a lack of direction. In his view, it's an issue that can be addressed in some way through mayoral leadership and local enterprise partnerships.

Agreeing with Lord Heseltine's sentiments on leadership from Whitehall, Dominic Grace said: "I think it's very important that the politicians of the next generation understand property because those who don't get found out."

Others around the table, however, felt that often private sector leadership had been the influential factor in getting many projects off the ground. Although, most agreed that mayoral leadership could be hugely beneficial.

Long-term thinking

Sharing their experiences in delivering some of the UK's biggest schemes, the panel concluded that long-term thinking is of equal importance to strong leadership.

Glenn Howells said: "Heseltine's involvement in the schemes he championed was long-term and spanned across electoral cycles but he was fortunate to be in his career during a politically stable period". The challenge comes when there are successive changes in government.

Rob Tincknell added: "The best schemes come when people sit together for a long time with no year-end triggers". This point led to a discussion of the role of local enterprise partnerships; described by Mr Howells as "providing a platform for consistency".

Competition and the march of localism

For Heseltine, reviving the City Challenge Funds, which he originally set up in 1992, would help drive regeneration and inspire leadership within councils. The City Challenge required local authorities to bid for central money - helping to raise competition and creating what Heseltine refers to as 'ladders of aspiration' within communities.

The panel agreed that this model is essential for getting the best out of local authorities and the private sector.

Jackie Sadek said: "A competitive process leads to better bids and sharper programmes". This coupled with a move towards localism and devolution should further promote competition.

Richard Beckingsale added: "If councils were more autonomous they would be more willing and able to leverage their powers… If you are willing to defer your capital receipts as a local authority you can share in the gains and justify a seat at the table."

While some areas will undoubtedly do better than others, the panel concluded that the move towards localism is gathering pace.

Shaping the debate

To read more about the panel's views on the outlook for regeneration, a full copy of the Estates Gazette feature, "Talkin' 'bout regeneration" is available to download online. Further details of Lord Heseltine's lecture and accompanying editorial can be found on the Estates Gazette website. A podcast of the lecture is also available below or, alternatively, read the full transcript of Lord Heseltine's speech.

With one of the largest Regeneration and Development teams in the UK, Wragge Lawrence Graham & Co has unparalleled expertise in advising on mixed-use schemes and regeneration sites. Known for giving clear, robust advice to public and private sector clients, the team combines genuine sector insight with specialist knowledge and experience.

It can frequently be found working on large-scale, challenging projects. These include advising on the selection of a development partner for the 192-acre regeneration of Brent Cross South - one of the largest mixed-use regeneration projects in London. The team also advised the owners of Battersea Power Station - the venue of the Estates Gazette round-table event - on the £8 billion redevelopment of the site as part of the wider regeneration of the Vauxhall Nine Elms Battersea Opportunity Area.

For more information on our specialist regeneration expertise, please visit the firm's real estate pages.


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