The development of Stratford City rapidly became a partnership between what was
then Chelsfield plc, for whom Nigel Hugill was Chief Executive and Stanhope
Plc, with Stuart Lipton as Managing Director.
“No one wanted to go to Stratford when we first looked at it, it was a sleepy suburb which had hardly changed, but with some of the best subway and railroad facilities in the whole of London”, said Sir Stuart Lipton, now Deputy Chairman at Chelsfield Partners and a ULI Life Trustee, recalling his first impressions of the Olympics site at the recent ULI Trends Conference. “We assumed shoppers would be heading for the nearby regional malls of Lakeside or Bluewater, but when we analysed their movements more closely we realised they were staying in London and going to the West End.”
Nigel Hugill has gone on to found his own brownfield development business, Urban and Civic. Describing the initial sense of pioneering at Stratford, he explained the alteration in attitude that was central to the whole approach: “Keep in mind that this was well ahead of the 2012 Olympic bid. We set about, quite literally, changing London's urban map. The tendency is for UK developers to understate proposed scale and impact. We determined on the direct opposite and aimed ambitiously high from the outset. We were clear early that the former Rail lands afforded the opportunity to create a new piece of city that would provide both form and function to a host of new transport movements across the capital. ”
The approach culminated in the largest single planning application ever made in London – seeking consent for a metropolitan retail centre to rival those in West London, office buildings, residential apartments, hotels, leisure and civic facilities, fully integrated within parks and new public spaces.
The pair were in agreement that the success of the project also rested squarely on unequivocal support from Sir Robin Wales, Mayor of the Borough of Newham, whose enthusiasm and commitment remains undiminished. He co-ordinated a dialogue by which the partners, together with then Mayor of London, Ken Livingstone, met quarterly with the Deputy Prime Minister John Prescott and Ministers from the Environment Department. These meetings ensured that this complex project respected all the community requirements and motivated the numerous organisations involved to work together to allow this complex project to go for zoning approval without resort to formal Central Government intervention.
Stratford City went on to become a cornerstone of the London 2012 bid. The application was consented in September 2004, the evening before the UK Government announced approval and funding for proposed Olympic sporting facilities on adjoining sites. The Games were awarded the following year- after what was perhaps the most hotly ever contested selection process. It seemed no coincidence that the commitment to quality urban regeneration, the supportive political environment, the benefits of proactive planning, demonstrably integrated high speed transport links and a development site that was prepared