Meet the adviser: James Leaver from Knight Frank

Thu 25th August 2016, 4:57 pm

Real estate consultant Knight Frank has been a long-standing partner of the Sitematch programme. The Sitematch London team has caught up with the firmís head of public sector and partner James Leaver for a short interview.

How do you add value to the meetings you participate in as a Sitematch advisor?

Getting value out of meetings is all about the preparation and the follow up.  We like to work with our councils well before the event to understand how they want to approach the day.  Is the emphasis on forthcoming site sales, generating income from property, regeneration, housing delivery or all of the above?  Who should attend from the council to get the right message across?  This enables us to get in tune with the council and to identify developers and potential partners that they might want to meet on the day. The Sitematch organisers also like this as it helps get the right private sector partners at the event too. So we can do some of the matchmaking before the event to make sure that the councils have meetings which are of value.  With enough preparation time we can also help our councils to prepare materials for the day to facilitate discussions.  15 minutes is not long and the more opportunities that can be unearthed for follow up the better.

Will Brexit affect the relationship between councils and private sector developers – and if so, how?

Brexit in isolation was an issue of political uncertainty until 23 June but now we know which way we are heading.  We will be leaving Europe but we are not in a hurry to do so.  Of course Brexit has been used as an excuse for some repricing in what was becoming an over-priced market in some areas of London and for some product but there were other dynamics driving that, most notably property taxation.  

We are in the middle of the summer so the full effects of Brexit have not yet worked through but on the plus side Knight Frank has been seeing residential transaction volumes starting to rise again.  

The supply and demand fundamentals for London remain the same as they have for decades. The industry is supplying less housing for Londoners than there is demand, and the market has been resilient to a variety of other uncertainties in the last two years – the lead up to the 2015 general election, the threat of a “mansion tax”, the government’s continued tampering with Stamp Duty and property taxation generally, and the GLA mayoral election earlier this year.

And now there is talk about a standard 35% affordable provision on all sites but 50% on public land. This issue is far bigger than Brexit. Councils wearing a landowner hat will be seeing the value of their land holdings and viability diminished if Sadiq Khan is serious about a 50% affordable provision on public land.  And wearing a planning hat, the challenge for councils will be to keep the industry building.~

What would your advice be for councils attending Sitematch for the first time – and for developers?

Come prepared and you will have some very interesting conversations. Use the Sitematch family to help you do this. It is a proven formula that works.

And for the developers – remember that the world has changed and that local authorities are not all about selling sites. Councils still want to see housing delivered but central government funding is drying up. They need to replace this with other forms of income and creating income from property has come into sharp focus.

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