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Events and Speeches - Rob Perrins, Make things happen

Make things happen

A Speech by Rob Perrins at the Royal Academy, 27 November 2014.

We have had five years of exceptional growth in the London housing market. But this September, house prices in the capital dropped by 1.1%. Customers are clearly delaying purchases.

Meantime, property prices have galloped ahead of wages by a ratio of 18 to 1 in the last year. Confidence has been dented by the Bank of England's attempts to cool the market through tighter lending criteria and talking up interest rate rises. Mansion tax rhetoric has spooked the market. And a looming general election means there is no end to the uncertainty for another 6 months.

However, property is still a very good market to be in. The fundamentals remain strong. London remains a great global city - people want to come here for work; for play; for security; to be part of a tolerant, creative, exhilarating city.

London's population is growing too. It will reach 9 million by 2022, the highest figure ever. And there is a major, structural under-supply of homes.

So let's look ahead. I think we've got 3 big Issues for the next 2 years.

First, costs. The cost of living is up. The costs of materials is up. The cost of labour is up - construction is the one industry where wage rises have out-paced the UK norm.

Second, collaboration. Developers always moan about planning, and often with good reason! But we do not have a problem with policy. It's the culture of planning that has to change. We have got to forge a much more collaborative relationship between councils and developers. Less ideology. More trust. Better engagement.

Third, delivery: Above all, we have got to start getting things done. We need to inject much more pace into the development process. We have to get on with the business of building more homes. We need quicker decisions from councils. Fewer ambiguous noises from the Bank of England. Less tactical positioning from politicians.

In my view, plenty of people talk about the housing crisis. They even talk about investing. But a lot fewer people make decisions which get more homes built.

So I want to end with some praise for two companies that get things done. They are not developers. They just strike me as organisations driven by a desire to make things happen.

Take Brompton Bicycles - the UK's largest bicycle manufacturer. They produce 22,000 bikes each year. 70% of them are exported. The bikes are British designed and all are still made onsite in their Brentford factory.

Or Guy's & St Thomas hospital. Last year, they had contact with 2 million patients; managed a £1.2 billion turnover; and employed 13,500 staff. They were also named 'Trust of the Year'.

My point is that property - and our wider society - must not get caught in a wave of uncertainty and paralysis over the coming year.

We have to get out there and make things happen.

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