Commercial Property Blog
All posts tagged: andy teacher
By the time Ed Milliband arrived at Norton Rose’s More London offices last night for a fundraiser in aid of Norwood, the Jewish social care charity, he’d dusted himself down from another bruising PMQs scrap on health reforms.
Fresh from the latest sniper attack from the Dear Brother - (who pops up to publish articles when Ed’s getting a battering in the media) - the Labour leader was hoping to capitalise on his success forcing a reportedly ‘depressed’ Stephen Hester to hand back his wife’s shoe fund.
But just as the bonuses bluster is a distraction from the more pertinent issues around lending and social inequality, similarly, many other areas of policy fail to consider the importance of housing. No politician has bothered to ask what effect living in squalid, cramped conditions has on illiterate school kids who’ve got nowhere to study, who don’t get jobs, claim benefits and suffer health issues as a result.
No one’s really looked at the young people from broken homes who turn to crime and end up in prison at the taxpayers’ expense, while victims pick up their own pieces.
And few have considered how much money we spend on hip replacements for elderly people living alone and uncared for. And many more pensioners get so lonely they end up supporting splinter groups like the National Trust. Heaven forbid!
I jest of course on that last point. The serious issue though is that it’s astonishing how few politicians seem to grasp the broader economic case for investment in quality housing and how much it could relieve spending on the indirect fallout of failing to do so.
Five years on from the monumental failure that was Gordon Brown’s plan to build three million homes, we still have no credible housing solutions from Labour.
Whatever your political inclination, at least housing minister Grant Shapps has been showing signs of life. Problems occur when novelty nonsense like the house swap plan for social tenants get in the way of driving new development, but he knows his stuff.
Praise however, should also rightly be bestowed for progress in the sell-off of public land. Finally Britain seems to be catching up with the rest of the world, and while the government’s planning reforms seem to be wriggling around in the long grass, the very real progress being made by the HCA is a worthy feather for Shapps to be wearing in his cap.
It’s more than could be said for shadow housing minister Jack Dromey, the 63-year-old trade-unionist revealed as taking a £60,000-a-year payment from Unite. Despite it being a clear breach of parliamentary code, he got away with it. Presumably because he’s married to Harriet Harman.
My conversation with Ed Miliband however, was quite revealing.
“Housing is the ‘orphan issue’ of British politics,” he said when I asked what his plans were to make good on past promises. “I’m not even sure its talked about enough and in a way, it hasn’t had enough political knock-about.”
In response to the accusation that Labour’s housing policy was a wholesale failure, he admitted: “We didn’t do enough. Fundamentally we tried, towards the end of our time in government, to say to local authorities: ‘You can say we don’t want housing here or there, but in the end you have to play your card and have housing somewhere.’
I asked him then if he supported the coalition’s moves to speed up development with planning reform. Milliband replied: “I think the government has totally messed it up I’m afraid. What they did is get rid of targets, get rid of obligations and then they’ve panicked, brought it a bloody stupid thing, an assumption in favor of sustainable development.”
Surely a massive contradiction? A question he chose to avoid, saying: “The point we got to by the end of our time in government was that local authorities have to put their housing somewhere. The other issue is private developers sitting on land and watching it accumulate in value and not using it.”
That old Labour chestnut of land-banking.
Miliband continued: “I don’t have a solution for this, but in the end government has to invest in housing, and there’s not much money around so it’s a massive challenge. At the very least we’ve got to say ‘you can’t have a no housing anywhere policy’, what we have now is the worst of all worlds, basically.”
Of course it’s unrealistic to expect every politician to have a comprehensive grasp of every area of policy, but on an issue as important as housing, many will be exasperated by Miliband’s lack of engagement, particularly when you consider how closely he worked with Gordon Brown on this, a benchmark Labour policy. Given that, could it raise further concerns about his ability to lead on any other issue?
