We need strong leadership and vision to support the further education sector, to revive our high streets and to provide new homes for Londoners.
Love our Colleges x Love Our High Streets is a very interesting exhibition which addresses some aspects of this. It has been launched by New City College in conjunction with Studio Egret West’s gallery, featuring our completed scheme for Southwark College as a prime example of how to improve outcomes with development. Colleges can contribute to the High Street, and capitalise on their estate, releasing sites for development, but deprived areas should not be left behind.
It is excellent news that London colleges are currently undergoing a further round of investment. Dynamic leadership in the sector has triggered this change and recent college mergers have created this opportunity. Now is the time to maximise the potential of the public estate.
New City College is preparing a scheme at their Poplar site in Tower Hamlets, illustrated in the exhibition, featuring substantial residential development that will fund the proposed changes to the college premises. Their scheme hopes to revive the dreary Poplar High Street. Similarly, Capital City College Group, United College Group and West London College all have major schemes in the pipeline part-funded by residential development.
Our concern is that this funding, released from the public estate, should support the highest social goals and deliver real outcomes for the Londoners that need it most. In our most deprived areas assets are not as valuable as the central London sites that are being developed. Could this strategy inadvertently lead to those more deprived areas falling further behind?
The GLA is considering a number of schemes for funding and the projects listed above may be competing for the available but limited funds. As holders of the public purse, the GLA should consider what will happen to those less well-endowed colleges? We need to put deprived areas first on the list for renewal and support.
The housing proposed on College property needs to be carefully thought through. This is an opportunity to address the shortage of affordable housing provision, particularly in the most deprived areas. Sadiq understands this and should demand that colleges releasing land meet the 50% affordable level of homes provision, as set out in the London Plan. In our view, schemes that go beyond this offer greater synergy from the public estate and should be preferred.
All aspects of deprivation must be considered when releasing the public estate (learning outcomes, affordable housing targets, and community benefits). Leaders must take this opportunity to maximise the potential of our city’s public estate to truly love our colleges and our high streets.