London – not just a pretty face

London First have released a report with Gensler focssed on creating better places within the Capital, to keep it globally competitive.

London is a global economic hub, and attracts a rich diversity of people who call it their home. It may be the employment opportunities that first draw so many to our capital, but it’s the ‘liveability’ of the city that will keep them here. London First argues that the vibrancy and character from its amazing heritage, historic buildings and architecture, the diverse neighbourhoods, its parks and squares, cultural attractions and thriving nightlife are a key factor in retaining talented people.

The report suggests this is coming increasingly under threat. With the population expected to reach 10 million by 2030, the pressure already placed on London’s public spaces, community and transport infrastructure is, say London First, reaching a head.

The report, ‘Not just a pretty place’, looks at how we London can create better places – with character and vibrancy – that people want to live work and visit. This, they say, is what that commonly used term ‘placemaking’ is all about. They also say there are very few places in London where this is being delivered effectively, and at scale.

London First argues that while planning policy provides a framework to guide development it doesn’t ensure that there will be consistency in the quality, ‘offer’ and vibrancy of the area. This is partly attributable to the broad range of stakeholders with varying degrees of desire (and commercial imperative) to invest in the long term success of the area.

The report provides recommendations for the the Mayor and the Boroughs on making effective placemaking happen.

Six key recommendations:

  • Stronger leadership from the Mayor of London to enable better placemaking including clearer policies in the London Plan that promote investment in the public realm as a driver for regeneration and a more flexible range of uses in town centres. This should be underpinned by practical advice and support provided by the regeneration team.
  • London’s boroughs should establish a clear vision for placemaking and co-ordinate activities across existing departments to deliver this such as the dedicated multidisciplinary teams established by Croydon and Westminster.
  • Boroughs should provide a clear direction on how competing local priorities; for example housing and infrastructure vs public realm will be balanced through planning decisions;
  • Business-led organisations, such as BIDs should play a greater role in campaigning for investment and work more closely with all stakeholders involved, including public sector bodies and local communities
  • The Mayor and boroughs should continue to make the case for greater devolved powers to fund and finance placemaking in order to reinvest in local transformation
  • There are a range of ways for the Mayor and Boroughs to deliver cost effective placemaking including low cost or temporary interventions that engage local residents.

With the current political uncertainty, London’s position as a global hub is at risk from its competitors like Paris, Berlin, and Madrid just waiting to overtake it. We must continue to invest in London to keep it the attractive, global city that it is.

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