London First’s report goes further

jackie-sadek-570pxFollowing on from Lord Heseltine’s excellent report on estate regeneration (see blog 8 December 2016) London First has published its own document as part of its Fifty Thousand Homes campaign to promote more and better homes for London. It poses the question: How can a smarter approach to estate regeneration help address the pressing housing issues our capital faces? And London First has been greatly assisted by law firm Winckworth Sherwood and planning and design consultants Terence O’Rourke, which have put significant intellectual heft into solving the capital’s continual conundrum; that of how to house our low-income essential workers in a world of eye-wateringly high land values.

The report diplomatically seeks to “complement” the mayor’s draft Good Practice Guide to Estate Regeneration, and considers what more can be done to ensure that regeneration delivers, among other objectives, more new homes. They effectively highlight the three key issues of an effective community engagement process, putting in place a deal that works for all parties, meeting the needs of residents while being commercially viable and setting up the right framework to deliver, including creating an efficient procurement process and a flexible development contract.

So far, so very-Heseltine, but the London First report goes further and proposes some policy recommendations for both local and national government, including differentiating estate regeneration from typical brownfield development and conferring more certainty around the planning and development process. London First also recommends using additional central resource from government and the mayor to help local councils manage the regeneration process.

The good people at London First have been debating this agenda for years, of course, and they readily accede to the fact that there is no simple solution to London’s lack of housebuilding. They continue to call for housebuilding in London to double to keep the city competitive. But the redevelopment of London’s public housing estates (many beset with “pointless open space”) can be part of the solution. And in places like Barking and Dagenham, arms-length property companies are being formed to oversee this process, with estates such as Becontree offering the potential for hundreds, if not thousands, of new homes, whilst making miles more sense of the built environment for the existing residents.

London First should be commended on its Fifty Thousand Homes campaign and this is an intelligent and sensible document. In all estate regeneration work it is right to place continued emphasis on engagement with the community, and constructing a beneficial deal for residents as the starting point for any scheme. And forgive the grumpy old woman comment, its report is much better written and miles easier to read, than the Mayor’s Guide. They guys are to be congratulated on a helpful and responsible contribution.

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