Andrew leads debate on Olympic Legacy to great acclaim

To move that this House takes note of the role of communities, the arts and creative industries in delivering a lasting legacy to the Olympics, and of the lessons that can be learnt more broadly.

My Lords, as we enter 2013 we are all conscious that we will remember 2012 as the year of the Olympics and Paralympics, and be thankful for the many men and women from across this country who came together and made the Games the world-class success that they were. But it is now time to move on and focus on the longer-term legacy of this investment and human endeavour. For me, today, that focus on legacy must now be on east London, which hosted the Games and made them possible in the first place.

There is no doubt that the Games accelerated public and private sector investment in east London and inspired a generation of young people and adults. There is a great deal to build on, but to ensure that this positive impact is sustained and to stop our legacy from being the white elephant that it has become for many previous host countries, we now need to focus.

Over the past year, politicians and the media have shown us a carefully co-ordinated view of the Games and our society through the lens of a flattering telescope. Today, I want to share with you the view up the telescope-a perspective whose roots come from working in East London on the ground for the last 30 years; a local perspective, the view of a neighbour from the heart of the lower Lea Valley.

The first thing to say is that for those of us who live and work in the lower Lea Valley, the Olympics are not and never have been the biggest show in town. The Games acted as a very important catalyst and we have hailed them as a significant milestone half way through a 50-year journey in regeneration. This journey began over 25 years ago and was led by the noble Lord, Lord Heseltine, who took the first tentative steps in arresting east London’s decline by creating the London Docklands Development Corporation and later encouraging the development of the Canary Wharf financial district. Through his bold vision the lower Lea Valley once again found its place on the global map.

Today, a new city-a new metropolitan district of London-is emerging in the lower Lea Valley. Many of us locally call it Water City, and here I must declare an interest as chairman of the Water City CIC. This city stretches from the developments in Greenwich and around the O2. It takes in City Airport, which is growing fast, and the accelerating global investment in the Royal Docks-which includes the Abu Dhabi national exhibition and conference centre, the Siemens Crystal and the Emirates Air Line cable car, the £3.7 billion of investment taking place in Canning Town and the business district at Canary Wharf, which may double in size over the next decade.

The scale of international investment in the lower Lea Valley is truly staggering. Ten minutes on the Jubilee line will take you to the Westfield shopping centre, which has had more than 48 million visitors since it opened. The Queen Elizabeth Olympic Park is a stone’s throw to the north-west-and here I must declare an interest as a director of the LLDC, where we plan to build five new villages and connect these communities into the surrounding area. Then, of course, a short distance to the west, in Hackney, you have Tech City: a significant growth area in modern technology whose tentacles are already starting to spread into both the park and the Canary Wharf districts.

Many of us locally call this colossus Water City because of the 6.5 miles of river and canals that surround London Docklands and connect the many pieces of this regeneration jigsaw. Water has driven our economy from the heart of the lower Lea Valley for over a thousand years. The time has come to capture the glorious history of east London’s trading past and to build a new city fit for the future, a city not defined by poverty and dependency, as in east London’s recent past, but by human endeavour and entrepreneurial spirit. We are in the moment: the biggest opportunity which we all must now grasp is to change east London for ever. The question is, how?

A clue lies in the £1 billion regeneration programme of work in Poplar where ground-breaking work has been done by the local housing company and its partners, which are starting to demonstrate in practice how you can work with local residents in housing estates to move us all on from the familiar dependency cultures and create enterprising communities focused on entrepreneurial and business activity, bringing together truly joined-up projects that start to connect health, education, housing and enterprise. This is the future.

For those of us living and working in the lower Lea Valley, the big story for us-barely noticed by the Olympic project-is the entrepreneurial culture that is growing among local people as communities embrace an enterprise culture in its many forms and move on from a dependency culture that is so often driven by the public sector institutions. As one example, when I arrived in east London 30 years ago most charities were suspicious of business. Today, the Bromley by Bow Centre, which I founded, has only 6% of its funding dependent on the public sector; most of our relationships as a local community organisation are with business. A part of this big story is the practical working relationships developing between major businesses and the social enterprise sector.

So, how do we similarly turn the rhetoric of legacy into reality? What needs to happen now to maximise this legacy opportunity and grasp the moment? First, we must start with the people and the place, not with the policy or strategy. The Olympics showcased what can be achieved when this latent energy and talent is harnessed. In my experience, communities and places often reinvent themselves organically from within, and the good news is that the conditions are now right: many local leaders and entrepreneurs are up for this journey in east London. There exists in east London a real opportunity for innovation: to explore, for example, on the first Olympic village what those key words in the Health and Social Care Act “enterprise”, “innovation” and “integration” might actually mean in practice. How do we explore them, and how do we prevent the procurement rules preventing us from doing innovation?

