Mr Pickles was at St James Homes’ Riverlight development – one of the first construction sites to get underway in Nine Elms – where he met young apprentices now working on site.
St James, part of the Berkeley Group, is developing homes, shops, bars, restaurants, a crèche and a new stretch of riverside walk from this former industrial estate site next door to Battersea Power Station.
At 450 acres, Nine Elms is the biggest redevelopment zone in central London . More than 1,000 new homes are currently under construction here and another 12,000 are coming through the planning pipeline.
The council says that up to 6,000 construction jobs could be created in Nine Elms between now and 2016 as more major development sites move into the construction stage, and that a further 16,000 could be provided between 2017 and 2022. Wandsworth and Lambeth Councils are securing apprenticeship places and local employment opportunities as a condition of each scheme’s planning consent.
So far, 237 construction and engineering apprenticeships have been secured and this number could rise as high as 1,000 as more development proposals progress, says Wandsworth council. This compares to 457 at the Olympic site and 400 so far for Crossrail.
St James at Riverlight is the first Nine Elms developer to put the system into practice. Five apprentices are currently working on the scheme and a further 40 will be recruited over the course of the project.
The Nine Elms Partnership Board has adopted an employment framework which will see the approach taken on Riverlight rolled out across the regeneration area.
Once the construction process is complete the new Nine Elms will provide an additional 25,000 new permanent jobs for London as well as 16,000 new homes.
The programme also includes the redevelopment of New Covent Garden Market which would safeguard the 2,500 jobs which already exist on this site.
Mr Pickles said: “The scale of the transformation now taking place at Nine Elms is staggering. Hundreds of acres of industrial and disused land are being transformed into much needed new homes, green spaces and office space for local firms.
“As well as generating new growth for London and our economy this project is offering life changing job opportunities for local people. The apprentices I met here are already well established in their chosen careers and I’m delighted many more will soon be joining them on site.”
Leader of Wandsworth Council Ravi Govindia said: “The regeneration sector is a great employer and projects don’t come any bigger than Nine Elms. There are around 20 interconnected development sites here and each one will provide new opportunities for local people. Working with the developers, schools and colleges we will give scores of young people the chance to learn their trades and gain a firm footing in the industry.”
Chairman of Berkeley Group Tony Pidgley said: “At Berkeley Group, we are committed to creating employment and training opportunities for young people through the large scale regeneration projects we undertake. We are proud of the initiatives St James is pioneering at Riverlight, the first phase of the Nine Elms regeneration area.”