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Londonewcastle's Robert Soning: 'We're always on the look out for new talent'

Robert Soning, the co-founder and chief operating officer of developer Londonewcastle talks to the AJ about the death of box building and its ‘licence to thrill’ mantras

What kind of schemes are you currently working?
We are working on five large central London mixed use developments. In Shoreditch we are looking to redevelop the Huntingdon Estate [with AL_A and Peter Barber Architects] to create a residential-led mixed use development in the heart of the creative hub – which we hope and believe will become an iconic development. We’re also working on a  31-storey Ian Simpson Architects designed building in Canary Wharf – Dollar Bay. We also won planning on the BFLS-designed Goldhawk Estate in Brackenbury Village which will be a mixed use scheme in a private, managed environment. This area has seen little development over the past decade and we see the opportunity to create a groundbreaking development for the area.
We want to be known as innovative developers who produce stimulating living environments with good architecture that create communities that are encouraged to socialise and collaborate.

How have the last few years been for you and how do you foresee the coming years?
The last few years in London have been ground breaking. London is far more sophisticated city than it was at the peak of 2007 where it was focused on location, location, location. We are now in an era where it’s the buildings – as well as their locations – which are leading the price point. People are looking for lateral living in more conventional layouts in new build developments that offer not only good transport links, but also security and 24/7 concierge service.

We are always on the look out for new talent

How has the developer landscape changed during the recession?
To be successful developers need to be tuned into the way people want to live. Box building is no longer acceptable as it’s no longer an easy sell to customers. People are very conscious of what they get for their money and expectations have risen. It’s now down to developers to consistently raise the bar.

What do you want from an architect?
Imagination and the creativity to produce functional buildings that offer great living environments.

Are you currently looking for new talent and how do you find your architects?
We are always on the look out for new talent. Because of our reputation as a forward-thinking London property developer architects quite often find us because they want to work with like-minded clients. At Londonewcastle we call it a ‘licence to thrill’.

What do you think about the current government’s attempts to drive development?
Token.

What would you most like the government to do for you?
Stimulate the banking industry into lending development funding to sensible developers who have lasted the course of time and somehow try and stimulate the mortgage sector which continues to be very difficult – though it has slightly improved in areas.

How are you altering your approach in light of the localism agenda?
Localism has always been with us in one way or another – and we take the views of groups in the local community very seriously. I’m not really sure what Localism actually means or if it will have any positive impact on what is already a very difficult and quite backwards planning process that consistently hinders rather than assists good building design. Taking that into consideration, we have to be wary of the new localism bill.

Which of your projects is your favourite and why?
The proposed Huntingdon Estate in Shoreditch – it’s an intriguing area where the financial district of the city and creative hub around Bethnal Green Road is on a collision course that has potentially explosive consequences which could either be very positive or a missed opportunity – but that’s what makes London such a great city.

Developer Londonewcastle's original proposals - drawn up by Amanda Levete Architects (AL_A) and a ‘parallel’ project by Peter Barber Architects in east London. The initial scheme was withdrawn from planning in November 2011 and is set to be redesigned.

Developer Londonewcastle’s original proposals for the Huntingdon Estate - drawn up by Amanda Levete Architects (AL_A) and a ‘parallel’ project by Peter Barber Architects in east London. The initial scheme was withdrawn from planning in November 2011 and is set to be redesigned.

Which regeneration scheme most inspires you and why?

Argent’s Kings Cross regeneration. Obviously, the transport links are great, I like this part of town, I like the ethos, architecture – how the student village, theatres and side streets interact with residential and commercial space. It will offer a fantastic canvas to live, work and play.

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