Sunday 19 October 2014

MIPIM, Boris Johnson And H&F's New Commitment To Tackle London's Housing Crisis

MIPIM, the international property development conference came to Olympia, London last week. It’s usually held in Cannes on the French Riviera. We inherited a £9,000 stand which Conservative councillors had booked before the local elections so we took the opportunity to deck it out with the manifesto and pledge card commitments that gained a public mandate last May.
“Putting residents first” and therefore not allowing oversized developments that blight neighbourhoods, “homes for residents, not overseas investors” and “tackling London’s housing crisis” all have broad backing from H&F residents.

Responsible developers and their advisers get that. They're keen to work with H&F's cabinet member for economic development and regeneration (who is also a professor of economic geography) to help regenerate the borough, support small businesses and provide homes Londoners want and can afford. We’ve already been able to renegotiate millions of pounds in extra payments to the Borough on schemes that were said to have been done and dusted by the former Conservative Administration. That vital money will be allocated to more policing and building more low cost homes to buy and more homes at social rent.
But there are others who just see Hammersmith and Fulham with the UK’s third highest and fastest rising land values as some sort of gold rush bonanza. These speculators turn up at the planning department’s door claiming that they and their gravy-stained lobbyists have already been given the nod from Mayor Boris Johnson (Con), and the Conservative/Lib Dem government, and so their oversized schemes with pitiful amounts of genuinely affordable homes will sail through the appeals process should Hammersmith and Fulham Council even try to stick to the London Plan.
I don’t know if Boris Johnson and his team realise his name is bandied around by such people and with such carelessness. I can’t imagine any politician aspiring to lead their party could do so if there was ever any truth in these whispered allegations that the Mayor is effectively working with property speculators in such a way as to botch negotiations for more genuinely affordable homes for Londoners and crucial extra cash in this time of “the graph of doom” austerity cuts.
True to form, on the BBC last week, Boris Johnson sought to sweet-talk the opposite of what his policies were actually achieving - indicating he and his team are all too aware of where voters' hearts and minds have settled when it comes to Britain's housing crisis. That BBC News piece also featured the new H&F Council's position. London Live TV ran the story too.
Our stance is popular as well as being the right way forward. But not everyone likes it: many of our current and former Conservative councillors are furious. They had flown to MIPIM when it was on the French Riviera with the £12,000 annual tab picked up by the Borough’s tax payers. They had enjoyed lavish hospitality from developers and their eager lobbyists with free lunches and dinners, free trips to cricket games, free trips to premier league football matches, free trips to tennis tournaments and even free tickets to the Proms. And they had held private meetings with developers with no published agenda and no minutes. We have put an end to all of that, just as we said we would: it is perhaps not surprising that for the Conservatives the way we set out our messages on the MIPIM stand they'd contracted was the final insult.
Peter Bingle
Many of the former Conservative councillors are themselves now full time lobbyists for property developers and speculators - so they have a vested interest in attacking H&F's new approach. Others are unhappy too: for example, there's a lobbyist called Peter Bingle who has taken to Twitter to offer his ignorant insults about Hammersmith and Fulham’s newly assertive position, knowing that this administration's interest in his platitudes are zilch.
Things have changed. That’s what happens in democracies when the voters hire someone else to do their bidding. The message to those property firms who present ridiculous viability assessments for schemes that damage neighbourhoods and blight our borough's landscape is simple: think again or look somewhere else.

1 comment:

Jackson said...

Love the cheekiness at the MIPIM conference.All the best. H&F are lucky to have you.