WSP, the globally recognised professional services firm employing approximately 49,000 people, is committed to West London. It is a founder supporter of the Capital West London Programme, which seeks to drive economic development in the sub-region. We talked to Ian Liddell, Managing Director of the UK Planning & Advisory business, to find out why, and to hear their take on West London as an investment destination.
West London is recognised as the world’s most connected location, its £73bn economy makes it a very attractive place to do business, so it’s no surprise that a multi-national business like WSP wants to be part of its success.
West London is the gateway to London, the UK, and the world, and with investments being made in improving connectivity such as Crossrail, HS2, and at Heathrow, and with new proposals emerging like the West London Orbital and Heathrow Southern Rail, this situation can only improve.
But there’s more to it than that. According to Ian Liddell, Managing Director of UK Planning & Advisory business, WSP wants to help West London realise its potential, which of course it will not do by resting on its laurels. Being the best brings a challenge – to stay the best. WSP believes that building connectedness will drive the positive change required.
Liddell says WSP aim to build on what the West London Alliance has achieved. “They have articulated a vision, which we want to help deliver, and it is delivery that is the key. Realising the goals the Alliance have set will require problems to be solved, problem solving requires engineers, that’s where WSP wants to help. It’s about achieving delivery.”
“Major opportunities are complex, which is why they haven’t been delivered yet,” he continues. “We feel that we can really contribute, because we have all the skills necessary across our multi-disciplinary practices.”
That’s why they are working with London First on an independent report which will examine how the West London Alliance’s Vision for Growth can be delivered. It’s part of a practical approach to achieving results through existing systems, not asking for changes to planning or funding systems, but aiming to get on with it, and without loading strain back on the public sector.
The report, based on a number of roundtables, face to face interviews, and desk and field research, will examine the challenges enabling infrastructure, including land remediation and co-ordinating utilities.
Construction logistics need to be examined too. “We need to use improved productivity methods such as smart and modular construction, and plan for the skilled labour required across the sub-region”, says Liddell.
When asked about West London College’s Construction Academy in Park Royal, he says: “That’s exactly the sort of thing that is required to address the skills issues of the future.”
They are working closely on the report with London First, and aim to publish it in the Autumn.
Liddell recognises that while West London is a mature sub-region with a high quality environment, there is still work to be done. “We still need to regenerate areas – North Acton, Grand Union (the Northfields Industrial Estate redevelopment), Old Oak, Brent Cross South, can and should all be regenerated, with a clear focus on bringing benefits to the existing community, generating more and better employment opportunities, and enhancing quality of life”, he says.
Liddell is full of praise for the collaborative work of the West London boroughs. “We want to build on the work of the Alliance”, he says. “It has assembled a consensus among the boroughs, which makes West London much more attractive as an investment opportunity. The consensus de-risks investment decisions.”
This is part of the reason WSP has joined enthusiastically with Capital West London, the inward investment and trade support programme commissioned by the West London Alliance. Ian is a board member, and WSP were founding partners. “Joining in as partners is us showing our commitment”, he says.
“We want to help achieve delivery of the Alliance’s vision for growth, and bring our expertise to be part of the conversation.
“This is an active and influential forum with a wide ranging membership with all the necessary ingredients including public and private sector, and the educational establishments. It’s a great example of boroughs stepping up, and not just asking for others to solve their problems.
“In fact, it makes a great case for devolution.”
WSP hopes, by being part of the programme, to help devise and develop an engaged network of businesses and private sector developers. He concludes by saying how happy WSP is to be part of the key 2019 Capital West London event. “I am delighted to be speaking at the Capital West London Growth Summit in October, and to have the opportunity to launch our report there”, he says.
It should be an interesting part of the Summit. The ground covered by this independent report will support the work of the West London boroughs, and the West London Alliance in a true spirit of public/private collaboration, aiming to guarantee economic growth across West London.