20 February 2014

Property markets in London: Clusters of ownership, real estate value and governance

Patricia Canelas (UCL Planning, PhD Student) 

In the London property market several property companies hold geographically concentrated and sectorial diversified property portfolios. The traditional London Great Estates, for example, hold different sector properties, mainly a mix of residential, office and retail, in single geographic areas. Moreover, this research's survey on the London listed property companies shows that, some of the largest property companies are also clustering their portfolios in single geographic areas. The active management of geographically concentrated property portfolios potentially allows for other tasks additional to the ones involved in the management of geographically dispersed property portfolios such as to re-tenent, re-furbish and re-let individual properties aiming at an ‘ideal’ mix of retailers, or ‘ideal’ mix of uses. This research explores the production of ‘mixed-use property clusters’ defined here as: agglomeration in consolidated urban areas (districts, quarters or high streets) of different sector properties (residential, retail and offices) owned by a single property investment company engaged in its active management. More specifically, the research explores the value enhancing tasks, in the context of risk/return and governance set-ups involved in the production of ‘mixed-use property clusters’ in London. Data sources comprise interviews, analysis of documentary sources such as planning applications and the annual reports of property companies. This research, combining structure and agency models, contributes to the body of knowledge on value creation in property investment identified as under-explored, and to the growing body of knowledge on governance by exploring how place-making strategies, understood as the relation between vision and delivery, is driven by synergies or conflicts and empowering/disempowering, including/excluding for the different stakeholders in place.

Experimental political organisation, deliberative democracy and John Dewey

James Scott (Queen Mary Geography, PhD student, year 3)

Faith in the institutions of the British political system has never been lower.  For the 'old' social democratic left this represents an acute existential crisis; as trade union density falls and political party membership declines, so goes the legitimacy of speaking on behalf of 'the people'.  

My research examines experimental responses in political organisation by elements of the British Labour Movement to the contemporary crisis of democracy.  I focus on Movement for Change, which is blending Community Organising and Labour political organising to develop a new social democracy founded on ideas of active citizenship, broad-based participation and localism. 

I wonder whether this case allows us to re-consider and critique the anti/post-political stance of many Left geographers and urbanists.  Could a re-organised social democracy create new urban spaces for transformative political engagement and deliberative democracy?  Or should cynicism in the party political system win out. 

To aid these considerations I turn to John Dewey's pragmatic theory of democracy.  I argue his approach to individuality, social inquiry and political action both help explain the goings on of my empirical case study, as well as offering glimpses of future urbanist/geographic understandings of democracy and the political.