Open for Business

This article was published in the lookwest magazine distributed at MIPIM 2008. It is available for download here.

Things are changing in the riverside Borough of Hammersmith and Fulham. In between London’s West End and Heathrow Airport, and linked to both by road and rail, it’s handy for Gatwick too. With the fourth highest property prices in the UK, it’s always been a profitable place to develop – if you could find the right spots.

Now a proposed new local development framework (LDF) from the new administration, promises to open up development opportunity all over the borough, home to international organisations such as the BBC, Coca Cola, L’Oreal, Sony Ericsson and Walt Disney, plus three prestigious football clubs.

Central Hammersmith, a thriving commercial district but with potential for substantially more grade A office space, has significant development opportunities outlined in the new proposed LDF, and businesses have put in place the Hammersmith London BID (Business Improvement District). which will bring in £2.9m for town centre projects from the private sector. King Street in particular is singled out for redevelopment with new commercial space planned for both eastern and western ends of the thriving High Street.

The new administration has changed the Borough’s outlook. It now welcomes developers who appreciate how high quality development can transform regeneration areas, providing new and aspirational homes, jobs and facilities. Restrictive zoning of employment land has given way to a much more flexible approach. The borough no longer seeks 65% affordable housing, which was in excess of the London Plan targets. This change in approach to tenure mix will be a particular lift for housebuilders and will certainly assist all the major mixed-use developments that the
Borough sees coming forward over the next few years.

City of Opportunity
Toward the northern point of the Borough lies one of the largest regeneration opportunities in the capital. The 37 hectares of the White City Opportunity area provide potential for development on the same scale as King’s Cross, or Stratford City. The vision for the area is as a creative hub, centred around the recognised world class of the BBC. Hammersmith already has more workers per head of population in creative industries than any other London borough, over 20% of jobs are in such sectors.

That employment in these industries is growing fast – at 36%*, twice the total growth in employment in London – has alerted Hammersmith to the economic prospects offered by building on this area of strength. The anticipated reconfiguration of the BBC in White City, aimed at modernising production and commissioning, will accelerate this growth, and provide a strong reason to locate in the area. The relative proximity of other large media companies – BSkyB, Disney and so on – adds even more value to the location.

The arrival, at the southern end of the area, of the giant shopping centre development
Westfield London also provides significant opportunity for economic growth. The centre should provide around 7,000 new jobs when fully open, as well as a new physical link from Shepherds Bush Green to the development opportunities to the north. The transport improvements – new rail, underground and bus links – produced by the new centre will also provide increases in value for developments in and around the Opportunity Area.

Hammersmith & Fulham are looking at how the Opportunity Area could be better related to its surroundings, including the existing town centre. This step would spread the benefits of regeneration over a wider area and encourage more investment in development and infrastructure improvement, supporting redevelopment and unlocking the value of underused land.

Making better use of railway land
The Borough has a particularly large amount of railway depot and siding land, and seeks to find ways of unlocking the substantial development potential, possibly by decking for high density development.

A particular example is Old Oak Sidings at the very north tip of the Borough, where a massive 32.5 hectare site has been suggested for a mix of Class B employment, residential development and some residual railway use.

The borough is urging provision of a local station on the London Crossrail and West London Line to bring about a major increase in transport accessibility. Not only is there significant development potential, but it would also offer the possibility of attracting bio-medical technology industries who could link with the nearby world renowned Hammersmith Hospital.

High Quality Design a priority
Hammersmith and Fulham sees itself developing upwards too, in appropriate locations the Borough sees high rise buildings blended in a stimulating and coherent way with low rise, and has committed to ensuring developments are linked by first class permeable and inclusive public realm.

Obviously, environmentally sustainable growth is a priority alongside the economic development the proposed new LDF aims to bring. But the borough aims to achieve this through a commitment to high quality urban design, and sustainable architecture.

A great example of this is the western end of King Street, where the Borough is nearing a resolution on the destiny of its Town Hall and extension. The project will include 290 homes, an 11,000m2 council office building and 5,000m2 of retail and leisure space. A footbridge will also be constructed to cross the river Thames. A new public square, a pedestrian street and a redesigned park will also form part of the £100 million scheme which will produce a whole new retail and commercial demand around the location, helping to regenerate the town centre.

Hammersmith and Fulham wants to see real quality in design in this and every project it approves. “This project must be of the highest quality. Too many of these schemes in the past looked tired almost before they were completed. I want future generations to be proud of the Town Hall”, said Councillor Mark Loveday, Hammersmith and Fulham cabinet member for strategy.

Hammersmith and Fulham – key facts:
• 100 hectares of brownfield land ready for development
• 7.25km of riverside frontage
• Underground stations from four lines
• One of London’s largest bus interchanges
• Major arterial roads – A40, A4 – good connection to Motorway network
• Under 30 minutes to central London, and 40 minutes to Heathrow Airport
• London’s largest Shopping Centre – Westfield London – opens autumn 2008
• Population 175,000
• 11,000 businesses based in the borough, providing 120,000 jobs
• Sophisticated young international workforce
• Highest broadband penetration in UK

* From Creative Industries in Hammersmith and Fulham Facts and Figures – Jan 2008. GVA Grimley

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