Tony Pidgley CBE: Topping out Riverlight Header

Tony Pidgley CBE, Chairman of the Berkeley Group, speaking at the topping out of Riverlight on Nine Elms

Tuesday 2 July, 2013

"Thank you for coming today and welcome to Riverlight.  I want to talk briefly about our vision for this site and what it will deliver. 

The topping out at any scheme is always an important moment. And today marks the first topping out for the whole VNEB opportunity area.  Over the next decade, this will be the single most important regeneration programme in central London.

Our vision is to create on this site a new piece of one of the world's best cities. Somewhere that will grace the river, drive investment, and deliver jobs and homes. 

The scheme takes its name from its location: 'Riverlight'. The Thames is central to London, physically and symbolically. And this development will make the riverside an even better place.

60% of this development will be devoted to public open space and public enjoyment of the Thames. There will be a pocket park, riverside walkway and some magical landscape design.

You'll be able to see the river and get to it between each and every building. Every home has a balcony and everyone will have a view of the river. 

This development is also a catalyst. It brings investment, momentum and confidence.

802 homes. 250 jobs and 45 apprentices - alongside a programme of site visits for unemployed people and local schools. £35m for local infrastructure, including the Northern Line Extension.

In total, over the last 10 years, we have built 3,600 homes within a mile of this site. And we are now investing a total of £580 million in this area. That shows the confidence we have in this location, the knowledge we have of the area, and the quality of relationships we enjoy with the boroughs.

However, this scheme has got to do more than simply unlock investment if it's going to be a real success. It has to be about place-making. It has to be a stunning example of how you create successful places. 

Sometimes people talk about placemaking as if it was just another word for mixed use development. It's not. It's about people - and it's about attitude.

You have to create places that people enjoy - somewhere they love to spend time. That's why the public realm is so important. The landscape design and the cultural strategy here at Riverlight are fundamental parts of the placemaking.

Very soon, people will wander off Nine Elms, past 112 trees, smiling at the stepping stones and the shape of the seats, and gaze at the river. Where there used to be tired old sheds and a sense of decay, they will now find a wonderful place.

And we'll achieve that because we care about the quality and we obsess about the detail. Placemaking is an attitude. It's about attention to detail. Challenging yourself. Re-working different elements time and time again until it's absolutely right. We went through 8 different solutions to the car park ramp here at Riverlight before coming up with a 9th that worked just right.

If you want to create great places, you must have a relentless focus on getting the detail right. You have to apply the same exacting standards to every single part of a development. 

So, I'm confident that Riverlight will be a wonderful example of place-making - not just house-building.

It's happening. And it's happening fast. It has taken just over 2 years to get from planning consent to the topping out today. It will only take just over 3 years from consent to the first occupations.

That is real delivery. The Berkeley Group does not sit on land. Once we've got a permission we get on and build. 

There has been some debate about land banks recently. Every housebuilder needs a decent land bank otherwise no one would invest in them.  But the idea of 'use it or lose it' permissions would not bother Berkeley, assuming that we're not talking about later phases of developments which are already on site.

St James was on site here within 4 weeks of consent. We know there is a terrible shortage of homes in London and we are doing all we can to tackle it.

So finally, I want to acknowledge publicly all the work of Ravi Govindia's team at Wandsworth, our colleagues in the GLA, the architects at Rogers Stirk Harbour, and the landscape design of Gillespies.  I also want to thank Sean and our team in St James.

You've done a fantastic job so far and I'm delighted that we could all be here today. Now I'd like to invite the Mayor of London, Boris Johnson, to say a few words."

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