UKREiiF registration , c UKREiiF

UKREiiF was held 21-23 May in Leeds. Credit: UKREiiF

UKREiiF | Themes from Leeds in 2024

UKREiiF powered through rainy forecasts to deliver three days of panel sessions, networking socials, and roundtable discussions this week. Bringing together more than 12,000 property professionals, the Leeds-based show has already announced dates for next year – 20-22 May. But before we focus on the year to come, let us look back on the event that’s gone. Here are the major themes we spotted during the convention.

Partnership bingo

The word “partnership” was one for your UKREiiF bingo sheet. Partnership and collaboration were the buzzwords of the conference, uttered on nearly every panel as ways to solve every problem imaginable. While it was oversaid it was still appreciated. Starship co-founder and chief executive Dave Dargan told Place that it was “very positive to see city leaders discussing ways in which we can accelerate developments by working in partnership to present the region as a major economic powerhouse”. Sean Keyes, chief executive of Sutcliffe, was of a similar mind: “…like the theme of most discussions taking place this week, partnerships are going to be key moving forward…” he said.

UKREiiF Day The Rest is Politics Live, c UKREiiF

“The Rest is Politics” event at UKREiiF saw the podcast come to life. Credit: UKREiiF

Housing delivery

Another recurring theme was the need for more homes to be built and the ones that exist to be retrofitted. Housing delivery, and what was delaying it, was one of the main topics at “The Rest is Politics Live” event at UKREiiF. Hosts Rory Stewart and Alastair Campbell pressed their guests, Government Property Agency’s Pat Ritchie, Related Argent’s Tom Goodall, and Baroness Judith Blake, as to why delivery had slowed. Rising costs, planning, inflation, and viability were all blamed.

Ritchie discussed the importance of getting the infrastructure in place first. Goodall said that planning may not be an issue, pointing out that thousands of homes in London have planning permission but have yet to be built. “Fundamentally, the issue is how do you start moving forward with what is already consented at a greater rate and how do you stop some of the existing housing stock from leaving the system,” he said.

Institutionalism

What would we do without L&G? Articulate, available and amenable – essential qualities when searching for a speaker for your hot panel debate – the pension fund institution was ubiquitous across regional showcase sessions in the event programme. It almost left the impression that L&G was the only institutional investor in the North. Indeed, L&G understands the regional property world better than most and is a welcome partner whether through its stake in the English Cities Fund or directly investing in Sheffield, Leeds, Sunderland… There are others, surely, but where were they? The regeneration movement needs more voices and more investors. Pete Gladwell, group social impact and investment director at L&G, has a well-rehearsed hymnal line about investing the public’s pensions back into their communities – a worthy sentiment and who can argue with it. It would be good to hear other songs from different singers.

UKREiiF Angela Rayner Keynote, UKREiiF, c UKREiiF

Angela Rayner MP delivered the keynote address at UKREiiF on Tuesday – little did we know an election would be called the following day. Credit: UKREiiF

Election forecasts

What began as a game over opening dinners to guess the size of the Labour majority, ended with excited analysis over closing drinks of the decision for a snap election. There was some fascinating insight from the public affairs experts present about why a large Labour majority might actually be a bad thing for housing – Starmer is understood to want to crack housing supply as one of his priorities. Clearly, he needs a good majority to be able to do what he wants. But if it’s 150-200, the majority might not allow sufficient cross-bench policy scrutiny. And naive new MPs fresh to the Commons might be less inclined to go against their constituents when there is public opposition to a major housing development. Nimbies on the backbenches could distract and delay a Labour prime minister on a mission.

Local strength

It remains to be seen how many local authority leaders will be plucked from their town hall rooms to fill candidacies around the country, as Labour goes about the business of putting a runner in each constituency. It will be a shame to say the least if this disrupts a stellar generation emerging at the top of local government. There were packed sessions everywhere you looked at UKREiiF as developers and advisers listened enthusiastically to intelligent, honest, capable council leaders and chief executives who set out their plans with feet equally grounded in the inspirational vision and the granular detail needed to improve their areas. The best leaders in UK government today are to be found at a local and not a national level. How often could we have said that previously in our lifetimes?

South Village launch, Caddick, c PNW

Place North West editor Julia Hatmaker snapped a selfie with one of the “astronauts2 at the Caddick’s launch of South Village at UKREiiF. Credit: PNW

Personality

From Caddick Development’s spaceman-themed launch of South Village to Cumberland Council’s robot dogs, UKREiiF was not without its moments of weird – but awesome. This was no corporate MIPIM, at UKREiiF the wardrobes were colourful, the swag creative (shout out to Blackpool gin), and everyone was ready to make an impression. Add to that a robust fringe programme that included a rock band performance from GPA’s Mark Bourgeois, WSP’s Laura Parker, Crown Estate’s Hamish Wilson, Lunson Mitchenall’s James Cogavin, Brookfield’s Laura Coote, and The Ministry of Sound’s Lohan Presencer – and the result was a three-day conference that felt genuinely fun, with moments that surprised and delighted – even if the rain did make it all feel a bit miserable on Wednesday.

Your Comments

Read our comments policy

Albeit a good number of people attended this event, too much overlapped on the content side – I think the organizers were not close enough to this and for that I feel that my ticket wasn’t great value for money.

By Dan H

Too many people in too little space. I agree with the last comment. Something needs to be done with the programme & also the amount of space available – every talk / tent / event was packed, standing room only & 5 deep out of the door.

By Anonymous

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