I have been out and about in Stratford today, principally tuning into a presentation by Newham council’s executive director for regeneration Clive Dutton, organised by the Stratford Renaissance Partnership, on the many large and ambitious development proposals being worked up in the Borough.
Firstly, two things about Westfield’s mega shopping centre I picked up: Westfield, CBRE and Cushman & Wakefield have attached what has to be the largest advertising board for office space in London to the first office block delivered at the centre – seeing it is believing; and, it emerges, Westfield has corralled a team of other organisations to help launch what promises to be a noisy campaign to bring Eurostar to Stratford. The Australian developer has of course long been frustrated by Eurostar’s refusal to commit to stopping at Stratford but I am told it has formed an alliance to significantly strengthen the fight to change the rail operator’s mind.
Anyway, back to Dutton and perhaps the most intriguing comment that emerged during a slick presentation on Newham’s development priorities – the Olympics zone and Stratford, the Royal Docks, and Canning Town – was his suggestion that Newham was a month away from agreeing with government a series of London-specific incentives for its Royal Docks Enterprise Zone.
When I pressed him on this he would only say that the talks revolved around “drawing attention” to London-specific issues and that he wanted the EZ to mirror the type of incentives that had been used to propel development at Canary Wharf. “The trade-off is we can regenerate in lesser time,” he said. He then added that talks with CLG had centred on creating simplified planning zones.
Interestingly I spoke to a senior CLG source this week who confirmed that the Enterprise Zones were almost certain to be the first areas selected to pilot Tax Increment Financing – although don’t expect any legislation until at least April 2013.
Anyway, it seems that Newham is in some way trying to ensure its Royal Docks Enterprise Zone is able to compete with the neighbouring 500-acre Olympic Park and surrounding sites that are destined to form part of the Mayoral Development Corporation.
The relationship between these two giant neighbouring, competing regeneration projects is clearly yet to be satisfactorily ironed out.
Amusingly Dutton backed Sir Robin Wales’s calls for the Olympic Park to be added to the EastEnders opening graphic. “There are going to be 10m people visiting here but a lot of people in London don’t know what is going on here. The BBC is not interested in updating EastEnders though.”
In fact Dutton pointed out that 450,000 people a day outside of Newham will be descending on Stratford every day during the Olympics, or as he more disturbingly suggested “the whole of Manchester”.