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Future Cities Forum pre-election debate this week



Future Cities Forum will be holding a series of panel discussions in the run up to the UK government election this July. Professor Yolande Barnes, The Barlett Real Estate Institute, UCL, Nick Ffoulkes, Partner, Sheppard Robson, Dr Lucy Montague, Senior Lecturer at Manchester School of Architecture, and Alex O'Byrne, Partner at Volterra, will be joining our panel this week.


They will be discussing issues around levelling up, city regeneration, housing, transport infrastructure and the health of the high street. These are all topics that may sway the electorate in their voting decisions. Please note Future Cities Forum is apolitical.


The Bartlett Real Estate Institute is part of The Bartlett School of Sustainable Construction and is located at UCL at Here East. It is a global institute that is rethinking the traditional view of real estate, with programmes, short courses and research opportunities.


Professor Yolande Barnes' projects each fall under one or more of eight inter-related themes.  Yolande identified these themes in consultation with industry experts at the inception of BREI over the course of 2018 and 2019. The themes reflect some of the most talked-about and as she says ‘wicked’ problems facing Real Estate globally in the 21st century; they are not confined to finance and economics (although many investors have an increasing interest in all of them) but rather, represent the questions and issues which concern governments, planners, policy makers, NGOs, landowners, landlords, tenants, managers, occupiers and users, taxpayers, developers, entrepreneurs, financiers and investors.  Underlying all these activities and concerns is one thing: land.  If real estate is this and everything built on it and attached to it, then Yolande’s primary project is understanding the way Real Estate markets and other phenomena work at a holistic, global level. 


Image: CGI of Sheppard Robson's design for Get Living's development in Leeds


Nick Ffoulkes has a track record of unlocking value in complex and prominent urban renewal projects, often bringing together workspace, homes and hospitality.


To extend city centres in a way that feels new and exciting yet familiar and considered, Nick stitches together multiple typologies in line with the long-term, strategic ambitions of cities. This macro view often looks at the relationship between major commercial and residential development, and how it is enlivened and anchored by spaces for culture, leisure and retail as well as thoughtful public spaces. A current project that typifies this civic approach is Globe Road in Leeds.


Throughout Nick’s career his approach has been underlined by practicing with purpose, adopting a firm belief that his designs should be responsible, a “good neighbour”, and a product of a collaborative process. To ensure projects positively contribute to their surroundings over the long term, Nick positions extensive consultation and engagement as a foundation on which the design process is built.


Alongside Nick’s current projects in Bristol, Thames Valley, Westminster, Haringey, and Hertfordshire, projects such as E3 West Urban Neighbourhood in Milton Keynes, Building K at Westfield London and new headquarters for TJX in Watford illustrate his dexterity in maximising the potential of complex urban sites. Nick’s diverse experience also includes working on university and academic workplace projects and a broad range of housing types throughout the UK.



Image: Exeter High Street ('Fore Street') during lockdown


Dr Lucy Montague is Special Advisor to the Lord's Built Environment Select Committee in its current inquiry into high streets in towns and small cities, and Senior Lecturer at Manchester School of Architecture. In 2023 she co-authored the book 'High Street: How our town centres can bounce back from the retail crisis', the result of a 3-year research project investigating the future of the high street through 100 case studies.


In 2017 Lucy joined Manchester School of Architecture as Senior Lecturer with the remit to expand connections between industry and academia. Her research focuses on the relationship between theory and praxis in the built environment, the use of tacit knowledge in the design process and practice-based/design-led research methodologies. She is the Programme Director of the MA Architecture & Urbanism.


Lucy is currently writing a monograph for Routledge, co-authored with David Rudlin, exploring how paradigms in the field of urban design have developed through drawing. Having spent the last decade working internationally on methodological approaches to integrate practice within research processes and criteria,



Image: Olympia London, courtesy of SPPARC


Alex O'Byrne, Partner at Volterra will also be joining the panel. He leads Volterra's work in the property development sector, specialising in assessing economic and health impact and developing social value strategies for a wide range of property developments.


He has specific expertise in responding to policies on affordable workspace and employment and skills. Alex has worked on some of the most high profile developments in the UK, including Battersea Power Station, Olympia London, Royal Street, MSG Sphere and Westfield. 


He is also experienced at socio-economic and health assessments of major infrastructure, including the economic appraisal of major transport schemes and a range of Development Consent Order (DCOs) for renewable energy.


Below: Battersea Power Station public realm, courtesy of LDA Design


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