Steves Blog

London: Refocused

31 May 2017

I thought I knew everything that was going on in my home City, London, but my colleague, Duncan Adams, and I learnt a great deal more visiting some of the major development zones in the Capital, as part of the British Council for Offices (BCO) two day Annual Conference in May.

The BCO hosted their conference in London for the first time since 2010, with over 70 different events and exclusive tours of some of the best new buildings around the theme, London: Refocused.

I started with a tour around HereEast, at the Queen Elizabeth Olympic Park in Stratford. It was formally the Olympic Press and Broadcast Centre, but is now part of East London's creative hub providing facilities for start-ups and tech giants - all very exciting but with a 10 minute walk from Stratford Station I thought the cost of £40 per sqft for office space was overpriced.

My tour then moved on to the International Quarter, the Lend Lease Development, which included a look around what will be Transport for London’s (TfL) new 24,600 sqm office hub, designed by Rogers Stirk Harbour +Partners (RSHP). The amazing aspect of my morning tour was the sheer expanse of the land in the East of London that is home to these developments - a total of four million square feet for the International Quarter alone. I clocked up over 20,000 steps walking around these sites.

Duncan took a different route around London, heading south of the River, to the developments around Battersea Power Station, where Apple will take up 45, 000 sqm of commercial space at the end of 2018. TfL is also improving the area’s transport infrastructure by extending the Northern Line tube network and augmenting river boat services. A great vote of confidence for London.

His afternoon tour took in the developments around Paddington, where British Land has brought together previously separate developments. Working closely with Derwent, European Land and Land Securities, British Land have created a very pleasant commercial and residential waterside community to make this a great place to live.

My afternoon was more leisurely with a boat trip down the Thames with a superb voice over of London's riverside developments by Peter Rees, the former Corporation of London Corporations City Planning Officer. Peter certainly had an opinion about the latest developments in Vauxhall and Battersea, seeing many of the high rise apartments as "safety deposit boxes" for overseas investors.

Duncan and I linked back together at the Guildhall for the BCO Dinner in the Great Hall – what a stunning venue. However, it was disappointing to see that across 60+ tables there was less than one woman per table of 10 middle aged men. This is an issue that I have talked about in my previous blog and one that the industry must address, but it will need a long term strategy and a will to effect sustainable change.

Day two of the conference featured plenary sessions around the key topic of the impacts of Brexit. My favourite plenary session was chaired by Richard Kauntze, Chief Executive of the BCO, which explored the implications of leaving the European Union on this great, open, diverse and welcoming capital city. The debate was brought to life by:

  • Gerard Lyons the leading Brexit economist and former economic adviser to Boris Johnson;
  • Sir Christopher Meyer, star of the diplomatic service and former British Ambassador in Washington and
  • James Rubin, former Assistant Secretary of State for Public Affairs under President Bill Clinton and political commentator.

The speakers were eloquent and convincing. My take away is that Brexit is not as complex as the pro Europeans purport and that the UK will thrive outside of the EU if we are bold in the forthcoming negotiations.

Clearly the outcome of the imminent UK elections on 8 June will play a huge part in how Brexit will play out - watch this space!

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