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The Future of London Real Estate – 5 Trends

Developers, designers and strategists discuss the trends that emerged from the London Real Estate Forum.

The London Real Estate Forum, held in Mayfair’s Berkeley Square, brought together key figures shaping the capital’s future – developers, designers and strategists. From smart lamp posts to multibillion-pound developments, here are five trends that emerged…

1. The knowledge-based economy as a driver of growth
Stephen Down, head of Central London and international investment, Savills

Over the past 15 to 20 years, development has been driven by the financial markets. We’ve benefited from this huge surge of global capital straight into London, as it’s one of three global gateway cities – the others being New York and Tokyo. But more recently it’s the knowledge-based economy that has been driving growth here.

We’ve seen Google at King’s Cross and Apple going to Battersea, for example. There is this huge surge of new knowledge and new tech that is drawing in new capital – not in finance, but the capital of humans.

The challenge for London is to accommodate that change. You can’t talk about the City of London and say, ‘it’s finance, it’s insurance, it’s banks’. We were involved in a project recently that turned a building that was originally let to the London International Financial Futures and Options Exchange into the new home for Deliveroo. Who’d have thought four or five years ago that Deliveroo would be based in the City?

I am positive about London. I think it will continue to grow through Brexit, because this is where people want to be, provided we can create the right environment. If it’s too congested, it won’t work. The challenge for the developers, planners and landowners, and the government, is to accommodate that shift from one phase of the city’s growth to the next.

2. The creation of new town centres
Emma Cariaga, head of operations, Canada Water, British Land

We’re building a new town centre for London in Southwark: 53 acres of the most incredible landscape between Canada Water and Surrey Quays. It will generate around 20,000 new jobs and 1m square feet of retail and leisure, culture and education space. I don’t think there has been a new town centre in London for more than a hundred years. We hope to be on the site this time next year.

A bird's-eye view looking south-east over Canada Water's new park.

A bird’s-eye view looking south-east over Canada Water’s new park.

The great thing about building a brand-new piece of the city is that you’ve got to think about tech in every respect. We’re envisaging how people are going to live, work and shop for the next 10 to 20 years. The tech sector will inevitably play a part in Canada Water’s future.

But we’re not building a district solely for tech. Canada Water is a special part of London that we hope will welcome all businesses. But when the tech companies talk about their needs, and the needs of their employees, it’s the same requirements as many mainstream businesses.

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3. The rise of the smart city
Dr Stephen Lorimer, Smart London strategy and delivery officer, Greater London Authority

We’re creating smarter streets and spaces around London. There is an uncontroversial commitment to putting full fibre into premises, but there’s another part to it, namely collaborative procurement by London authorities and setting data standards.

The Greater London Authority is involved in a big, €25m European project called Sharing Cities. We’re investing in new energy and transport technologies with Digital Greenwich, the borough’s arm’s-length body, to deliver smart city services.

What we’re focusing on first is procuring smart lamp posts. These lamp posts have electricity at their base, but you can also hang 5G off it, collect data on air quality and traffic congestion, and produce power for anything from festivals to temporary events.

4. The focus on maintaining momentum
Katie Kopec, principal adviser, regeneration and development, London & Partners

London & Partners works with the inward investment agency for the mayor, encouraging investment into London around housing and jobs.

There are new bits of London that are important to that growth: Meridian Water in Enfield, and everything going on around Barking and Dagenham to the east. More centrally, there is the Royal Docks; north of the river you’ve got Silvertown, and on the south side there’s Canada Water. Then there is the biggest opportunity from a European perspective: Old Oak Common. Plus the Bakerloo extension in the south-east. Those all have different timescales for delivery.

London needs to make sure the momentum and development we’ve seen continues, and that these bigger schemes aren’t delayed.

Compared with parts of the world such as China, London can be slow. But it’s slow, in part, because the regulation and planning process is what makes it so transparent. That’s one of the reasons why investors come here. It’s very clear what’s going to happen and when.

So it’s a slightly double-edged sword. But it’s not as if there aren’t opportunities out there. It would be lovely to do things more quickly, but would we have the same quality outcome?

5. The connection between commercial, residential and industrial
Alexandra Reitman, principal project manager, Old Oak and Park Royal Development Corporation

Old Oak and Park Royal covers approximately 650 hectares, of which about 500 is the Park Royal Industrial Estate. The first part of our vision is to reinforce and maintain it as London’s most important industrial base.

Old Oak and Park Royal development

Old Oak and Park Royal development.

The second part is the area around Old Oak Common, where there is tremendous growth potential. The mayor’s London plan has said we should expect to see around 24,000 new homes and 55,000 jobs in the next 30 years.

The third part is Wormwood Scrubs, a great London park and fundamental piece of the puzzle. It will be a phenomenal resource for all Londoners, especially the communities using Old Oak.

This is where Crossrail meets HS2, creating a station almost as busy as Waterloo. The target opening date is 2026. This is where the world can come and meet the UK, because from Old Oak it will take only 38 minutes to travel to Birmingham and 10 to Heathrow.

We have the scale to think bigger, we have the space, and we have the ambition from the London Development Corporation.

Ryan Herman is a journalist who writes about business, entrepreneurship and sport for publications such as Director and Vice Sports.