Secondly, we must now take the long-term view. Phase 2 of this 50-year regeneration journey is just beginning, and we have at least 25 years of focused hard work ahead of us. One of our problems in east London is the public sector endlessly restructuring itself around those of us trying to build fully engaged communities. We have too many good people coming and going in the merry-go-round of public sector structures. The recently defunct London Thames Gateway Development Corporation, for example, spent many millions of pounds on policies, strategies and plans, but actually built very little. We need to understand, as the noble Lord, Lord Heseltine, describes in his excellent report No Stone Unturned, that the energy and drive in local communities does not come from Whitehall or necessarily from London government but comes from those already living and working there. But government needs to get behind these people and start showing active and sustained support. The GLA says that there will be no money in 2015, and some people are privately murmuring, “Let’s throw it all in the air!”. No. Let us stick with the project, talk with the private sector and work it out. All our experience tells us that we need consistent leadership in east London over the next quarter of a century. The job is not done: we are simply at the end of the beginning.

We all need to continue to focus hard on attracting business to the area. We need to get the international train stopping at Stratford station; we need to get a proper Thames crossing in place, a tunnel and a bridge; and we need to invest in new schools, university technical colleges and higher education institutions that will enable young east Londoners to grab hold of opportunity. In particular, getting University College London to Stratford will be another game changer for east London.

Thirdly, did you know that the lower Lea Valley is home to the largest artistic and creative community outside New York? I still fail to understand why the BBC did not decide to move a key component of its operation into the middle of this dynamic environment. The noble Baroness, Lady Ford, did so much to try and make this happen, but maybe my noble friend Lord Hall can revisit this opportunity as he takes the wheel of the BBC this year. This is a fantastic opportunity for a key cultural institution to have a base in this new and emerging dynamic area of London. Stop looking west: start looking east.

Fourthly, organic growth and partnership working is key to innovation. If the five Olympic villages are to become thriving and enterprising communities, and not just another group of soulless east London housing estates, then the public sector needs to see this new city landscape as a real opportunity to innovate and experiment on many fronts. It is not the public sector’s job to do everything for us, but it is its job to create enabling conditions.

A key component of the future of the lower Lea Valley is going to be science and technology, just as the valley was in the past the birthplace of modern biotechnology and the place where plastics, petrol refining and bone china were invented, and where perfumes, rockets and airplanes were developed. One project I am working on with Professor Brian Cox-I declare my interest-aims to connect science education to health and business development on the edge of the park, to help make London and the UK the best place in the world to do science. This illustrates the kinds of relationships between science, education and business that are starting to emerge among the next generation of young east Londoners.

There are concerns locally as we look forward as colleagues in the public, business and social enterprise sectors. Will large public sector bodies, which have a track record of missing opportunities in east London and messing up on the detail, kill the entrepreneurial spirit that is in east London today? We worry in the midst of this opportunity that government will not learn the lessons of what actually works on the ground and build on them, but that along the way-that through this 25-year-plus task-new Administrations will come along, reinvent the wheel around us, and the continuity that we now need to build thriving sustainable communities will be lost. This once in a lifetime opportunity in east London now demands that all political parties, whether in or out of office, use the time we now have to understand what works on the ground, build on it and back success.

Over the past three years I have chaired the All-Party Group on Regeneration, Sport and Culture, and during that time we have run a number of visits for Peers and MPs by boat into the lower Lea Valley. I think many colleagues have been surprised by the scale of the investment and the opportunities that now exist there. Sir David Varney, former CEO of Shell and chairman of O2, recognised on his trip that the valley has the potential to be one of the most significant business investment areas in Europe. But let us get the detail right. We need a joined-up narrative for the investment community across the world that has integrity and is deeply connected to the social, economic and demographic realities on the ground.

I hear lots of politicians quoting numbers and statistics on social housing and the like when they talk about legacy. That is all very well, but as those of us who live, work and have to build buildings there know, the key task now is to build sustainable communities which are defined not by ticking boxes but by diversity-by thriving communities who see that they have a life there for themselves and their children, and who will invest wholeheartedly in the place. It is about the detail of how you do this in practice.

Communities are about people like Leanne Doig. Leanne is a 20 year-old woman from Canning Town who has wanted to get into the construction business for as long as she can remember but was always told that she could not because she did not have what it takes-mainly that she was a girl and not a boy. She got her basic qualifications at college but her big opportunity came with an apprenticeship on the Queen Elizabeth Olympic Park for the transformation works. She says:

“I want to own my own Company and have loads and loads of women working for me”.

She also says:

“I’ve been brought up here my whole life and all people ever do is look down on east London … to have the Park will change things because it will give everyone a chance”.

That is the spirit of young east Londoners that we must encourage. Leanne is a young woman who is excited about her part of town. She has spotted the opportunities that the changes in east London are creating for her and her peers, and is grabbing them with both hands with energy and entrepreneurial intent. She understands that the route to equal opportunities is through practical hard work and inspiration. Is that not what the Games were all about? Why should regeneration be anything different? My question to the Minister is: what are the Government now going to do to help us grab hold of this bigger picture in the lower Lea Valley, to connect the dots and to learn from this new city rising like a phoenix in the East End of London?