A surprise deal to rescue the development prospects for the Olympic site after the 2012 games was the big news to attempt to bring to life the Mipim annual property conference in Cannes.
Announced by London mayor Boris Johnson on Tuesday, the deal follows a year of negotiations between the Treasury, London agencies and the new Olympic Park Legacy Company over the ownership and cost of the land.
The deal, thought to be worth £430m will see the land passed from the ownership of the London Development Agency to the OPLC without debt, allowing the body, run by former EP chair Margaret Ford, to sell the land over time for development.
The terms of the deal, not disclosed as Building went to press, are thought to see 50% of the returns from future land sales go to the Treasury, with 50% being kept in London. Johnson said: “This is absolutely wonderful news, securing a strong and independent legacy company, meaning developers will have one place to go to build out the Olympic park.”
As revealed in Building in February, Boris also announced a plan to see the London Development Agency sell off large parcels of land to developers over the next five years.
The deal followed growing scepticism that any agreement would be reached at all before the election, with the LDA in January deciding to extend interim arrangements and budgeting for not managing to reach an agreement. Andrew Altman, chief executive of the OPLC, said: “We are now officially open for business. This is a truly historic day.”
However, the positive announcement was in marked contrast to the general mood at Mipim, principally characterised by concern over how to fund development projects, particularly those with a public sector input, over the next year.
Compared to last year, when most development work was officially on hold, many delegates were at least looking for ways to get newly redesigned schemes off the ground, often stressing the potential benefits to overseas investors of investing in UK development.
Jonathan Seal, director of residential at consultants CB Richard Ellis, said the favourable exchange rate was causing many, particularly far eastern investors, to consider buying in to UK housing developments. He said: “Currently its very good timing so there’s a lot of interest."
We’re seeing some green shoots, so the message is ‘keep your chin up and stop crying - it’ll get better.’” There was also much talk of innovative new funding streams such as Tax Increment Financing being used, alongside scepticism over funders appetite for innovation in the current market.
The organisers claimed number of attendees, 18,000, was the same as last year. However, there was much anecdotal evidence to suggest the number of attendees from the UK was down again.
In particular, a number of public agencies and councils, such as the Homes and Communities Agency, which cancelled its traditional Thursday party, reduced their presence because of sensitivity over the use of public funds in the wake of the MPs expenses scandal.
Jackie Sadek, chair of the British Urban Regeneration Association, said the fear was so pervasive BURA was planning to conduct research to prove the economic benefit to the tax-payer of attending Mipim. She said: “Someone needs to make the case as there’s no doubt many have been hugely nervous this year of coming, and missing the potential benefits.”