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Mipim: Sheepdogs and sheep, in partnership

Strolling around in the Cannes sunshine at Mipim, there’s a buzz in the air – and it’s not coming from the bees.

People seem unable to finish a sentence without the magic word ‘partnership’. It’s like some kind of unconscious punctuation. I’m now stifling the urge to roll my eyes.

“I heard the word partnership about 10 times in the opening talk at the London Stand,” says Iain Painting, partner at planning and design consultant Barton Willmore. “But while people want this, they don’t yet understand how to do it.”

I’m with you Iain. More doing it, please.

Pat Hayes, executive director of regeneration and housing at the London Borough of Ealing, picks up the theme: “The planning environment has changed,” he says. “We’re seeking marriages between neighbouring landowners that are mutually beneficial.”

I’m not expecting too much at this point. But then Mr Painting says something that does pique my interest, explaining that while some lenders ask, “We own the site, why aren’t we getting more out of it?”, others have a more enlightened view.

Part of this is, of course, about having an investor that’s in it for the long haul. But partnerships can be seen in many different lights.

“We see ourselves as the sheepdog, herding the development [into its] pen,” Mr Hayes says. “Get the sheep into the pen and make sure they stay there and don’t flee off to reinvest elsewhere.”

Partnerships are happening elsewhere under other models.

Take Slough for example, where the borough council brings the land and Morgan Sindall is providing the development expertise, early stage funding and construction delivery as part of an ongoing programme.

Here, there are eight or so live projects with values of tens of millions, but more importantly, a longer term pipeline in the region of £200m that has the added benefit of providing the business with a certainty on pipeline that all main contractors wish for.

So just maybe I need to take off the cynical hat for a while and look for the social value as well the commercial benefits that partnerships can lead to.

It’s all this sunshine you know.

More from Mipim

The government is attempting to woo international investors at a Department for International Trade pavilion in Cannes with a £7bn pipeline of Midlands Engine projects.

Gary Neville has acknowledged in Cannes that there will be further changes to his and Ryan Giggs’ contentious scheme in Manchester.

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