Sustainability, zero carbon and placemaking have been an ongoing theme at many conferences over the years, and it was no surprise the importance and impact was felt at the latest TfL Development & Economic Growth Conference yesterday.

22 London boroughs have declared climate emergencies, the appetite for action is there and the Mayor’s London Environment Strategy exceeded national policy by committing London to becoming a zero carbon city by 2050.

Mental health, wellbeing and loneliness have been key factors for driving placemaking; creating a sense of safety, independence and social support. Loneliness is particularly prevalent amongst young Londoners, with U+I boss, Martyn Evans, calling out to the industry at Centre for London think-tank’s London Conference in November that creating places that are “good” for the people who live, work and visit there being of vital importance to decision making. The fault directed at developers who often don’t consider people’s lives or see the value in creating sustainable environments for people to interact and connect.

But here, with a packed audience and one of the largest developers in London, TfL announced their plans and commitments. Their top 5 development drivers being:

  1. Ensuring support for delivering homes – committing to 10,000 new homes (and potentially more!)
  2. Delivering 50% affordable housing across their portfolio
  3. Generate vital revenue to reinvest back into the network infrastructure
  4. Provide transport improvements including step-free access, new bus stations and better urban realm
  5. Create healthy streets and neighbourhoods where people want to live

What was great to see is was the audience participation – when asking “What do we need to focus on when creating place?”, responses showed 39% prioritised a sense of community and social inclusion. A close second at 25% was the right mix of residential, business, leisure and retail. In my view, both go hand in hand. To create a real sense of “place” the mix of developments are vital to ensure community needs are met.

A key topic was the Bakerloo Line extension, from Elephant & Castle, along the Old Kent Road to Lewisham.  We have been working with LB Southwark in relation to land along this route. To create a sense of community and social inclusion, Southwark’s Area Action Plan helpfully proposes mixing residential and commercial uses, so that new and existing businesses like warehouses, shops, creative workspaces and offices are designed to co-exist with new homes, a substantial proportion of which are to be affordable.

Zero carbon won’t happen overnight. Loneliness and mental health won’t vanish. But if we, as an industry, don’t get to grips with this now we run the risk of falling even further behind on our responsibilities. All those within the built environment need to, and must, work together to combine public priorities with private sector investment and partnerships to ensure developments always consider their longer-term sustainable future.