Yesterday’s prediction of further decline in retail occupancy is a miserable inevitability. If you weren’t too busy enjoying motorway pile-ups or snow polar bears that popped up in east London (there was one in Victoria Park), you may have caught housing and shops minister Grant Shapps rounding the media circuit on Saturday. Never shy of a TV spot, the Rt Hon Welwyn Hatfield MP hit the news channels to tell us all about the latest piece of decisive action to combat retail gloom in that report the Department for Business wrote that had TV presenter Mary Portas’s name on the cover like a ghost-written Jordan autobiography
As many will have noticed by now, there are several boxes than all thinly veiled attempts to garner political leverage have to tick. Some of the most clichéd tactics include:
- Recommending a ‘review’ or a ‘pilot’ to try out something everyone knows needs to be done now, not in three years, or, if you have absolutely no intention of doing it, then suggest ‘consideration’;
- Empowering people who shouldn’t be put in charge of a duster to do something utterly pointless;
- The use of needless hyperbole (‘super’ or ‘hyper’) or worse still, the creation of pointless jobs (usually involving the word ‘tsar’);
- The creation of a meaningless initiative that must have an alliterative name.
Now I’m sure you’ll all remember Portas’s pearls of wisdom included recommendations to ‘consider’ localising business rates and a call to ‘empower’ councils to ‘step in’ when landlords don’t sell-off empty shops. Other nuggets included the creation of or ‘Town Teams’ and, best of all, ‘super-BIDs’ (business improvement districts presumably boozed up like Boris Johnson and Dave on an Oxford night out).
The weekend’s media blitz centred around Town Teams and Portas Pilots. You can see how they roll off the tongue. The idea is that 12 towns will share in a £1m pot to be spent on whatever creative initiatives are judged most worthy. Sadly, I still have absolutely no idea what the Town Teams do. Let’s assume they throw bricks through the windows of betting shops, as the government doesn’t much care for them. It wants to give them a new use class, after all.
The other section of the high street they don’t much care for is the hospitality brigade. In spite of an acceptance that high streets will have to evolve and re-invent themselves (presumably with homes, charities or other things that aren’t shops), there was no mention of the nighttime economy in the Portas review. The Association of Town Centre Managers puts its economic value at a whopping £66bn. That’s a lot of kebabs.
For many towns, BIDs have signified just how much firms can do on their own. Whether you look at the New West End Company, which includes all the superstar retailers along Oxford Street or BID Leamington, which raised £325,000 in its first year, you can find great examples of one part of the solution. Rather than waste time and money on new schemes and reviews, ministers should support what we have.
Unlike many in government, Shapps knows his beat and seems to actually care. But the Tory policy folk need to look at reality because people are starting to see through paper-thin ideas created to score press coverage.
As for the pilot competition, for what it’s worth, I reckon Mary Portas should invent some kind of round thing that retail folk can use to pull their goods to market with. Not sure what you’d call it, but I think it would catch on.
Last week’s strategic leak previewing the government’s forthcoming Aviation White Paper generated predictable huffs of incredulity around ‘Boris Island’ – the proposed £50bn new airport in the Thames Estuary. Similar cloud bursts from Willie Walsh and co, promptly pledged that BA would not move from Heathrow should a new hub be constructed.
Aside from the obvious nonsense of ruling out a third runway at Heathrow in a review touted as considering ‘all the options’ or indeed having a transport secretary who’s very seat in the Commons depends on her opposition to it (Justine Greening is, let’s recall, MP for Putney), few have sought to really examine the wider significance this could have for London and the UK’s development industries
Manchester’s £600m Airport City – that will seek to combine a wealth of commercial space with a refurbished Northern airport is just a taste of what a new, world-leading hub could create. For a real glimpse of what we could create, its Incheon, South Korea’s third largest city, that we should gaze upon.
Incheon International Airport opened in 2001, replacing the older Gimpo International Airport, which now serves mostly local flights around the region. Like the proposed Boris Island, it’s built on reclaimed land, and is conveniently positioned on the coast.
The problem with airports however is this: unless they’re made of Lego and are built in the bath, there wil be a fair amount of displacement to nearby habitats, whether those of Tory voters or sea otters. Whatever is suggested and wherever it is proposed an opposition group is formed. This isn’t a problem that seems to affect our friends in the Far East though.
Back to reality though and where Incheon is significant is for two reasons: firstly, it shows that replacing an existing hub could work (it failed when tried in Japan and Canada), and secondly, it affirms the fact you can only have one hub.
