Excellence in Engineering

Post MIPIM breakfast 2016

Wednesday, April 27, 2016
What happened at MIPIM 2016? 
Most of the 60+ guests at Crofton Design’s post-MIPIM breakfast were cursing their poor ‘O’ Level French grades, as guest speaker, Paul Finch, rattled into his 2016 MIPIM review in fluent French but with a hint of an English accent.

You could see all those worried faces wondering why Crofton hadn’t, while enquiring about ‘special dietary requirements’, suggested the guests bring along a French-English dictionary. Fortunately for them, after a minute-and-a-half Finch reverted to English.

While enjoying their Full-English in the charming surroundings of Jamie’s Italian in Threadneedle Street, the assembled company were then treated to a highly entertaining review by Finch, Editorial Director of the Architects’ Journal, of the goings on in Cannes.

A recurrent theme, that Finch kept on coming back to, was the extension of the Central Activities Zone in London taking it as far as Romford although later on there was even mention of it stretching to Birmingham Airport if it became London’s Third Airport.

As this all came on the back of a report commissioned by British Land and produced by Deloitte Real Estate on ‘Meeting London’s Future Needs’ it was inevitable that Finch jokingly suggested that British Land, having recently bought Canada Water on the south bank of The Thames, would want to fill it in to create “Canada Dry”.

“Welcome back to the1960s” quipped Finch with talk of land use zones being reintroduced and integrated transport planning or comprehensive development as they used to call it.

Of course his observations wouldn’t have been complete without mention of all the private rented sector razzmatazz at MIPIM, and he suggested with a note of cynicism “it’s really clever isn’t it, you pay rent for 30 years, you don’t own the asset…. anyway who needs a capital asset to see you through your dementia years, you won’t even remember you owned the home anyway.” 

Talking of memory and before it became all too UK focused, Finch remembered to point out that Turkey had its biggest ever presence at MIPIM, “that’s because so many Turks wanted to be in Cannes rather than Istanbul”.

Well, that was about it for the rest of Europe and the world. We have far too many problems of our own to worry about anything beyond these shores even if we are airing them in the warmer climes of Cannes. Mind you, you could have been forgiven for thinking La Croisette looked like Blackpool seafront on a stormy December day on the Wednesday of MIPIM. 

Finch reminded us of the ever present Tony Pidgeley who now seems to be the “go to spokesman” for any comment on the housing crisis. Pidgeley chose the forum of MIPIM to suggest that instead of dillydallying around with S.106s, CiL, and other planning gain that there should be one rule: that all developments should by law have an allocation of 30% affordable housing. “None of the housing developers agree with this so it makes it a racing certainty that it won’t become government policy” said Finch.

The other big topic of conversation amongst the British contingent in Cannes was the Northern Powerhouse (note the Upper Case official recognition). Finch quipped that any tunnel driven through the Pennines from Sheffield or Leeds was fine provided it didn’t connect with Liverpool or Manchester, proving that neither side has got over the Wars of The Roses. Really, the Northern Powerhouse needs to focus on both ends of the telescope which reminded Finch of Marty Feldman for some reason.

And as far as themes go MIPIM wouldn’t have been complete without a debate on tall buildings. This was held around the Pipers London model on the penultimate day of MIPIM with Finch representing the pro-lobby and Peter Murray the Chairman of New London Architecture, the anti-lot, for the purpose of the debate. Entertainingly, he referred to the 400 plus planning applications for buildings of over 20-storeys “but no one has mentioned those with 19 storeys where there could be 600 applications.”

“Looking at the model, the remarkable thing is how few tall buildings there are in one of the world’s major financial centres,” said Finch and alluded to the number of sites that could be developed without the volume builders trampling all over the Green Belt.  

“Well, people get the jitters about being able to see a tower on the skyline but the truth is they should pay more attention to how these towers meet the ground,” he added.
Finch suggested that if there was going to be this continuing debate then Historic England should have the courage of their convictions and put lines on the map to show where they would be acceptable. “What happened to pro-active planning, there is no sign of the Mayor of London doing it.”

It was noted that Boris Johnson, an ever regular visitor to Cannes, was notable for his absence this year; “nevertheless he couldn’t keep his fingers out of the MIPIM-pie, and with immaculate timing on the first day of MIPIM announced special planning guidance for, yes, the Central Activity Zone.” This according to Finch was Boris’s way of “evading not just avoiding” government policies of extending ‘As of Right’ from office to residential. “Boris is going to scotch that, how dare developers provide homes in central London where, obviously, no one wants them, that’s why we’re building Cross Rail to keep people in Zone 5”.

And, finally, as a retort to Boris’s Brexit campaign Finch joked “ happily we can predict that the London Stand will be with us at MIPIM in 2017 whatever the outcome of the June vote. Maybe the stand itself will become part of the Central Activity Zone – a little bit of London which is for ever Cannes.”

Author: Richard Aylwin - ACL




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