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International Women’s Day 2018

James Fennell 08 Mar 2018
The campaign theme for International Women’s Day is ‘Press for Progress’ in order to assist the global momentum for gender parity. The campaign includes a strong call to motivate and unite friends, colleagues and whole communities to think, act and be gender inclusive.   The property industry has long since been regarded as a male dominated industry but it’s clear that situation is changing and attitudes to gender parity with it. I attended a diversity event organised recently by the British Property Federation and Revo which was a great success, not least because of the calibre, seniority and diversity of those attending.   Robert Noel talked about Landsec’s work in this area and they are showcasing the success of women in their organisation to great effect. Brian Bickell, the chief executive of Shaftesbury did the same from his perspective and it’s interesting to see that his organisation is involved in organising a series of events in the West End to celebrate International Women’s Day.    The passion with which these two senior property figures, amongst several other women and men on the day, talked about diversity issues was palpable and I came away with the feeling that the property industry might have turned a very big and important corner. With leadership being provided in this way more will definitely follow.   The event was supported by various other organisations including Freehold, Pathways to Property, Real Estate Balance and Purple, all of whom are entirely property based with the exception of Purple which reaches out more widely. Together these organisations deal with many aspects of diversity: from the LGBT+ community (Freehold) and gender diversity (Real Estate Balance) to the disabled community (Purple) and younger people (Pathways to Property).   Real Estate Balance  is particularly noteworthy for this blog and also for us at Lichfields as we continue with our efforts to encourage more women into senior positions within the company. The Real Estate Balance website reveals the support its now receiving from lots of big names in the property industry. In return the organisation provides quality networking and training opportunities in order to spread the word and put like-minded property people together.   At Lichfields we enjoy a near even split between women (52%) and men (48%). We have equal pay but a gender pay gap because we have lots more men than women at senior levels in the company. The increased awareness across the property industry to diversity issues will give us a fresh impetus in our endeavours to reduce that gap.   The women in our company are critical to its operation and success. To name but a few, Nicola Woodward heads up our Edinburgh office; Margaret Baddeley has been recognised as a leading figure in the property industry; one of the most experienced figures in the property industry, Kay Chaldecott, is on our board; and Nicki Mableson and Pauline Roberts are spearheading growth in specialist areas and new markets for our business. There are 112 other women contributing to our success.   We all look forward to more women playing an even more important contribution to the growth and prosperity of our company in the future. We are united and motivated in our aim to support the aims and objectives of International Women’s Day and the diversity agenda more generally.

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Regeneration and well-being

Regeneration and well-being

James Fennell 09 Oct 2017
On the eve of World Mental Health Day, it was interesting how mental and social health and well-being featured in several of the speakers’ presentations at the Evening Standard’s ‘Leading London’ conference held this morning at Here East in Queen Elizabeth Park. Whether they featured by way of accident or design doesn’t really matter; the fact they did does.   The conference was about London being at the heart of business innovation – hence the venue – but much of it related to the regeneration and place-making activities of the London Legacy Development Corporation (LLDC), this being of interest to me in my role as one of three independent members of the Planning Decisions Committee.   So what about these references to mental and social health and well-being? Mayor of London Sadiq Khan opened proceedings and whilst he mentioned affordable housing and the cost of the London Stadium in passing, he used most of his speech to stress the importance of the new Cultural and Education Quarter, something that George Osborne later was keen to claim some credit for when he was Chancellor.   The new Cultural and Education Quarter will be impressive, with many big institutional names lined up, indeed signed up. The V&A, the Smithsonian, Sadler’s Wells, the London School of Fashion and UCL will make it truly world class and one of the largest such concentrations of the arts and education in Europe. But rather than merely herald such an impressive line-up, there was a parallel message about this forming an essential component of the wider regeneration effort, beyond creating new jobs and new homes to one where there will be a rich diversity of uses, with interaction with the local community and connectivity at its heart. All this is on the back of the on-going success of the Park itself, which now attracts five million visitors a year.   Khan and Osborne topped the bill but Professor Julia Hobsbawm OBE was the most impressive speaker of the day. She specifically mentioned World Mental Health Day but linked it to the concept of social health, one she has defined and talks so eloquently about. She referred to the paradox of how when we have become so well-connected, we have also become less productive and less healthy socially. The massive growth in the population of London since the 1980’s is because people prefer to interact and connect with one another in the environment of a big city - and the growth in this area is a case in point. But she warned of the interrupted episodes caused by e-mail working – 80 a day on average, apparently - and the blurring of work and home life as creating disconnection and dysfunction. She said workplaces must search their souls and it’s ever more important for people to connect personally, as technology takes us in the opposite direction.   Nneka Chukwurah then brought us back to East London and her work at Echo, seeking to “connect people and potential to fuel prosperity”, as she described it. This involves small businesses and entrepreneurs trading in time and skills rather than pounds and pence, to help create networks and grow their businesses in the kind of way that Julia Hobsbawm was promoting minutes before. Nneka’s sense of pride in what she does and the case studies she spoke of suggested that her work does much to strengthen the well-being of those involved, in all senses of the words, through personal and digital connection.   During the panel discussion towards the end of the session, the Chairman of LLDC Sir Peter Hendy was asked for one thought to sum up all that had been said before. Interestingly, he said the key message was the importance of “work and life, and the balance between them”. I had a true sense that much of the regeneration of this area of East London goes well beyond bricks and mortar, to the well-being of the community and with social interaction being at its heart.

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