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Future Cities Forum London investor series

London investor market looks strong for 2022.

Future Cities Forum is beginning a new series on the London investor market for housing and business, highlighting expert forecasting on the Capital, as a place that will be attracting investment over the next decade. We will also be featuring the work of London's councils around environmental sustainability and public realm improvements, that help to make boroughs into healthy places - not only to live in - but more attractive for high quality development.

The series will combine interviews from experts in development and planning as well as forum panel discussions bringing local authorities, investors, architects and planners together.

This week we feature CBRE's 2022 EMEA Investor Intentions Survey in which London was cited as the most attractive city for European real estate investment for the second consecutive year. Paris and Amsterdam completed the top three, followed by Berlin and Frankfurt.

Chris Brett, Managing Director, EMEA Capital Markets, CBRE said:

'As the market continues to recover from the pandemic, the positive sentiment to deploy capital is stronger than ever and investors are optimistic that investment volumes will continue on the upward trajectory we witnessed last year. This will be supported by the likely continued easing of Covid-19 restrictions throughout 2022 and the return of overseas investment which will further boost capital flow. The improved sentiment for offices points to the ongoing recovery of the sector, and we expect investment volumes to increase in step with this recovery. Multifamily and Logistics were unsurprisingly high on investor wish lists given their resilience throughout the pandemic.'

The survey results, CBRE stated, also demonstrated continued investor focus on the adoption of ESG strategies.

Separate research from CBRE shows that planning applications and permissions for Prime Central London (PCL) residential property in 2021 reached the highest level since 2016. A total of 1,675 applications and permissions were submitted for PCL in 2021 which represents an increase of 140% compared with 2020.

Jennet Siebrits, Head of UK Research, CBRE explained:

'The resurgence in activity in Super Prime locations, combined with the inevitable supply shortage, presents a significant opportunity for developers to time their run onto an active market.'

Aerial view of Coal Drops Yard at King's Cross St Pancras, in early construction phase of King's Cross Central Limited Partnership and Heatherwick Studio's project, with Central Saint Martins College of Art and Granary Square on right , and Regent's Canal on left (Courtesy Heatherwick Studio)

Our featured local authority for our report this week is the London Borough of Camden. It is a borough rich in industrial history from canals where goods were brought in and out of London from the 18th century to the Victorian development of railway lines and arches. Recent development has capitalised on heritage to bring a lively and exciting mix of shops and restaurants, such as in Coal Drops Yard. Camden's entertainment, market shopping and arts scene is well known internationally and the borough also has the evolving King's Cross Knowledge Quarter within its boundaries.

Invest in Camden states that the borough is a world-class centre of business growth and the gateway to Europe and the rest of the UK:

'Camden Council is committed to working with industry to make Camden the best place in London to do business and to work. Through the Camden Business Board, the council is working with business groups to secure inclusive local growth. Camden offers twenty two square kilometres of opportunity and diversity in the heart of London and enjoys high growth industries in bio-medicine, tech, professional services, and the creative industries. The Knowledge Quarter is a collaboration of over 75 academic, cultural, research, scientific and media organisations, united in advancing and sharing knowledge. Development at Euston will include the terminus for the new High Speed 2 rail link and further opportunities for the creation of new homes and business spaces.'

Future Cities Forum has interviewed and held forums in the borough - and will continue to do so - looking at development of science and the arts and how these two important disciplines can boost economic activity. We have also touched on climate change matters and the efforts that the council has been making to upgrade public realm as well as measures to improve housing. The authority has been working on improvements to key streets over the past few years that work to 'green' places and are the result of listening to the needs of the community.

Cllr Adam Harrison, Cabinet member for a Sustainable Camden, who has spoken at our forums on traffic calming measures and introducing greener heating systems to housing, has also reported on the community inspired improvements that have recently been made in Queen's Crescent - trial changes that have been made in advance of public consultation, which will help determine the future of Queen's Crescent.

He also described at Future Cities Forum, how retrofit is just one of the elements in the borough's programme to tackle climate change:

'The conservation area challenge is one of the biggest where solar panels could be hidden away or space created for air source heating pumps. This will be a highly intrusive programme and will scare people so there have to be opportunities created to engage with residents. Money is always an issue for retrofit, so we are looking for announcements from central government on this.

'There is also an education campaign to be done with blocking off roads to discourage car use and reduce emissions. We have had no through routes for many decades and housing estates have always been designed that way. But we have to look at emergency measures to discourage ways of using cars.'