The idea that we could tack another runway on to Stansted or Gatwick or expand Birmingham and stick everyone on a train to solve the UK’s air capacity issues is rubbish. The whole concept of a ‘hub’ airport is the ability for long-haul flights to operate frequently to a large number of destinations, and this relies on a bulk of passengers from ‘feeder’ flights that will often be on short-haul journeys.
Apart from the obvious question of funding – which could potentially be solved by the Chinese, who are currently in high-level talks with the UK Treasury around investing in our nuclear and rail infrastructure – the planning barriers and Britain’s reliance on so-called ‘democracy’ (for sea otters and everyone else) would provide the main blockages. The assertion last week that it could be complete within a decade is, sadly, such a large pile of tosh you could build an airport on it.
But when you look now across the Canary Wharf estate and see such a hive of activity before you, it highlights the opportunity that time offers for London to reclaim its standing on the ladder of international relevance.
Whatever personal politics people have over British aviation (which, let’s face it, depends on whether you chase West End girls or East End boys on a weekend and enjoy bumping into Philip Hammon and Justine Greening in the Richmond brand of Poundstretcher), everyone appreciates that all aspects of London’s market depend on its connectivity. Having a sustainable aviation strategy is therefore vital.
And while Boris reportedly supports a third Heathrow runway privately, and see the Estuary idea as a politically safe way of convincing voters that paving over Sipson is the ‘least bad option’, Norman Foster’s idea may present a few more opportunities for the British property market than people have given it credit for, particularly if a large-scale new development brings with it the opportunity for London to become Europe’s capital for finance, distribution and global transport. Wake me up when we get there.
My only experience with Mary Portas came a few years ago when Liz Peace charged me with delivering some high profile exposure that didn’t involve having to get up at stupid o’clock for the Today Programme. After a few weeks of phone tennis, a filming slot was arranged on Mary's BBC Two series as part of our strategy to promote the flexibility of commercial landlords.
The producers wanted a rooftop location with a view over some shops which John Lewis kindly provided, and underneath torrential London rains we spent an entire afternoon filming a five-minute interview.
Sadly, the piece ended up on the cutting room floor and I have a hunch that karma’s likely to raise its weary head where Mary’s current ‘review’ of retail is concerned as well.
Why? Firstly, because in a political climate where the government’s very existence is pinned on creating growth, gunning down major retailers via the planning system to ‘protect’ high streets at the expense of jobs won’t wash. Those firms have too much power and besides, consumers have already voted.
Secondly, because you can’t gaffer tape a planning policy statement to the internet as much as many idealistic politicians would like to think you can.
Thirdly, as with most things governments do, this is a repacking of the whole needs test debate that was thrown out by Labour when it shied away from a fight with the industry.
Having being told that communities want to run their own schools or take on planners’ roles creating neighbourhood plans, many voters feel the government is simply trying to force Tory idealism of ‘village life’ upon it. But even in wealthy areas like Hampstead local independents are going under as people shy away from paying £8 for a slice of organic quiche. For the vast majority, the weekly shop destination is dependent solely on price.
Unless the government wants to nationalise certain types of high street outlets (which it could well end up doing by telling State-backed banks to ‘go easy’ on certain retailers), the reality is that the rash of empty shops will continue to spread. There are a number of other insolvencies on the cards and, as one very senior property figure put it to me, “Mary’s at risk of pushing water up a hill”.
But however commendable protecting independents may be, the view of most planning professionals is that it’s not the planning system’s role to regulate occupiers. “I’m not convinced it’s for the planning to do that,” says Addleshaw Goddard partner Marnix Elsenaar, who heads the planning and environment team. “We saw the changes around PPS6 – the policy around retail planning - when the needs test went as the government decided it wasn’t for it to interfere in the market.”
Another retail expert, Chris Green, a partner at planning consultants DPP agrees. “The planning system is there to control land use and not necessarily control fascias,” he says, calling for a more pragmatic approach around supporting the high street and attracting different activities.
“For a long period of time people resisted coffee shops and I think there’s a lot of caution when you get new formats and we need to be entrepreneurial in how we generate income from town centres.”
