UCL Urban Laboratory


UCL proposals for a Newham campus

25 April 2012

UCL Estates Division are preparing a feasibility study for UCL's bid to develop a campus in Stratford and an academic team is working on strategy.

The site is within the Greater Carpenters Neighbourhood, east of the Olympic Park. The proposals are expected to be considered by the Mayor and the Cabinet of Newham in mid-2012 and a decision made by them and by UCL on whether to proceed to a next stage.

Professor Alan Penn, Dean of UCL's Bartlett Faculty of the Built Environment, and a member of the UCL feasibility team of academics, has recently issued a statement on the plans. Professor Penn is encouraging colleagues with relevant expertise to help "ensure that UCL fully engages with local communities". He has also put forward the possibility of UCL developing "new kinds of education of direct relevance to the communities of East London", with the aim of transforming "UCL's reach to the local community, as well as the diversity of our student body." Similarly, a recent UCL press release quotes Newham Council saying that they are: "committed to redeveloping the Carpenters Neighbourhood to ensure the delivery of a high quality, educational community for the benefit of existing residents and the wider community. In any negotiations going forward, local residents will not lose out." 

The UCL Urban Laboratory - a cross faculty interdisciplinary centre for research and teaching about cities - welcomes these statements, and the ambition for UCL to enhance Newham's community infrastructure and local economy. Dr Ben Campkin, Director of the Urban Laboratory, comments that "it is vital for UCL's proposals to embody an exemplary approach to regeneration, with the primary aim of benefitting Newham's existing communities. There is a strong tradition of pioneering socially progressive urbanism and rigorous research on London housing at UCL, as represented by Ruth Glass's research on 'gentrification', as well as a wealth of current UCL research on social housing, regeneration and community engagement. The proposals will be strongest if developed outwards from this body of knowledge, and if they respond to work that has been critical of recent regeneration and housing strategies for their failure to benefit lower-income groups". 

Michael Edwards, Senior Lecturer in the Bartlett, member of the Urban Laboratory, and expert on London planning economics and community engagement, has suggested that benefits to the existing community will best be achieved through "in situ training, education and securing more jobs which offer progression;  collaboration with local schools and colleges;  and ensuring that parts of the site are committed to housing (retained or new) which will be genuinely affordable to existing communities". He argues that it is "only in this way that 'regeneration' can actually benefit the people in whose name it is done".

Since hearing of the proposals, staff affiliated with the UCL Urban Laboratory have been actively involved in discussions with colleagues across UCL, and particularly UCL's Public Engagement Unit, with a view to enhancing communications with Newham's communities, and ensuring that they are involved in developing UCL's plans, in line with the university's wider public engagement strategy. Drawing residents in all tenure categories and building types within and adjoining the Carpenters' Estate into genuine dialogue about the proposals is clearly vital in order to produce the best possible results.