Our business firmly believes in the power of partnership. Without it, we wouldn’t have achieved everything we have in our three years. We’ve long been advocates of public-private partnerships (PPPs) as a key to releasing overlooked sites for development and delivering the communities our country needs.
We welcome the Mayor of London’s new London Development Panel, which promises to help achieve just that for London. It is expected to help bring forward up to £20bn worth of development land over the next four years.
The panel will create a network of developers, housing associations and contractors with whom public bodies can work to accelerate the development of public land. It’s a great opportunity to use the expertise gained on our PPP projects to regenerate even more communities across London.
But to make a tangible success of it, we need to rebuild trust in the spirit of PPPs. In recent years, the term PPP has perhaps been tarnished. It is often confused with the Private Finance Initiative, made even more toxic by high-profile failures such as the collapse of Carillion.
There is much that is good about the private and public sector working together – and we want to restore trust in that for the benefit of London and the UK more widely.
PPPs didn’t become our specialism by coincidence. We recognised long ago that transparent public-private collaborations were the answer to the challenge of making more productive use of public land. Add to that the financial imperative: local authorities have less money to spend, so the need to work with private sector partners is essential if we are to deliver what we all want and need.
Homes, yes, but also community assets, student beds, libraries, retail, leisure, work and enterprise spaces. This mix of uses is key to our approach: only by creating places where people live, work and play will we develop a true sense of community. Take our site at 8 Albert Embankment, where we’ll be delivering a new fire station at no cost to the public purse, or our Central Research Laboratory at The Old Vinyl Factory, a space for manufacturing start-ups in Hayes.
We’ve never pretended that a one-size-fits-all approach to regeneration is what local authorities want. On privately owned land, councils get to express the public interest through the planning system; on public land, there’s a clearer opportunity for collaboration, radical ideas, socio-economic innovation and value-add.
But as with all partnerships, the best ones are about listening – listening to what the community wants, understanding the fine grain of a place and respecting its history.
“We’ve never pretended that a one-size-fits-all approach to regeneration is what local authorities want”
We don’t pretend to know what every community needs or wants, but we’re always willing to listen and look for ways developers and the broader property sector can improve.
That’s why this summer we have started a big listening project – a conversation between the property sector, local government and civic society to find out what is and isn’t working when it comes to the delivery of PPPs.
What’s the right balance of risk and reward? What is best practice, and how do we work together to deliver more of the best? We’ll be reporting back later this year.
What we already know is this: it is critically important that the public and private sectors work closely together to deliver great places in which people can work, rest and play. And that doesn’t happen without partnership.