This is code for the newest trend which is seeing the expansion of large supermarkets into smaller, inner-city units. But while most high streets would welcome a John Lewis Metro – many would have different feelings for other brands, despite the obvious economics benefits they would all bring in terms of footfall for neighbouring shops. Do we therefore need to be a bit stricter around controlling what such shops could sell in a bid to protect local newsagents, clothing outlets or record stores?
Yet there’s still a risk that a government committed to empowering communities and cutting red tape could bring in a host of potentially damaging regulations, particularly where rents are concerned. The upward-only rent review debate is never far from view. But many will take the view that ministers should stick to improving the recycling of retail packaging rather than failed policies from days gone by.
Everyone’s got their priorities and last week we got to see those of the Communities and Local Government department as Eric Pickles’ aides told the Evening Standard’s Joe Murphy that the communities secretary wanted to save cash by renting out the ground floor of Eland House in Victoria.
They said that a Tesco or Waitrose food outlet could raise one million pounds a year in rent, adding that it was “a serious proposal”.
Of course, as a senior Land Securities source quipped, “if more money could have been made with retail there, it would have been done years ago”, but you can see the logic. At 25 yds away, the local M&S in Cardinal Place is a bit of a walk at lunchtime. And Mr Pickles clearly has many other more pressing matters to attend to.
Like the housing crisis, the planning shake-up or the fact that no one in his office told English Heritage about localism.
Despite it being universally approved by everyone in the City, British Land’s £340m UBS facelift has had to fight tooth and nail to win final approval today. But while Chris Grigg, Adrian Penfold and co will be having a merry old celebration, it raises a serious point of how localism can really deliver. This is the perfect example of a development delivering thousands of jobs, hundreds of millions of pounds in investment and countless local benefits, yet local support isn’t enough.
Surely if people want a reminder of how great the eighties were they can hire Boy George to DJ at their son’s barmitzvah rather than stifling London’s revival by claiming we need symbols of 'triumphant urbanism'? It's a phrase right out of the dictionary of nimbyism.
Perhaps it’s how you’d describe the MK shopping centre in Milton Keynes which lost a similar battle a year ago? Except without any sense of triumph.
But of course architectural merit will always be subjective and therein lies the problem: the challenge for the property industry is show that these buildings are more than some bricks, glass and pretty CG images, and to draw people to the wider benefits.
Just as the motor industry is great at singing the praises of jobs generated by new, highly polluting car plants, so developers should sing louder about the 5,000 jobs created in the City and the massive contribution it will make to our stagnating construction sector.
If you don’t like the argument, change the subject. Preferably to one where there’s no debate.
No one can argue over the need for jobs, world-beating buildings and the global brands that occupy them, or that Britain’s increasingly high environmental standards are the envy of developing markets such as China. The new UBS buildings promise to be some of the greenest office space the UK has ever seen and while the size of London’s market is tiny on the world stage, British innovation is world-leading.
Let’s just hope that ministers in charge of its future can get their priorities in order once they’ve finished sorting out lunch.
HMV has certainly edged ahead of EMI in recent months in the race for which British music institution will be the first to fold. EMI sold off HMV nine years ago, but many will feel today’s eye-popping £240m bail-out is simply one final sweaty encore as the performance draws to a close.
Two years on from the summer of CVAs that saw Focus DIY, JJB Sports and a few others grab life-lines and we’ve seen them fold as many predicted at the time. Landlords rightly used it as an opportunity to show people they were willing to help and successfully batted back false claims they were to blame for the stores’ failures.
It’s fair to say though that the emotional pull of HMV – with memories of skipping school to buy the tunes that soundtracked our youth – is somewhat greater than that of sheds selling footy shirts and hammers. But something tells me HMV’s State-backed bank lenders don’t harbour any fond memories waiting outside to grab a first pressing of Morning Glory. They’d have been too busy watching Countdown.
One plus is that calls for those bailing out occupiers to get ‘something back’ seem to have been heard. With the banks grabbing 5% of the HMV, this could bode well next time landlords feel the need to agree a CVA. And the rumour mill suggests that a retailer with over 700 stores is close to toppling over, so there could be more tests to come.
