I think it’s safe to say that this has been an unprecedented time for everyone and, as we start to take the first tentative steps out of lockdown, we begin to see the full effects of the post coronavirus landscape.
One thing is clear, it will not be a dystopian world we move into. Make no mistake there will be a recession, the question we all ask ourselves is how long and how deep? Are we able to draw any comparables to the global financial crash of 2008?
We still have a number of long-term schemes in places like Manchester, Canning Town, Leeds, Blackpool, Lewisham and Stockport that were ‘live’ back then. These public-private partnerships traded through the last crash and will certainly continue to perform through the next one.
Courage is what’s needed. As a developer it is essential to have courage to look forward and take calculated risks where necessary, and it is the same for local authorities to have the courage to not waiver, keep the faith and continue to promote regeneration. COVID-19 has merely accelerated the changes that were already happening in our conurbations. It’s likely that what was right for our communities in Q1 2020 will be right in the long term.
There are opportunities now, more than ever, for the public and private sector to come together, use their collective experience and wisdom, to re-shape our towns and cities to be the engine rooms of our economic revival.
Public-sector intervention at a national and local level is even more crucial now if our towns and cities are to thrive in adversity. Creating long-term, collaborative and flexible partnerships between both the public and private sector, based on positive energy, shared vision, values and goals is the future.
Like marriage, effective and long-lasting partnerships are about each partner recognising and playing to their respective strengths; contributing based on their skills and capabilities, open and honest communication and, most of all, trust.
That is the approach we are taking with our public-sector partners now.
Our experience tells us that progressive town centres have evolved into truly innovative mixed-use destinations when delivered in partnership, where linked trips between homes, shops, restaurants and public services will be natural, and on foot. Having said that, public transport connectivity remains vital and shouldn’t be allowed to wither on the vine during the transformation.
Now is not the time to compromise on quality either. High-quality design, materials, open spaces and physical connections are key ingredients to delivering sustainable, long-lasting regeneration resulting, in turn with social as well as economic prosperity.
I was asked recently whether social value will take a back seat in a world where there is less employment and more challenges circumstances. The answer is simple… absolutely not! If anything, this added value (beyond placemaking itself) will need to increase exponentially to provide even more direct support to the communities that we serve. Providing a holistic, tailored approach to meet the individual needs of local authorities and their communities and most importantly, their communities.
As we emerge from this latest crisis, we will all be battle scarred. But, if we remain positive, optimistic and courageous, we will navigate through the choppy waters ahead and continue to create special places.
Matt Crompton is managing director at Muse Developments