A session at the London Real Estate Forum discussed the newly launched Capital West London programme, and the potential benefits it can bring to the sub-region.
Collaboration was the central theme, and that by working together the seven boroughs of the West London Alliance both present a bigger canvas and present a more diverse investment opportunity. A population of two million and a £65bn economy means the sub-region can be compared with a significant European city, rather than seen as a collection of individual authorities.
The catalogue of opportunity, as witnessed by the speakers, from Feltham to White City, and Brent Cross to Old Oak, is huge and more attractive when presented as a coherent whole.
It’s easier to bring forward opportunity when boroughs work together. As Peter Elliot, Head of Property Development, Transport for London, said: “We are having conversations with the boroughs to start to bring forward the opportunities around TfL hubs in West London. We can only do that with collaboration, as our sites are often on the border of two councils. Capital West London can only help in terms of that collaboration.”
He added that West London was an attractive proposition. “The central London market has flattened a bit and is perhaps starting to decline. Outer London has connectivity and opportunity sites.”
Julian Bell, leader of Ealing Council, echoed that, saying: “West London is a great place. Not only do we have a two million population, we are probably the best connected place in the world. And that’s going to improve with HS2 and Crossrail.”
Speaking about the rationale for the collaboration, he said: “We looked at the Manchester Combined Authority, and though we are statutorily unable to set up a such a thing, we set up a joint economic prosperity board – a shadow combined authority.
“We want to attract investment from overseas, and help our businesses sell their products and services across the world, so we set up Capital West London to promote the sub-region to the world.”
Chris Walters, Head of Development, London & Partners, spoke about the help Capital West London would deliver to attracting global investors. He said: “We see Capital West London, pulling boroughs together with one voice, as an extension of London & Partners work representing London boroughs and their investment opportunities.
“West London has Brent Cross, Wembley, Old Oak – we try to say there are big opportunities outside the central activity zone.”
Westfield invested £1.7bn in the first phase of their Westfield London shopping centre in White City, including significant investment in transport and connectivity, refurbishing one tube station, creating another, and building a new overground station. They have just opened their £600m phase two, making it Europe’s largest shopping centre at 2.5m sq ft, and continue to invest in further development on the site.
Emma Hindes, General Manager, Westfield, explained: “We had a bold vision, and complete confidence in the West London economy bred from its exceptional connectivity and economic strength. This speaks volume for the strength of West London as an investment destination, and for the vision that has been created by the local authorities.”
Westfield may be large, but it is not West London’s only mega-centre. At Brent Cross, Hammerson and Aberdeen are doubling the size of the existing centre, while delivering 7500 new homes and significant commercial space. Karen Mercer, Project Director Brent Cross, LB Barnet, said: “We are on the verge of delivery. Delivery of the the new Thameslink station has been brought forward to 2022, and that has been a game changer. We are now working very closely with WLA partners, especially Brent, looking at how we can provide further opportunities in the local area.
“Now Brent Cross is becoming a reality that we will be attracting investment from overseas”.
That West London is a superb investment opportunity is beyond doubt. It’s clear that the scale and breadth of that opportunity is increasing, and that the appetite among investors is growing. The region seems set for a period of substantial economic growth, helped along by the collaborative arrangements created by the West London Alliance and Capital West London.