This March, Camden Council has been offering its residents, businesses and community groups the opportunity to apply to the Camden Climate Fund to improve energy efficiency, reduce carbon emissions and raise awareness of the climate crisis.

The Camden Climate Fund provides residents and businesses the opportunity to apply for grants to improve a property's energy efficiency and mobilise the community to deliver their own climate action projects. The household fund has been recently amended to prioritise the decarbonisation of heat, while the business grant funds technologies such as solar panels and lighting along with low carbon heating upgrades. There is also a new grant to help financially mobilise the community to deliver their own climate action projects.

In 2018 Camden Council became the first local authority to adopt the World Health Organisation (WHO) guideline limits for air pollution. The council remains committed to realising the Camden 225 vision for a borough in which no person experiences poor health as a result of the air they breathe, and it will now align its air quality targets with the new WHO limits. A new Camden Clean Air Action Plan will be published later this year which will set out the next four years of headline action and key outcomes towards the WHO targets. The Council will develop the Action Plan collaboratively with communities, businesses, schools and universities, healthcare, and other stakeholders, before publicly consulting on a draft plan in summer and launching the final plan in the autumn.

Recent air quality projects in the borough include the installation of electric power supplies along the Regent's Canal as a part of the Camden Electric Moorings project, ongoing work to provide clean power for ice cream traders, and an air quality and health awareness campaign as part of the Somers Town Future Neighbourhoods programme.

Alfred Place Gardens new play area and landscaping (Courtesy Camden Council)

LDA Design has worked to create a new park in Camden in a vehicle dominated back street - Alfred Place - parallel to Tottenham Court Road. Now renamed Alfred Place Gardens, it is Camden's first park in the area for 25 years. LDA Design says that the park is part of a major rethink of streets and spaces across the West End aimed at providing a better experience and a healthier environment. Just two hours of contact with nature per week reduces the risk of individual poor health by 45 per cent. The new landscape has been shaped through engagement with local residents, businesses and interest groups and included sculptural granite and timber seating, lawns, a childrens' play space and colourful planting for year round interest.

'Alfred Place Gardens makes an important contribution to the West End Project, the biggest council-led public realm and transport scheme the borough has ever seen. It is addressing traffic congestion, road safety, poor air quality and limited access to open space and nature in this area, shown to be so important during the pandemic,' said Tim South, project lead for LDA Design.

The West End Project includes the rejuvenated Whitfield Gardens and the pocket parks at Capper Street, Huntley Street and Bedford Avenue, where road junctions have been turned into small green spaces for people to enjoy. More trees are being planted across the area and a brand-new public space at Princes Circus is till to come, as well as new pocket parks. For every £1 invested in Camden's green spaces, the Council reports a return of £11.58.

Cllr Harrison said:

'The opening of a totally new park in the midst of a bustling city centre is a cause for celebration. This is the first new park for this part of the borough in a quarter of a century, and we've achieved it here by rethinking the city and innovatively transforming road space into high quality green space.

Queen's Crescent, Camden (Courtesy: Camden Council)

Camden Council has now unveiled its proposals for the future of Queen’s Crescent, which the Mayor of London’s Good Growth Fund has made funding available for.

Queen’s Crescent is an important local neighbourhood centre – it is the social, community, and economic heart of one of Camden’s most diverse and densely populated neighbourhoods. The new plans respond to calls from the community for greater investment in the Crescent, to create a place fit for the future.

Over 30,000 people live within a 15-minute walk of Queen’s Crescent, and figures show that over 90% of shopping trips in Camden are undertaken by walking, cycling or public transport. Meanwhile, the Queen’s Crescent area has some of the lowest levels of household access to motor vehicles in the entire borough – but it has long suffered from high levels of through traffic that impacts on the environment without benefiting local people.

Following a consultation in January last year, the Council trialled a pedestrian and cycle zone on Queen’s Crescent, between Bassett Street and Weedington Road, starting in May 2021. This trial also reduced through traffic in the wider area by restricting motor vehicle movements on Weedington Road and Grafton Road.

The new public consultation proposals are a result of a listening exercise undertaken during the trial and include key changes from the trial scheme.

Councillor Harrison continued:

“I am particularly heartened by the figures that show there is now less vehicle traffic, more cycling, and better air quality – all of which are vital to tackling air pollution and improving road safety and our health in Camden. Throughout the trial, we have listened and adapted, based on the views of the local community and how they have been experiencing the trial, which is why we are presenting an adapted scheme for consultation. I am pleased that Camden Council has secured almost £2 million of investment for Queen’s Crescent. Change is coming to the Queen’s Crescent area in the next few years, and we hope this consultation will give local people the chance to shape this change thanks to this significant investment.