However, with the British music industry undergoing such turmoil at the hands of pirates, iTunes and supermarket discounting, is the demise of our last remaining record chain simply an inevitability? Quite possibly.
HMV dumped Waterstones for 82% less than it paid WHSmith back in 1998, but sales trends for records and DVDs are going the same way as books. Faster broadband products – like BT Infinity – and the increasing use of entertainment hubs don’t paint a rosy picture for physical media sales. Kids these days don’t do b-sides.
No other retail sector has faced as much of a battering. The lucrative singles market has been wiped out and margins on what remains have been slashed at with a quarter of albums sold in supermarkets. Fierce price squeezing on this kind of scale is hurting not just HMV but labels and publishers too.
That said, why do you never see iPod fill-stations in HMV, where digital music lovers could purchase music and films digitally in-store with the swipe of their credit cards? Why were no music communities set up around HMV branches, using sites like MySpace or Soundcloud, harnessing the massive interest in online music to maintain footfall? And why didn’t they stick a few quid into vintage guitars – the best performing asset class in the world?
The point is that HMV has missed many tricks here to capitalise from an online boom in the real world. It has prime retail pitches across the UK, but what use have they made of them? Hopefully, the two-year maturity of today’s deal with give them time to sort themselves out, let’s hope they can work it out.
After the misery of Monday, day two of the Core Cities Summit is a bit brighter.
One of the running jokes of the morning is how Sadiq Khan, the transport minister, managed to get into the centre of Liverpool without getting hit by a tram. “I’m glad Core Cities have hired Rory Bremner and Nick Clegg doing the entertainment,” he snipes, before reading a speech clearly put together by the work experience boy.
Obviously Khan was too busy doing his expenses to come up with anything useful to say.
In all seriousness though, it’s been a while since a government minister has come out with such a load of old claptrap in public. His speech is so short that he’s able to take questions from the audience afterwards – always a bad move when its unplanned and one is unprepared.
Take this exchange for starters which follows Khan berating Brits for not getting on their bikes more.
Woman from small village: I own a bike, but I’m too scared to use it. We don’t even have pavements where I live, let alone bike lanes.
Khan: London’s a lot more dangerous and they ride bikes there.
Contact my office and they’ll put you in touch with people who can advise on bike lanes. They’re not that expensive.
Knowing it’ll get a laugh from the majority of people in the audience who understand development, I ask Khan how the government plans to pay for vital new infrastructure with reduced public funding and in the absence of large developer contributions, hoping (yeah right) that he might offer a commitment to allow the cities to raise their own monies and take on their own debt-raising exercises for large projects.
“We will still have public money,” he says, “through things like Community Infrastructure Levy.”
Indeed. Job done.
To try and summarise Work Foundation chief Will Hutton’s speech would be like writing the bible on your finger nail. But rest assured there aren’t too many answers to questions you hadn’t thought of already.
“We need to expand social housing so that people in it can move from city to city,” he pleads.
“There should be sufficient capacity in housing stock to allow people to move from city to city.” Yes, and tickets to Bon Jovi shouldn’t cost £200 each. Surely there are higher priorities? Like the four million people on housing waiting lists perhaps?
Or unemployed pensioners.
Except they won’t be pensioners, because the pensionable age will have increased.
What we will have soon, Hutton warns, is “a lot of unemployed people in their sixties who won't be able to get jobs.” They should build homes. And none of the two-bed flats that all these cities were quite happy to grant permission for a decade ago when pockets were there to be lined.
Still, Hutton impresses the need for green opportunities through recession. Councils must retrofit homes and insulate them. Again, one has to ask, with what? Egg boxes?
According to the State We’re In author, it could take six or seven years to get to pre-recession levels of output. “It’s not going to be Armageddon,” he explains, “but it will be constrained over the next decade.” Somoene call Michael Bay.
“Labour,” he adds, “has given too much ground to deficit0cutitng in the aftermath of the credit crunch. Fiscal conservartism is poison.” So what’s realism? Rohypnol?
Centre for Cities chief Dermot Finch has some questions of his own over dinner. “Will Hutton says invest in bigger cities,” he says, “but if that's the case, how does policy respond to the question of the differential performance of cities?” Some do better after all.
