It was another bright but early start for the BPF Investors Breakfast, which always draws a great crowd. This year, in a new departure, instead of one speaker there was a panel that included Landsec chief executive Rob Noel, GVA’s Gerry Hughes and Homes England’s Louise Wyman.

Susan freeman

It was another bright but early start for the BPF Investors Breakfast, which always draws a great crowd. This year, in a new departure, instead of one speaker there was a panel that included Landsec chief executive Rob Noel, GVA’s Gerry Hughes and Homes England’s Louise Wyman. The discussion was around the important topic of what makes for a successful public/private sector partnership.

Noel reckons that “a common goal and trust” are essential. Other prerequisites were clarity of objective, an ability to flex and change and, of course, political stability. Hughes said that clients were concerned about the current political uncertainty as it affects long-term arrangements. This is an issue that is coming up at many Mipim debates this year.

Strong leadership was also cited as an essential and reference was made to Sir Howard Bernstein and what he achieved for Manchester. Palace Capital’s Neil Sinclair asked from the floor how the public and private sectors would be able to work together if John McDonnell became chancellor. The panel dealt with this well and felt that the private sector would find a way. Veteran real estate investor Sinclair, who experienced London in the 1970s, did not look convinced.

Housing crisis focus

I then hoofed it down a very busy Croisette to a heaving London stand where ebullient London Chamber president Tony Pidgley of Berkeley Homes was speaking to a wrapt audience. On a similar theme to the BPF panel, he said public/private sector collaboration was key to solving the housing crisis.

Fortunately nobody asked the John McDonnell question! “Why does it take so long to sign a s106 agreement?” he asked rhetorically. “Let’s get the government to recognise there is a housing crisis,” he said, “and let’s get on with Crossrail 2 so we can provide homes.”

On the question of skills shortage, Pidgley told the audience that 60% of his labour force is from Europe. His company Berkeley is trying to help address the skills shortage with apprenticeships and skill academies. It has invested in a factory and is now building modular with units coming out ready carpeted. On the subject of small housebuilders, Pidgley said when he started he used to have 40 competitors and now there are only two! He expressed surprise when an audience member said the recent Letwin report blamed the housebuilders rather than the planning system for restricting housing supply. No doubt we will hear more about this.

Putting Wembley on the map

The next panel featured the inspirational double act of Barking & Dagenham council leader Darren Rodwell and his chief executive Chris Naylor. The GLA’s David Lunts jokingly pointed out that Barking & Dagenham was a bigger crowd-puller than Tony Pidgley! It was their marriage of “vision, commitment and passion” that attracted people. Rodwell said it was ridiculous that he was the most senior London politician at Mipim.

Naylor really nailed it talking about the problem of the perception of the development sector, which needs to be seen as part of the solution to the housing crisis. He made it clear that Barking only wants to deal with developers who see affordable housing as a long-term investment. If the private sector doesn’t see itself as the solution to providing council housing then it should say so, he said.

This session was followed by an excellent build-to-rent panel chaired by Alex Notay of Places for People, which discussed the growing UK sector. I had to leave but heard Apache’s Richard Jackson saying we needed to learn from the standards of service provided in the US. It will be interesting to see how far the UK model follows the US in terms of amenities.

After absorbing all this content in quick succession, lunch beckoned at the Investec beach party on the Croissette. I have observed a new trend this Mipim in that a number of guests have only flown in for the day. A number told me they had come to Cannes solely to attend Investec’s party. This is a testament to the hosts who lay on quite a spread featuring excellent sushi and champagne. It was so enjoyable chatting beachside that I have to admit to missing a few DIT panels on strategic housing growth and design that I had intended to go to.

Quintain had a drinks reception on its impressive new London stand celebrating Wembley’s inclusion in the Pipers London model, which really puts Wembley Park on the map.

Then it was my panel on ‘London is open: diversity as a mindset’. My excellent fellow panellists were New West Company’s Jace Tyrrell, Emma Cariaga from British Land and Killian Hurley from Mount Anvil. We had a far-reaching debate and I got to discuss one of my favourite topics: the dangers of ‘comfortable clone syndrome’.

I was proud to be able to say that 57% of our real estate lawyers at Mishcon de Reya are women and that we were the first London law firm to have a non-solicitor chairman. We covered some wide-ranging issues including how to attract people with different backgrounds and skills into real estate to make a difference.

To everyone’s surprise, the Inaugural Homes England reception on the DIT stand had people queuing outside, which shows the regard for the new Homes England team and bodes well for the excellent work they are doing .

Dinner delight

Finally the long-awaited Property Week editor’s dinner. Now in its third year, this event, chaired by Liz Hamson, is sponsored by James Andrew International and New West End Company. It attracts a top-rate crowd drawn from all aspects of real estate who are expected to sing meaningfully for their supper.

This year guests included Manchester’s Tom Bloxham and TV architect George Clarke, who has just invested in Urban Splash. We covered a huge amount of ground and I won’t detract from the forthcoming Property Week feature, other than to say the ‘trust’ word and benign dictatorships were discussed quite a lot!

The real strength of Mipim is the random encounters. I was delighted to connect with proptech expert Eddie Holmes who I know well virtually. He is much taller in real life than he looks on Twitter!

Sadly there was no Tristan party this year but hopefully it will be back next year. Having said that, the music was still pounding at another beach party until 1:30 in the morning!

Susan Freeman is a partner at Mishcon de Reya - follow her on Twitter @propertyshe