I have been building in and around London for fifty years. I started out delivering small developments of single, and then a few homes and now Berkeley Group is regenerating whole areas, delivering thousands of new homes as well as infrastructure, open space and commercial and community spaces. In fifty years London has changed immeasurably, but the people haven't and they are what is at the heart of regeneration. This can too easily be forgotten.
Regeneration is about creating new places where people aspire to live, work and visit. It is about taking unused or under-used land and transforming it into a thriving community. It is about putting the heart and confidence back in to a community. This is never more important than estate regeneration where people's homes are being redeveloped.
In the past, people associated regeneration with the public sector. The scale and complexity means that it can't be delivered by any party acting alone. True regeneration requires partnership between the public sector, developers and the community, creating a shared vision and working together to deliver it.
Regeneration takes years, often decades, a strong partnership is critical to weather the inevitable storms along the way. One thing I know from my years in development is that you do not deliver what you think you will at the outset. Circumstances change and you need to be flexible and to adapt. This does not mean abandoning the vision at the first sign of trouble, but having strong agreed objectives that will be adhered to but may be delivered in a different way.
It is the community who have to come first and be at the very heart of the process, showing them respect and giving them a voice. You have to engage with the community before you do anything else. I know this from the Berkeley Group's developments at Woodberry Down and Kidbrooke Village. We have put our heart and soul into the job of rebuilding these places and transforming not just the physical fabric of each community but the way people feel about their lives.
Regeneration is about far more than bricks and mortar. It's about aspiration, wellbeing, and people's quality of life. Good architecture is clearly important, but equally so is the space between the buildings, the hard and soft landscaping, places to go and walk your dog, places to sit and enjoy - something for everyone. Great regeneration makes a place feel safe, creating a real mix of uses, and a real mixed community with a balance of private and affordable homes, all tenure blind.
Inevitably regeneration, and estate regeneration, will lead to an increase in the number of homes. This is positive as we urgently need to provide London's growing population with homes they can afford. And with more homes and people come the amenities, facilities and funding for infrastructure. So, we should be embracing increased densities, but only if the development is design-led and adheres to the principles of place-making.
More homes will generate higher revenues to pay for employment programmes, youth projects, shops, public realm and sports facilities. In effect, it provides the funding to pay for investment in all the things that make a great community.
At Kidbrooke Village, for example, the number of homes is increasing from 1,906 to 4,800 on the same site while creating 49 acres of new parkland and open space; while at Woodberry Down 1,890 flats are being replaced with 5,500 homes and 15 acres of public landscaped open space.
Each development should be designed according to its local context and characteristics. In some cases tall buildings will be a fantastic addition to the urban landscape. Well-designed and well-maintained tall buildings with great public realm are hugely popular. In other cases lower rise buildings will be more appropriate. Berkeley Group has just launched a new type of house at Kidbrooke - The Berkeley Urban House - which doubles the number of homes that can be built on a site - this allows us to build the additional homes which Londoners so desperately need and, crucially, homes which are more affordable.
So regeneration is a force for good and is vital to change people's life chances as well as delivering more homes and better places for all. We need our new Mayor, Sadiq Khan, to champion regeneration to create places where people aspire to live. This is about giving people back their pride in their front door and their community. It will demand tenacity, investment and collaboration with the boroughs. And it is central to the future of our fantastic capital.