London’s biggest development sites and Opportunity Areas are often in neighbourhoods divided by roads, railways, waterways and other infrastructure or straddling neglected or contentious administrative borders. Development can bring its own challenges, marked out by red lines that can inflate land values and divide existing and new residents.
Future of London’s full-day conference on 21 June brought together our cross-sector network to share practical approaches to overcoming these barriers, with keynotes, senior panels and breakout sessions contributing fresh ideas.
The conference was part of our year-long project, Overcoming London’s Barriers. A summary of the conference with session and speaker highlights will be available in July; for now, here’s a preview based on closing comments provided by OnLondon’s Dave Hill.
Dave first touched on the morning keynote from Lynne Miles, Associate Director at Arup. As London’s neighbourhoods change, physical and administrative barriers need to come down – and must not be replaced by new barriers, especially social divisions.
While barriers and impacts caused by major infrastructure are a pressing issue, one of the day’s recurring themes was how to tackle softer, more individualised barriers – particularly for Londoners who don’t feel welcome in a place. Contemporary planning is built on the mantra that mixed and balanced communities are best, but what’s the right way to truly achieve this mix and help all people feel like they belong?
Recalling Tony Travers’ afternoon keynote, Dave noted the layers of government at play and the challenge of balancing power between them; the huge range of opinions and desires within London’s communities add another layer of complexity. Reconciling myriad ambitions for the city’s growth is no small task.
Underpinning these themes, Dave identified another kind of barrier: insufficient public participation and engagement with planning and regeneration officials. Londoners agree that more housing is needed but disagree on how best to achieve it. Planning authorities, anxious about public backlash, may hesitate to make a conclusive case for good housing schemes. A key solution to these barriers is that built environment professionals need to get better at communicating the benefits of regeneration schemes that are trying to do the job well.
“The case for good regeneration needs to be made more openly, more persuasively, perhaps a bit more bravely, to say that we’re actually about trying to break down barriers and make things better for people.”
– Dave Hill