Sitematch London: "Match made in heaven," says Sellar

Wed 11th February 2015, 5:28 pm

Around 50 public sector organisations brought 2,186ha of land to market at The Shard, London Bridge on Tuesday 10 February, for the seventh Sitematch event.

There were 384 pre-booked 15-minute “speed-dating” style meetings, as well as many more impromptu meetings on the day, where developers discussed how to collaborate with the public sector in bringing sites forward to deliver growth and regeneration. 

Out of 238 delegates, there were 136 private sector representatives in attendance, mostly made up of housebuilders, but also including retailers, leisure and hotel operators and financiers. Landowners were made up of 22 councils from London, as well as 17 authorities from outside of the capital, including Adur and Worthing, Arun, Brighton and Hove, Hampshire, Medway, the Royal Borough of Windsor and Maidenhead, Slough, Chichester, West Sussex, East Sussex, Essex, Hertfordshire, Kent, Nottingham, Sevenoaks and Wakefield. Representatives from the Greater London Authority, the Ministry of Justice, Metropolitan Police and Transport for London also attended to discuss disused sites. 

Keynote speakers were secretary of state for communities and local government, Rt Hon Eric Pickles MP; founder of the Sellar Property Group and co-owner of The Shard, Irvine Sellar; and Hounslow Council’s director of regeneration, economic development and environment, Brendon Walsh, who co-founded Sitematch with Toby Fox of 3Fox International.

The event sponsors, also acting as advisers, were BNP Paribas Real Estate UK, GVA, Lambert Smith Hampton, Knight Frank, Re and Willmott Dixon.

“Sitematch is a brilliant idea,” Pickles said.  “I want the relationships formed today to be productive and lead to more development on brownfield land, which is the clear preference of the public. 

“Some of the sites that have been brought forward in recent years had the speed-dating treatment at previous Sitematch events: the old railway site in Bexhill-on-Sea, disused land in Barking town centre and the former hospital sites in Lancaster and in Bristol. These are only a few of the previously redundant sites now being used to provide homes and we expect more to follow.”

Sellar said: “London’s population is growing at a rate of 100,000 a year and initiatives like Sitematch help bring the public and private sectors together to meet the demands of our rapidly growing population. I can’t quite stress the importance of this Sitematch forum enough, as it enables you to operate in a non-political environment. It should be a match made in heaven.

“I truly believe by working together we can deliver the needs for Greater London and beyond, while at the same time satisfying the aspirations of our citizens, through more housing, better infrastructure and public buildings; against the framework of attractive and necessary commercial development. 

Following on from the morning meetings, Walsh said: “I’ve spoken to a number of developers who say the public sector is being a bit coy. So if you’re from the public sector and you don’t like what someone is saying, tell them.

“The idea behind Sitematch is to build trust and a bit of honesty, so we don’t waste time on things that aren’t going to move forward. It is great to see you all here and I’m sure Sitematch will continue to get stronger and stronger.”

Robin Cooper, director of regeneration, community and culture at Medway Council, who was attending the event for the first time, said: "Sitematch set out to be a dating site for those in the development industry matching people to sites and from our point of view it did just that.  It was very well organised, a real buzz, a great location and we had some really positive conversations." 

Kenny Oke, development director at Strawberry Star Developments, said: "Bringing together such a large number of (public sector landowners) in one place at the same time effectively condensed many months of hard work into just a few hours." 

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