How Westminster is building its way out of lockdown

As COVID-19 decimates the UK economy, Westminster City Council's ambitious regeneration and house building programme offers both jobs and the prospect of an affordable home in the capital


Picture: Westminster City Council's Luton Street development

Barbara Brownlee

Executive Director of Growth, Planning and Housing, Westminster City Council

Westminster has a great story to tell about its sustainable regeneration and development – the largest affordable house building programme seen in a generation in London. We are building 2,000 beautiful, affordable homes by 2023, working with the very best architects and builders to create award-winning buildings and public spaces. What are the key aspects of this?

Key considerations

We don’t develop in a vacuum: we always consider the place, the neighbourhood and the community. We are creating places that suit the needs of people from all economic backgrounds, from new council housing to affordable rent.

This is an incredibly ambitious programme, given the challenges of building in one of the most congested, expensive and historic places in England. But we are determined to create opportunities for everyone to live in the centre of London. This means families, keyworkers and those who simply do not earn enough to buy or rent in Westminster. We want to make sure there are housing options for all.

“We believe a good living environment is the foundation for a happy, healthy life”

Westminster Council's regeneration programme will produce thousands of new, sustainable homes and help residents access job opportunities, education and training in central London.

Regeneration focus

As well as building new homes, we have been working with the residents who live on our estates to develop the biggest estate regeneration programme in Westminster for decades. Their voices help guide our plans every step of the way, and this is regeneration explicitly with and for residents.

We guarantee that anyone who needs to move while their estate is being rebuilt will be offered the opportunity to come home, whether they are tenants or leaseholders.

Our two major regeneration areas in Ebury Bridge and Church Street will produce thousands of new, sustainable homes while, at the same time, we are using our investment to help people access job opportunities, education, training, culture and everything else London has to offer.

We believe a good living environment is the foundation for a happy, healthy life. For example, at Church Street, we are building a new community health hub which will house two GP surgeries, some adult education, a community café and a library.

Our regeneration programme is an investment in our communities, to support people to fulfil their potential and thrive in Westminster.

Supporting the economy beyond COVID-19

But at the same time, COVID-19 is decimating the UK economy, affecting building sites all over London and potentially leaving millions without jobs.

We need our building programme to address this situation as far as it can. The council’s investment of £1 billion over the next five years will continue despite the economic challenges ahead, offering significant support to the construction industry and creating jobs, while continuing to provide social housing.

The construction industry represents around 7% of the UK economy and employs an estimated 9% of the country’s workforce. If construction fails, the UK economy fails – as we saw in the 2000s.

Local authorities have strong borrowing capacity, an underlying asset base and the resilience to build even when the private sector is nervous. We are in a strong position to lead the construction sector out of this crisis.

Westminster Council is investing £1 billion in its development programme over the next five years.

“In these difficult times, local government is offering reassurance and leadership”

Westminster Builds

Westminster has an expert development team with skills, capability and passion. Westminster Builds – our own development company that launched last year – has already demonstrated its ability to help when the private sector is struggling.

At our Luton Street development at the heart of the Church Street regeneration area, a fragile housing market meant the developer was almost forced to abandon the project. Westminster Builds came on board with finance, and we are now, in partnership, delivering 171 new homes, including 66 affordable homes for local residents. Our involvement got things moving again.

In these difficult times, local government is offering reassurance and leadership. By building for the future, we can get through this difficult time and emerge with stronger communities than ever.

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