The future of business in east London

10th May 2018

Residents of Havering, Newham, and Barking and Dagenham should get used to the sight of industrial parks next to their homes – but that’s not a bad thing, industry experts have said.

Residents of Havering, Newham, and Barking and Dagenham should get used to the sight of industrial parks next to their homes – but that’s not a bad thing, industry experts have said.

At an event hosted by SEGRO, a property company with industrial parks across the three boroughs, bosses warned that ‘co-location’ – the concept of residential and industrial property sitting side-by-side, is the future of London.

“Co-location is an idea that’s rising in prominence in London,” said Will Stewart, head of development at City Hall.

“We’ve got huge pressures to deliver housing, and our unused brownfield sites have to take it. But we also have to provide jobs and transport and services to facilitate these homes. Brownfield land has to work so hard and being totally honest, the rate of building on them has been too high.

“I don’t think there’s any way we can get away from living in a mix of residential and industrial – we’re simply running out of space.”

SEGRO’s industrial park in Rainham was opened in 2016 as part of the EastPlus portfolio. The portfolio consists of five unused brownfield sites across Newham, Barking and Dagenham and Rainham, which over the next eight years will become 86 acres of industrial space.

The Rainham site is bringing 1,000 new jobs, as well as business contracts from DPD, DHL and Travelodge. SEGRO have also been funding STEM programmes in local schools and colleges, making sure kids leave with the right skills to get the jobs around them.

“Seeing investment is important to residents and we want to get this investment close to where people live,” said Andrew Blake-Herbert, Havering Council’s chief executive.

“Havering has some of the lowest skilled workers and we want to get that up. We’re working closely with schools to make sure the children that are leaving school have got the right skills for the jobs nearby.”

SEGRO insists that it has local residents at the heart of its plans – eyesore industrial parks are a thing of the past, and will be replaced with sleek, modern buildings. And as rents rise and people move further out of the city, SEGRO’s heads believe the very nature of London living will change accordingly.

“The future of cities is less about zonal areas and dormitory towns,” Alan Holland said, business unit director at SEGRO.

“We think it’s important to create an eco-system where customers can cluster – we’re big supporters of jobs and homes co-existing together.

“We’ve found that when people work in our buildings, and understand what’s happening inside them, we see very little pushback against having them there – it actually means more access. Not everybody wants to commute to Canary Wharf.”

He also insisted that SEGRO takes the individual needs of communities into account – while every school in Havering may be rated good or outstanding, he understands that’s not the case in Newham.

“In different areas, communities are different,” he said. “We’ve been investing in London for 70 years, so we take a long-term view and get to know the community.

“Newham has a different demographic make-up to Havering, and we’ve also noticed mobility levels are different – people in some areas are less willing to move around than in others. We have to remember that the social fabric of communities is very different.”

The SEGRO event was a celebration of two years of the company’s 10-year east London portfolio. It’s surpassed building targets so far, and the new Newham site already has 25-year leases signed with DHL and DPD. If business continues as it is, SEGRO believes east London could look very different in a decade’s time.

“I want to take more risk and see things differently,” Alan said. “Projects like the Docklands, the Olympic Park – they couldn’t have happened if you kept within confines like borough boundaries, public versus private sector, homes versus jobs. These sites have lain empty for years and that feels wrong. The time has come to stand up and make a real difference.”