Revo at Labour Conference 2017.
Listening to Jeremy Corbyn, one could have been convinced that regeneration is a dirty word, after his keynote speech wrapped Labour’s annual conference in Brighton today.
After a conference that touched little on the built environment, the Labour leader tackled the tragedy of Grenfell and announced a review of social housing, proposed rent controls and the introduction of ballots for regeneration on local authority regeneration. He also reiterated the ‘use it or lose it’ mantra introduced by Ed Miliband in regards to private land held by developers where CPO could be used if no development is forthcoming.
Yet, at the same time, he decried the state of current provision and demanded homes fit for purpose on which such ballots could place a brake and rent control could - if introduced poorly - undermine the viability of development projects. Whilst the focus was inevitably on housing, it does not exist in a vacuum. It is the failure to systematically tackle development more holistically over the last several decades – which local and neighbourhood plans now seek to do – which has often stifled growth and investment.
Regeneration plays a vital role in our towns and cities, bringing in new opportunities, new services, and increased footfall. Good development fosters community. Good development creates safer places and better public realm.
Simply, regeneration is a vital part of improving places, alongside new exciting developments. Together they create places fit for purpose and fit for the future.
Business will no doubt eagerly await the details of today’s new announcements.
There has been little else on the ground in regards retail or commercial real estate, which is disappointing at a time when the trading environment is challenging and businesses face real uncertainty from taxation and business rates to Brexit.
There were fewer set piece speeches this year but there are several other key takeaways for our sector.
There was a bold pronouncement to business that there would be tax rises forthcoming under a Labour administration.
Corporation tax would rise, they said - caching it as good for the country, and demanding fair contribution - to fund their ambitions, which will concern businesses who are already trading in a difficult economic environment.
Taking public ownership of key utilities also took headlines – from rail, energy, water to Royal Mail - and the impact that may have on wider investor sentiment and the facilities of which enable the built environment to exist. A slip of the tongue which included ‘construction’ suggests this may only be the beginning of a larger project in the mind of the Shadow Chancellor across broader sections of industry.
On a more positive note, interesting conversations have taken place on an active conference fringe; around placemaking, transport and infrastructure. These issues are key to unlocking potential development and productivity.
New mayoralties present new opportunities for bold urban leadership. Representatives of the Northern Powerhouse and Midlands Engine speak to the growing regional agenda, and we have already seen the trend of localism reaching further afield as Local Authorities across the country look to invest in both development and positive revenue streams.
If one was to look at the polls, and to listen to the party in Brighton this week, there is a real prospect of the next government being Labour led billing themselves as a government-in-waiting.
The atmosphere in Brighton has been buoyant and activists seem to be energised in stark contrast to the position the party found itself before the general election. New members have flooded Corbyn’s party boosting overall numbers, but this also masks the exodus of the old guard who feel the party has lost its way. The conference bubble risks being an echo chamber unto itself and it will be interesting to see what resonates outside the walls of the conference and how the Conservatives respond in Manchester.
Revo continues to engage with the Labour Party as we do with all the major parties to build bridges, build good relationships and maintain open dialogue on the policy issues of the day, including business rates, Brexit, and skills campaigning for the best possible economic and social environment for our industry to thrive and prosper.
Find us on the ground in Manchester next week when the Conservatives will look to fight back after a dark and disappointing summer!
Policy Advisor, Revo