And this is the fundamental point of the day: “Should business rates be relocalised? What about equalisation?” Indeed, if the business base in Liverpool isn't as strong as Manchester or Leeds, then what?
“How do you link the growth of central business districts with those of the less successful ones. I've not heard any answers.”
Finch also blasts the lack of ideas about how private will generate jobs to pick up slack, although he says, perhaps a bit idealistically that “there’s much more consensus” between cities over joint working.
Is there? What about that old mantra ‘what’s practical isn’t politically acceptable’ and vice-versa? And what of Conservative Housing spokesman Grant Shapps’ plans to have towns competing with each other for development?
‘I’ll trade you four social housing tenants for this shopping centre.’
While he is a man of many questions, Finch at least lays down a few gauntlets. “I've not heard enough scenario planning for a change of government,” he declares. “About a year from now RDAs might be wound up, we may have a referendum over elected mayors and within a week of a Tory administration coming to power regional spatial strategies would be done away with.”
“Any sensible business,” he adds, “would have scenario planning. A Tory one, a hung parliament one, even a Lib Dem one if you like. I’m surprised I've not heard any discussions about that.”
His other fine suggestion mirrors Sir Bob Kerslake’s comments yesterday about raising the awareness of the importance of regeneration with central government.
When Labour got in they invited Richard Rogers in to lead an Urban Task Force,” Finch recalls. Of course that move had about as much policy formation as inviting Noel Gallagher to No 10 or giving Alan Sugar a peerage. “The mistake was that it was led by an architect with too much concern about design,” Finch continues. “It missed out the more important aspects of jobs and the economy, but at least it showed they wanted to revive cities,”
“Propose now that you want the urban task force reconstituted and it won't be about design but jobs and growth, and be run by someone nationally recognised in business - not an architect - someone who can reinvigorate the agenda.”
“You need to be cheekier and more articulate about the specifics,” he reminds the crowd.
And always look on the bright side too, perhaps. For example: because of low interest rates, the cost of servicing our debt is the cheapest it could have been for hundreds of years. Aren’t we lucky? Still, the days of seeing the recession’s own Vera Lynn – Vince Cable – popping up on the TV telling us he was right have to be numbered now. Small mercies.
It’s all doom and gloom at council leader’s annual bash
The first afternoon of the city leaders’ annual get-together is filled with more than just a little gloom. Everyone you could ever wish to see from the world of regeneration and civic leadership is here, plus a few you probably wouldn’t. Like me.
Core Cities – the group representing Birmingham, Bristol, Leeds, Liverpool, Manchester, Newcastle, Nottingham and Sheffield – has a lot to discuss and, as we all know, some big issues to iron out. While we all pretend that the world ends at Watford, anyone in housing knows that’s not true. After all, it was all them flats in Leeds and Manchester wot dunnit, right?
I can’t recall the last time I was the only one on the table without a knighthood and as I look round my small table (at Lord Falconer, Sir Bob Kerslake and Sir Michael Parkinson), while they bang on about cities having to press the case for regeneration into the hallowed face of the government, one can’t help thinking: ‘If these guys can’t sort it out, then we really are doomed’.
If you believe Cllr Jon Collins, leader of Nottingham, then we already are.
“I’m not particularly confident about the Tories,” he says, “but then you wouldn’t expect me to be.” Collins continues about how we’re set for a second dip, shaped “like a W”.
Still, it’s not as bad as the ‘I’ shaped dip his Labour administration took when they lost control of Notts council for the first time in 28 years in June after relinquishing 22 seats to the Tories.
Yes. Get me.
Liverpool’s master, Cllr Warren Bradley is a bit more on the button saying how “the present government have not listened to core city leaders as they should have done.”
Talking briefly about localism and how power if often devolved to avoid central government having to take responsibility for cuts, he adds: “I’ll take devolution and cuts as long as we have freedom. It worked in Scotland where local authorities have freedom and they're delivering and shaping their cities.”
Weirdly, he accused London of having an “obsession with social housing” claiming that they have enough in Liverpool and that it now needs to find a way of attracting private sector housing to get the “execs” back.
“Housing associations are failing social tenants,” he says, veering off at an odd tangent. “some have got too big.”
