MIPIM onslaught and the Heseltine travesty

It is always very fraught in the run up to MIPIM. Most of us MIPIM warriors have been working flat out now for days, weeks, months even. And I was glued to my machine all this weekend too. This time around there is just so much going on for all of us generally. All greatly exacerbated, nay turbo-charged, by the destabilising effect of Brexit, of course. And it is great to see that the government is seriously out on the front foot in support of our property markets in response. 

In my own particular case, and that of my partners, we are currently buckling under the simply massive demand for information about the investment opportunities in the Northern Gateway Development Zone, the 40 miles around Crewe station. Ever since HS2 Phase One achieved Royal Assent on 23 February, the Northern Gateway has become the hottest investment ticket in town. Nice problem to have. Just wait until you see our fabulous new branding, which we are launching at the “Make it Stoke and Staffordshire” apartment at 5pm on Tuesday! You will seriously love it. And the market will totally get it. There are Northern Gateway events throughout the whole of MIPIM, and you are welcome to come and dip your spoon in that gravy at any of them. I promise it will be worth your while. 

And, as if I hadn’t got enough to do, the blessed (sic) Damian Wild has enlisted me to harvest EG podcasts (que?) from all of you. So if I leap out at you in Café Roma brandishing a tape recorder, get ready to voice your opinions and don’t hold back. (Ha! EG knows not what it does! Although I have to say, ten out of ten for the new EG branding unveiled on Saturday; it is clearly the season for rebranding).   

So we very much look forward to HMG being all-out in support of all us this year, and especially to us populating the shiny new Pavilion of the Department for International Trade. Government support for our work is needed now more than ever, and it is great to see. But having said all that (and meaning it), one very depressing event of last week does call into question whether this government is really focused on building our UK economies in a post-Brexit world: I refer, of course, to the heinous sacking of Lord Heseltine as a government adviser. A more dispiriting, shabby, small-minded act would be hard to imagine. I guess the kindest view is that it was a lack of joining up. Well, I am afraid it amounts to nothing short of cutting off nose to spite face. And it is very far from being grown up. 

Lord Heseltine’s work in the cause of urban regeneration, and in support for inward investment, over these last few years has been nothing short of a tour de force. He is an incredible resource. The Estates Regeneration programme, the Thames Estuary initiative, the National Infrastructure Commission, the City Deals, the Local Growth Deals, the devo-deals, the steel closure stuff… Well, the list is very long and hugely impressive. And he has worked very hard, most weeks doing three solid days in the department and yet more stuff remotely the rest of the time. Civil servants depend on him utterly. He bangs heads, sorts things, calls people, moves things along, all in pursuance of building local economies. All the local partners trust him completely (you just ask Howard Bernstein or Joe Anderson). He just Makes Things Better. And he does all this for no personal gain whatsoever, but because he believes in the cause and he wants to help. Many of you will remember his extraordinary impact at various MIPIM UK events recently, whether it be signing the Pan London Growth Deal with Boris Johnson, or addressing 200 Chinese Investors, or collecting his EG Award for Lifetime Achievement (actually, in truth, he was just as gratified by seeing Manchester and Liverpool exhibiting on the same stand that year).

To lose Lord Heseltine’s from the government support for our shared endeavours is a tragic waste of a totally unique resource and talent. Particularly at this very parlous moment in our fortunes in the UK economy. His like cannot be found elsewhere. It is an utter disgrace.    

So… I will see you all out there. And I suspect the mourning of the loss of The Daddy as a government adviser will be something of a topic of conversation, if not a recurring theme, in the seminars and the receptions and the bars throughout Cannes this week. I confidently predict a total consensus, an industry united in a chorus of dismay. And I confidently predict that, notwithstanding, Lord Heseltine will continue to be active in all his specialist areas, using his formidable energy to do whatever he can, wherever he can, from outside of government.  

But it is still a crying shame. 

Well, whatever happened last week (or last June, come to that!) we now need to focus on the week ahead. For many of us, the MIPIM onslaught has already started. This morning I had to get up at 4.30am to give an interview to “Wake up to Money” at Radio Five Live about the Northern Gateway (straining to not reveal its sparkly new name). The things I do! And I am leaving now for my flight. 

 It is going to be a long day. It is going to be a long week. 

Jackie Sadek is chief operating officer at UK Regeneration

To send feedback, e-mail jackie.sadek@ukregeneration.org.uk or tweet @jackiesadek or @estatesgazette

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