Interview: James Bishop from U+I

Thu 31st January 2019, 12:16 pm

We caught up with U+Iís director, acquisitions, James Bishop, to discuss the developer's forthcoming attendance at Sitematch London, and key projects the company is working on.

Can you say something about U+I and your role in the company?

U+I is a specialist regeneration developer and investor. With a £9.5 billion portfolio of complex, mixed-use, community-focused regeneration projects including a £140 million investment portfolio, we are unlocking urban sites bristling with potential in the London, Manchester and Dublin city regions.~

We exist to create long-term socioeconomic benefit for the communities in which we work, delivering sustainable returns to our shareholders. We have a considerable track record in public private partnership [PPPs], having developed some significant projects together with local authorities, Transport for London and other public bodies.

Including the years spent at Cathedral [U+I'S former guise], I’ve been with the company since 2004. I’m currently the director, acquisitions at U+I, responsible for securing PPP projects and land opportunities to build our development pipeline.

What are some of the key projects currently in the pipeline for U+I?

We are continually seeking new opportunities and hope to come away with a thorough undertaking of what PPP opportunities might be coming forward this year and with several new key areas to focus on. We put people and places at the heart of our work so that communities benefit from the development process and so that the heritage, soul and stories of a place live on. Our distinctive approach is built on three pillars: communities, worthwhile use and strong partnership.

A prime example of this is Morden Wharf in Greenwich. It’s a hive of activity for small businesses and local makers, including prop company MDM – the team behind the Warhorse horse – to whom we’ve opened-up the old refinery, while we go into consultation with the local community and the Royal Borough of Greenwich over final plans for the site. We’ve opened it up to makers in homage to the site’s rich industrial heritage. Our ambition is that, in the long term, alongside creating more homes for the local area, it will continue to provide a space for local businesses and makers to express their creativity, build new ideas and make Morden Wharf a real destination.

We are currently working as a trusted partner of Transport for London to regenerate Landmark Court in Southwark along with Notting Hill Housing under our consortium, Triangle London Developments. The partnership plans to transform the site from an under-utilised space to a local cultural and social hub where people will want to live, work and visit.

8 Albert Embankment houses the iconic Lambeth Fire Station and former London Fire Brigade [LFB] headquarters. U+I and LFB’s shared vision for 8 Albert Embankment is to transform the riverside location, creating a vibrant and successful place with regeneration benefits that will extend beyond the scheme to the wider local community.

U+I and LFB are engaging with the local community and council to collaboratively shape the proposed development. To facilitate these efforts, the Workshop doors were opened in November 2016 to the local community as a worthwhile use community and events space. Alongside a London Fire Brigade pop-up museum, the space is home to charities, social and start-up enterprises and artists, all with creativity at their heart. Other tenants include the Migration Museum – the only one of its kind and popular in an area rich in a migrant population – and educational projects, such as the Institute of Imagination which encourages creative learning through imaginative events.

Why is the company sponsoring Sitematch? What are your objectives for the event?

PPPs are a significant part of our business, and over the past year we have been working with civic society, public sector and developer communities to identify the most successful ways of delivering these partnerships, and how the various stakeholders involved in these projects can work together to achieve the best balance of risk and reward for all.

U+I believe in the power of partnerships and is fully committed to strengthening relations between the public and private sectors. We know there is increasing pressure on the public sector to cut costs while still delivering important services and, by working closely together, we can help deliver their economic and social aspirations in a challenging environment.

Through our sponsorship of Sitematch, we are reaffirming this commitment and ensuring that local authorities have the opportunity to partner with developers which understand their wider objectives and commitments.

U+I recently published a report on PPPs. What are the key qualities you look for in potential public sector partners?

Our ‘PPP: The Reset’ report highlights a few fundamental aspects to the success of PPPs. These include a transparent partnership, with understanding and agreement on the financial drivers and risks from both sides early on. Effective PPPs also require strong leadership from local authorities – both to be accountable for decision-making but also in holding us to account.

However, the key for us is the need for the public and private sectors to share a vision and common purpose in our partnership, with clear and aligned objectives in delivering successful PPPs. We want to move beyond adversarial, contractual relationships to a point of authentically shared vision and true partnerships.

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