“Always maintain infrastructure investment through the hard times,” Bradley then adds making a bit more sense before undoing it again. “And that comes down even to the fountain in the city, because that's what people expect.”
And there’s the key to urban renewal and the antidote to no Merseytram: fountains.
But he’s not finished laying into things just yet so I take the opportunity to throw some of the various, overly-repeated phrases back at some of the panel. Words like ‘partnership’ and ‘investment’. Phrases like ‘local decision-making’ and ‘new homes’. Annoying, once-useful terms rendered as impotent as ‘sustainability’ through their context-less usage as people use them to mop up or mask the stains of broken Britain.
The proposed Everton football stadium, I ask, would it not have delivered tons of new homes, new jobs and new space, not just for Tesco – the development partner - but for others too? Wasn’t it approved by the local council and then opposed by everyone else?
“It was opposed on planning policy grounds,” Bradley replies, talking of course about how Liverpool City Council claimed it would impact on its retail set up. But of course. the point was though, that where their neighbours in Manchester have been quite cooperative among themselves, it’s been a different affair there. “I'm not a big advocate of supermarkets or super duper markets wiping out a whole community of small retailers,” Bradley continues, not surprising many people.
“A thousand jobs may have been created but a thousand jobs would’ve been lost as a result.” Is that really true? But a shiny Everton stadium would give the new young Rooney somewhere to take his first kick-about in. Odds are 20-1 he’ll play for Everton. Plus, think of all the really cheap cider he’d be able to buy with his mates.
Sir Bob Kerslake delivers a bit more of the considered thinking we’re used to, thankfully.
“Winning the argument at the Treasury for long term place-making is hard,” he says. “Government has lost confidence in place space regeneration and the real challenge is to come up with flexible models that give them confidence in the returns,” adding that localism is now driving thinking on both sides of the fence.
As he talks about the need to simplify funding streams and allow alignment in investment, he says that “the key role is leadership” and that “if we can get confidence place by place, we can generate confidence in localism.”
Still, the leadership issue at the local stage will clearly be a big issue for many.
“Sustainability remains powerful driver,” Kerslake continues, talking about those green targets the government is hoping to sweep under the carpet alongside the house building ones. “If you look at retrofitting homes you calculate a sum of half a trillion,” he says. “It’s a fantastic opportunity to deliver sustainability and create jobs, and is one of key cases for continued public investment.”
Liverpool’s Cllr Bradley is quite clear though. “Housing won't make green standards,” he states, adding that “the only way out of that is subsidy, and we need to have a debate about it.”
Sir Richard Leese, leader of Manchester, says: “There needn’t be a conflict between growth and sustainability. Manchester is set for a 41 per cent reduction target by 2020. A third of savings come nationally and a third will come through retrofit.”
And the other third? “We haven't a clue,” he says, not jesting.
So what do we want then? Fountains, loft insulation or a good odds on zero zero carbon homes by 2016?
Well, actually, what most people here so far want is better control over their finances and more power to raise money (according to the various anonymous votes that are cast). An equal proportion think that the government has reacted OK to the crisis as think they’ve done it badly. Many place stalled development way behind job cuts and the social consequences of recession, even if the latter two are arguably a consequence of sorts.
Newcastle leader, Cllr John Shipley, agrees. “Raising finance is essential. We will not un-stall development and we will lose jobs unless we raise additional private and public finance.
“We have to do more for ourselves. Actually there is more than we can do ourselves. We have to be mature enough as cities to manage our own risk.”
This of course leads nicely into the joint lobbying being undertaken over tax increment financing that some quarters of the Tories appear to think is just ‘more borrowing’. But if people are serious about giving power to the locals, then that power needs to come with the risk that they might ‘do an Arnie’ and go bust, doesn’t it?
Thankfully for the development community, there is a very high importance over partnership working, although Shipley’s point about how cities need to talk together and agree which should lead in what areas isn’t exactly welcomed with open arms let’s just say.
“It is essential that cities identify and build on their specialisms. The problem for many is competition, whereas real long term strength for a city is identifying what they do best and where they can compete internationally.”
He cites energy as a good example for Newcastle. Well, he wasn’t going to suggest football now, was he?