Meet the sponsor: James Bishop from U+I

Sun 21st January 2018, 1:13 pm

Sitematch London catches up with James Bishop, ExCo director, new business (public private partnerships), from U+I, to discuss the key sites the company is working on.

Could you provide a bit of background on U+I and your role in the company?

U+I is a property developer and investor, specialising in complex, mixed-use, community-focused, regeneration projects in the London, Manchester and Dublin regions. We are the product of a merger between Development Securities and Cathedral Group, which has ended up being a great marriage of creativity and imagination, underpinned by expert management of finance and risk. Before our merger, both companies had a considerable track record in public private partnerships, having developed some significant projects together with local authorities, Transport for London, and other public bodies.

Including the years spent at Cathedral, I’ve been with the company since 2014. I’m currently the executive committee director of new business, responsible for securing public-private partnership projects and land opportunities to build our development pipeline.

Why has your company decided to support Sitematch 2018?

We have supported Sitematch since its inception and will continue to do so as we believe there is no networking opportunity like it. Given U+I has such a strong focus on working in partnership with the public sector, the ability to meet with such a wide range of local authorities is unrivalled. To do that in the manner of Sitematch – in one day – makes it a very efficient way of building new relationships and maintaining existing ones.

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 a number of new key areas to focus on.

Which key projects is U+I involved in?

Our £6 billion development pipeline consists of a lot of really exciting projects dotted around our core geographies, all of which are delivering significant change in the places where we are building.

In London, we have just secured a deal to partner with the London Fire and Emergency Planning Authority to develop its former headquarters at Albert Embankment. We’re about to start work on a partnership with Camden Council to redevelop a significant site around the existing Holborn Library, re-providing a public library at the centre of a new community hub. Housing and a new home for Cockpit Arts will complete this sensitive and considered development in the heart of one of London’s most historic areas. In 2012, we completed one of the first post-recession public private partnerships by building a new library and leisure centre in Clapham – a partnership with Lambeth Council that delivered both facilities at no cost to the public purse.

While developing plans for the 8AE site with the London Fire and Emergency Planning Authority, U+I opened up the existing Workshop building to activate the site and embark on extensive pre-application and consultation with the local community.

The Workshop building was constructed in the 1930s and its primary use was as a repair workshop for the London Fire Brigade’s fleet of vehicles. In November 2016, U+I was granted approval to use the building as a temporary museum and events space. The building is now home to a broad mix of artists, charities, social enterprises and start-ups, including the Migration Museum, Institute of Imagination and the London Fire Brigade pop-up museum.  

The Workshop has hosted a wide range of events, welcoming over 30,000 visitors since opening in November 2016. From learning exchange with local primary schools, to degree shows from the Royal College of Art, the space has been a hub of activity for the local community to enjoy. In late 2016 and 2017, U+I welcomed over 200 people to two formal public consultations for the redevelopment of the site in The Workshop. The exhibition boards are still displayed in The Workshop and visitors still have a chance to comment on the proposals through comment cards, providing ongoing consultation.  

Are there any factors that might set U+I apart from other developers?

For U+I, taking a long-term view is fundamental to our approach to delivering large-scale, community-focused regeneration projects. This often entails complexities other developers might shy away from. We believe it’s our responsibility to create real social and economic sustainability, rather than the ‘smash and grab’ approach many volume housing developers take to capitalise on a place’s potential.

One of our key strengths is our history and experience of building strong partnerships with public sector bodies, unlocking public land for development in a way that maximises the benefits to the public purse, the local community and our shareholders. This is based on our fundamental belief that striving to deliver socio-economic gain and community sustainability does not need to be at odds with a private sector developer’s bottom line.

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