The Development of Stratford City
Regenerating an Urban Environment
In September 2011 Westfield opened its third major development in the United Kingdom, the landmark centre Westfield Stratford City. At a cost of £1.75bn and at 1.9 million square feet, the centre is Europe’s largest urban shopping mall with 250 shops and over 70 places to eat and drink. Westfield Stratford City is one element of a whole mixed-use project which is forecast to have a completed build by 2020 and will feature retail and leisure space, several hotels, a significant commercial district and housing and community facilities.
Through significant urban regeneration of this area of East London, Stratford City has transformed a former industrial site into a community hub. During the summer of 2012, the centre acted as the gateway to the London 2012 Olympic Games, attracting 5.5 million visitors during the two-week Olympic period alone, and a further 3 million during the subsequent Paralympic Games. The development of this area however, was always with a long-term focus well beyond the Olympic Games, and it has resulted in many positive economic impacts that will have a lasting legacy for the local region.
A relationship with the communities that surround Westfield Stratford City has been integral in the design, development and operation of the centre. A priority that was set early in the scheme’s development was to understand the desires of the local community through public consultation and to incorporate these into the design.
In addition to more informative exhibitions and community newsletters, Westfield engaged public consultation specialists, Soundings, to undertake a substantive program of two-way local engagement during 2007 and 2008. The focus was on early engagement from local people into how the public space could function.
Two design workshops were held with a range of groups across all ages. Children from the Discover Centre were taken around London to see some of the capital’s iconic landscape and then asked to consider ideas for the design of the public squares and streets at Stratford City. Community representatives were then given the opportunity to comment on how well the design team had responded to the output of the consultation program through an exhibition that displayed not only the design work, but also much of the work produced by local people.
Green space, connections and activities and events were among the common themes that emerged as important, all of which have been incorporated into the final Stratford City design.
Westfield also worked closely in partnership with the local government London Borough of Newham in an effort to maximise the scheme’s benefits for the borough, particularly in relation to local job creation. Around 27,000 construction jobs were created during the build of Westfield Stratford City with approximately 10% of the workforce comprised of Newham residents. In addition, over 180 apprentices and trainees worked on the construction of Westfield Stratford City to date. In order to achieve these results, Westfield created an in-house employment and skills team, an onsite training and recruitment centre, formed partnerships with a large number of training organisations, secured substantial government funding to support pre-employment training for hundreds of people, and achieved National Skills Academy for Construction status. The performance far exceeded the Group’s Section 106 development approval obligations which focused on financial support from Westfield for local training and education activities, support for local businesses and local job creation targets.
On completion of Westfield Stratford City up to 10,000 permanent jobs were provided in retail, hotels and leisure – with over 40% of new workers living in the local host borough area and over 2,600 in Newham alone. At least 2,000 of these roles went to long-term local unemployed people. Taking into consideration part-time roles, as many as 14,000 employees were needed for the opening of the centre.
Since opening, the number of overall employees and the percentage of local employment has increased. Aspers Casino, which opened some 8 weeks after the centre, has already employed its Year 3 forecast numbers in its first year and Newham residents have been given exclusive access to the majority of job opportunities there. As of the end of 2011, recruitment for the over 400 permanent jobs was well underway, with more than 70% of positions filled by Newham residents. The roles comprise a mixture of entry-level and more skilled professional positions.
Improvements to local transport infrastructure were another vital economic legacy impact of Westfield Stratford City, with Westfield investing £150 million in public transport. As part of the planning arrangements, Westfield established the Stratford Transport Implementation Group in 2009 consisting of the four neighbouring boroughs (Newham, Waltham Forest, Hackney and Tower Hamlets), Transport for London, Westfield and the Olympic Delivery Authority. The group has provided a democratic forum through which opportunities for infrastructure improvements could be presented by the Local Authorities, assessed and voted on, and continues to meet to allocate available funding for local infrastructure projects.
Westfield’s investment in transport infrastructure included extensive improvements to the public transport system linking Stratford to local boroughs and beyond: major enhancements to the bus network including additional bus routes; contributions to the London Overground scheme including station improvements in the London Borough of Hackney; and improvements to pedestrian and cycle access such as new cycle paths linking to the site. These infrastructure changes to the area provide the community with an unrivalled transport network: the centre connects two major transport hubs — Stratford Regional, set to be the UK’s 9th busiest station, and Stratford International, linking directly with continental Europe on network completion.
Finally, the Westfield Stratford City scheme has provided a number of valuable local community facilities. These included a place of worship and the Skills Place, an on-site retail academy which is a permanent training centre for people working at the centre and their employees, as well as local community members looking for employment. Westfield also incorporated parent and family rooms into the centre, including play areas for children.
With the Stratford City site continuing to evolve, a number of community facilities are due to open in 2013 as part of the north residential development including a community and health centre and a school.
The centre’s role will continue to be that of a key economic force in the local area – not only through the immediate impact of the centre’s commercial operations, but the broad-flow on effect that comes from the integration of large public facilities with community, government and infrastructure.