Olympic Park development boss points to joint venture future

The head of the mayoral organisation overseeing the development of London’s Olympic Park has backed the use of joint ventures in regeneration schemes.

As the London Legacy Development Corporation (LLDC) prepares to hand back its planning powers to the park’s neighbouring boroughs by 2025, chief executive Lyn Garner was questioned by a London Assembly committee this week on what lessons the organisation has learned.

“We have moved towards joint venture delivery as opposed to development agreement,” Garner told the assembly’s planning and regeneration committee.

“We think it gives us more control and a seat at the table in terms of how schemes are built out.

“We’ve been sometimes frustrated with the speed of delivery of housing on the park,” Garner said.

“Not only because of things that are uncontrollable like Covid and so on, but because of viability concerns from the private sector partner. So if you can be at the table and controlling some of those conversations, we think that’s a good thing.”

In August LLDC awarded a £600m contract to Ballymore for a 50/50 joint venture to develop two waterfront sites, delivering almost 1,200 homes as well as ground floor retail spaces.

The previous month it started a search for a development partner to create 450 new homes at a site on the park’s southern edge.

Managing such joint venture partnerships will continue to be part of LLDC’s role after it hands back planning powers to the park’s surrounding boroughs at the end of 2024, said Garner.

With about 2,500 homes still to be built in the park, she said LLDC’s future role would include “making sure that [these] are built out to the quality and expectations that we would expect”.

But because LLDC’s workforce will be cut back significantly after 2024, this would consist of “a governance job sitting on the boards of joint venture companies”, she said.

Garner confirmed that LLDC is due to hand back its planning powers to the park’s neighbouring boroughs – Newham, Hackney, Tower Hamlets and Waltham Forest – by December 2024.

She said the organisation is currently working “hand in glove” with the boroughs to achieve this.

The “broad strategic approach” for LLDC’s role following this transition had been signed off by London mayor Sadiq Khan, said Garner.

A “residual organisation” will continue as mayoral development corporation, but with “much smaller geography and much smaller governance”. Its area of responsibility will be “shrinking to the park itself”, and not include surrounding areas as is currently the case.

Alongside joint delivery, LLDC’s other priorities will be maintaining the park and its venues and “having a strategic focus on inward investment”, Garner said.

She also argued that it had been a success to combine residential and cultural development in the park. Its ‘East Bank’ cultural quarter will include venues for the BBC, the Victoria and Albert Museum, Sadler’s Wells, University College London, and UAL’s London College of Fashion.

“I think one of the best decisions we made was not to build housing on the East Bank site, and instead bring two huge university campuses and an arts and culture focus there,” Garner said.

“It was a tweaking of what we were doing to make this a whole place and not just dominated by housing.

“It’s going to make a huge difference for decades to come to East Londoners”.

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