The changing face of UK property – West London Business Property Lunch

mirandaportrait-thumbI had a great (if a little warm) afternoon at the West London Business Property Lunch on 19 July at the Millennium Gloucester Hotel, says Miranda Munn. Mike Phillips, acting editor of Property Week, spoke about the changing face of UK property, with particular reference to the development at Battersea Power Station and the significant Malaysian investment involved.

Questioning Britain’s role in the new world order, Mike suggested the UK needs to incorporate some humility in its approach, accompanied by innovation and a willingness to be open to new ideas. With 50% of the residential element of the Battersea Power Station development already in the hands of overseas buyers and no apparent let-up in demand from abroad for London homes, Mike reflected on the dynamics of a location where much of the property could be left empty or rented out. With increasing numbers priced out of London, young, talented people and those involved in our essential services just can’t afford to live in the capital.

Mike felt development laws should be relaxed to allow taller buildings with greater housing capacity per acre of land. There was a discussion about London’s potential to be like Dubai, and London’s position as a global city with the rest of the UK lagging behind – with everyone wanting to be in London, how can this be reconciled?

HS2 was mentioned as the way to expand the capital’s reach, and certainly transport links are vital. Having left West London myself 20 years ago (for the wilds of Bedfordshire) I now feel closer to London than ever with direct trains to Kings Cross taking as little as 27 minutes. It would be a shame to spoil London with too many high-rise buildings, as the views and the green spaces are so much part of its charm. We should certainly be making the very most of all the available space within the greenbelt, but improved transport has to be the way to encourage a ripple effect to benefit the rest of the UK.

Talk turned to UK airport expansion; Mike summed things up by saying that the Thames Estuary was the idealistic option and expanding Heathrow the pragmatic option – and he suggested that the pragmatic option usually wins. So my family in Chiswick should continue to enjoy a conveniently close airport (but maintain their prayers for a regular East wind, so they get a break from the noise).