“We are also investing in the future of Queen’s Crescent market to ensure that it better reflects local interests, needs and aspirations, whilst also making it easier and more flexible for local residents to trade. Once the consultation has finished, a decision report that considers a broad range of information – including consultation responses, feedback received during the trial, relevant policies and monitoring data collected during the trial period – will be published on our website. Residents and stakeholders will be notified of the outcome."

It is anticipated that a decision will be made on the future layout of Queen’s Crescent in June.

Google, King's Cross (Courtesy: Heatherwick Studio)

King's Cross has been an important area of development for Camden. It is being developed by the King's Cross Central Limited Partnership. The partnership is a single land owner at King's Cross, making development, the company says as well as delivery much easier. They also state that many of the people working on the project have been involved from the beginning. This brings an unusual level of continuity and commitment. The partnership bring together two groups: Argent and Hermes Investment Management on behalf of the BT Pension Scheme. Argent is the asset manager for King's Cross and has developed Brindleyplace in Birmingham and Manchester's Piccadilly.

Other stakeholders in the King's Cross Knowledge Quarter are also contributing to Camden as a resilient and attractive borough for investment. The British Library which has spoken at Future Cities Forum has been observant about the community needs as well as recognising the power of libraries as cultural infrastructure can also go far beyond the borough for the levelling up of the country.

The British Library is the national library of the United Kingdom and gives access to the world's most comprehensive research collection. It provides information services to academic, business, research and scientific communities. It holds over 170 million items including artefacts from every age of written civilisation. Its mission is to make its intellectual heritage available to everyone for research, inspiration and enjoyment from its local community, to business and people all over the UK.

Jamie Andrews, Head of Culture and Learning at The British Library, spoke at Future Cities Forum about a potential extension to the British Library in Leeds:

' We are not new to Leeds, as since 1961 the National Library of Science and Technology had space in Boston Spa, close to the city, which stores two thirds of our collection but is not as accessible for the public as we would like. The opportunity now for the British Library is to be in the middle of Leeds. Temple Works is a former flax mill, 1836 in a historically deprived area.

' What attracted us was the environment - the perfect conditions for flax production in the 1830s are perfect for knowledge production in 2020s. A huge top lit single room is crying out for use by the library. Another attraction is the location in a deprived area where there no public libraries and few cultural assets. We think we can make a difference. In the way Marshall's Mill / Temple Works had a profound effect on the area in the first industrial revolution, we believe that in the current industrial and knowledge revolution we can have a similar and galvanising effect.'

University College Hospital in Westmoreland Street, Camden

The Knowledge Quarter King's Cross (KQ) is a consortium of partner organisations of many different kinds but it says it has one thing in common – 'we are all actively engaged in advancing and disseminating knowledge': Its partners are made up of over 100 academic, cultural, research, scientific and media organisations, large and small: from the British Library, Google and the Wellcome Trust to Arts Catalyst, Scriberia and the Wiener Library. KQ states:

'Global brands and small businesses alike are being drawn to an area that is exceptionally rich in knowledge resources. Among our members are the Francis Crick Institute, the leading global centre for medical research, and Universal Music, whose UK headquarters are found in King’s Cross. We focus support for innovation, collaboration and knowledge exchange. We have fostered connections to achieve productive partnerships, fruitful networks and creative collaborations. Knowledge Quarter has developed a recognisable brand, signposting to our resources and enabling us to speak with a single voice on issues that are relevant to us. We want to encourage all kinds of knowledge seekers to make the most of our combined resources. To break down barriers and stimulate dialogue, getting the whole of this unique area buzzing with ideas. To stimulate productive dialogue everywhere – from conference rooms and corridors to coffee shops.

The Mayor of London, Sadiq Khan, is currently looking for major development proposals in Camden's Knowledge Quarter, investment in new homes and the creative industries in the borough. Camden will continue to play a vital part in the tourism economy with its museums and nightlife attractions.

As part of plans to encourage international visitors back into London, the Mayor has invested £10 million to attract visitors back to London this year. International visitors to London play a vital role in supporting the city's tourism industry as well as hospitality and cultural venues across the city.

The Mayor of London, Sadiq Khan said:

'Now that restrictions for travellers coming to the UK have lifted, London is fully open once more, and our new £10 million international tourism campaign will help to ensure we retake our place as one of the most visited cities in the world.'

Join Future Cities Forum over the next six months for a mix of discussions on the future resilience of London boroughs and the investment they will attract post pandemic.


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