Delivering new towns with people, communities and heritage at their heart was the overriding message at an engaging place-making panel debate at the Capital West London Growth Summit.
A wide-ranging debate – titled Destination, Destination, Destination and sponsored by Yoo Capital – heard from five leading experts as they gave their views on the exciting new communities being delivered across West London and how to reverse the fortunes of the UK’s ailing high-streets, among other topics.
Jackie Sadek, Chief Operating Officer, UK Regeneration, kicked off the conversation as she urged developers and local authorities to “be radical about your town centres.”
Sadek, who was one of the contributors to the Grimsey review that looked at how to change the fortunes of town centres up and down the country, said: “I was pleased that so much of what we found in the review was accepted into yesterday’s Budget.
“Saving town centres should not be predicated on retail but on experiences. It’s about getting more footfall into town centres. More restaurants, bars, but also go further than that through education and health facilities. Why is it that doctors’ surgeries are always jettisoned to the edges of the town?
“In many ways we need to get back to town centres as they were 200 years ago, with homes and jobs and pushing as much residential and offices space into town centres as we can.”
Liz Peace, Chair of OPDC, agreed. Peace is currently overseeing the huge Old Oak and Park Royal Development regeneration project and is relishing the opportunity to create a new community almost from “scratch”.
She said: “At Park Royal we want to create a new community for all the businesses already there. We’re not sure quite what we are going to call it yet, it may not be a town centre, we want to create almost more of a village centre.
“The other part of the challenge is Old Oak. It will be a thriving transport interchange but we have to make it somewhere were people want to stay and to visit. We have this fantastic opportunity to build a new town almost from scratch.”
James Saunders, Chief Operating Officer at Quintain, who are delivering one of the country’s largest new developments at Wembley Park, said they were determined to stay true to the heritage of the site.
“You have to have respect for the history. This site has amazing historical context, going back to Victorian times and then right up to the modern day with all the world-famous events it has held here. We truly believe we are only custodians of the site.
“We spend a lot of our time and money thinking about not just the buildings that are going up but also the spaces between those buildings. We are determined to create public space where people want to come, enjoy and spend time.”
Nick Searl, Partner, Argent Related, said that ‘human experience’ was the key aspect of their plans for Brent Cross.
He said: “At Brent Cross South we have some great assets and great people. Two great opportunities – a new station, which is critical, and a 50-acre park for culture, nature, sport and participation – putting that at the centre was so critical to what we want to achieve.
“Also critical are the 25-30,000 people who will work there in the new office spaces as they will support the economy of the area.
“It’s always important to remember – we don’t make places, people do,”
Lloyd Lee, Managing Partner at Yoo Capital, emphasised the importance of getting everyone involved in the process and delivery of their £1 billion redevelopment of Olympia.
“We have found over 18 months it is incredibly important to work with all stakeholders – be that residents, government, local authorities. Not just because of planning but also because of what we learnt about the place, what it can be used for, how it works. What we realised along the way is that it would be far better if we built this new place together.
“It has to be a place that means something to the community and to the people that live there.”