Various stages of construction work taking place in the developments at Nine Elms
Nine Elms, as viewed from a grubby window in Market Towers.

One of the privileges of being a councillor over the past few years has been the opportunity to be involved—however tangentially—in the council’s three regeneration projects in Battersea, Roehampton and Nine Elms. I’ve posted a few times about the Battersea and Roehampton regenerations, but sometimes feel I’ve not been that forthcoming about Nine Elms (although there have been a few posts on related topics.)

Nine Elms, of course, needs no help in promoting itself. Even before you consider the marketing budgets of the individual developers or the work of the Nine Elms team its central London location and iconic buildings, whether present or future, means my occasional musings can only be on the fringes of relevance.

However, one aspect I have been involved in is the employment aspect and this is somewhere the council is playing a big rôle. I’m hugely proud of the work of Wandsworth Work Match who are already getting jobs for local residents in Nine Elms (and elsewhere). If forced to think of highlights from being a councillor then getting the feedback from Work Match after I’ve referred people to them would easily be among them.

Much is made of the more than 20,000 jobs that Nine Elms will create when complete. Rightly so. It has to be the chief benefit of the development for local residents. However, when we push that we tend to overlook the construction jobs created while development takes place.

The Nine Elms Strategy Board last week had a presentation from Mace who have undertaken skills forecasting work for the board. The idea is to understand what sort of jobs would be required and when, so training providers can adapt their offer accordingly. The sheer scale of Nine Elms means that the skills that will be required do not exist in sufficient numbers in London: we either have to import workers from elsewhere, or train them.

The numbers required are huge. Without going into the detail of various skills or phasing there will be over 8,500 people working on construction sites at the peak in 2016 when there will be 25 separate projects. Between 2015 and 2021 the number of workers will never drop below 5,000 jobs, overall there’s anticipated to be at least ten years of construction at Nine Elms.

The challenge for the council is ensuring that a fair share (or maybe more than a fair share) of those jobs are taken by Wandsworth residents. If you, or someone you know, think you right for one of them then get in touch with Work Match.

The Workmatch office sign
Wandsworth Workmatch’s offices on Lavender Hill

Wandsworth’s Workmatch service was officially launched with a small ceremony at its new Lavender Hill offices earlier this week. The service acts as a brokerage, matching local employers with potential local employees, its first priority is ensuring that local people benefit as much as possible from the development taking place at Nine Elms.

The idea is simple. The team at Workmatch, because they know the needs of employers and the skills of their candidates can help both find each other easily, so employers can fill their vacancies easily and job-seekers have an easier route into employment. And while it will be Nine Elms focussed to begin, it can help anyone–employer or potential employee–in Wandsworth.

While it’s new here it is a concept that was used successfully in many other places, most notably in the Olympic boroughs where their equivalent service helped ensure the success of the games while creating a tangible benefit for east London residents. Ben, one of Workmatch’s early successes spoke at the launch, telling everyone how he went from a general enquiry to the email address (which despite the address is managed by Wandsworth on behalf of Nine Elms) to a placement and then a job in a matter of weeks.

Huge thanks and congratulations on the launch of the Workmatch service are due to the council’s Economic Development Team and the new Workmatch staff, who have taken it from an idea to an already successful service in a matter of months. And at the risk of being parochial someway ahead of Lambeth’s equivalent service, meaning Wandsworth residents have a great head-start on getting jobs in Nine Elms!

If you are interested in the Workmatch service you can find out more on the council’s website or contact them directly at

Various stages of construction work taking place in the developments at Nine Elms
Nine Elms, as viewed from a grubby window in Market Towers.

I represented Wandsworth on a tour of Nine Elms by Greater London Assembly regeneration committee members yesterday. Similar tours of the area are a fairly frequent event, reflecting the size of interest in what is central London’s last big development opportunity. However, diary clashes have meant I haven’t taken part in too many of them.

An upside to this is that I’m always slightly taken aback by the amount of work that has taken place behind the hoardings (although I run along Nine Elms Lane at least once a week, you don’t actually see that much from ground level). And every time I seem to be made aware of something I already knew, but hadn’t quite fully grasped for some reason.

This time it was how quickly this is all happening: I may have been filled with confidence by the Power Station ground breaking or news of sales on the developments but hadn’t fully realised that the first new residents of Nine Elms will be moving into Riverlight (the buildings in front of the Power Station in the poor quality snap above) about this time next year. Those residents will be joined by the first phase of Embassy Gardens and the completion of One St George Wharf1 next year.

Nine Elms is rapidly moving from an abstract vision to provider of homes, jobs and leisure.

  1. Be warned, this page automatically plays music that leaves you wondering what super-hero film trailer is playing. I will award a Mars bar to the best suggestion for a super-power that matches the music. 

Malaysian Prime Minister Najib Razak in a bad photo from the Power Station's ground-breaking event
Malaysian Prime Minister Najib Razak in a bad photo from the Power Station’s ground-breaking event

Battersea Power Station’s development was ‘started’ last week with a joint ground-breaking by the Prime Ministers of the United Kingdom and Malaysia.

Ground-breaking ceremonies are, arguably, a little pointless. If anything they tend to delay development because work has to stop to allow the ceremony to take place, and you can’t even argue that the ground-breaking does even a tiny bit of the work needed. Boris Johnson ‘broke’ the ground at Riverlight by sitting in a digger that had been turned off and the keys removed (despite this there was still a safety zone marked out around the digger, which perhaps speaks to the developers confidence in the Mayor around heavy machinery).

But there is a symbolism to the ceremony, and having a foreign head of government adds to that. I was fortunate enough to be invited to the celebration1 and while there is always something special about visiting the Power Station—something I have been inordinately fortunate to be able to do on many occasions—this was marked by something different: a very real sense of that things are going to happen.

It’s very hard to put my finger on exactly why I felt that, but thinking over the seven years I’ve been involved—to varying degrees—with Nine Elms I can begin to see why. Parkview may have had the money, but never seemed able to finally settle on a scheme. Treasury came up with plans, but ultimately the money was not there. Finally we have developers who not only have a scheme with consent, but the money to see it through.

There is, of course, a long way to go and not all of it will be universally welcomed, many are wary of the change of chimney demolition phasing, for example (although I’d harboured the view that would be necessary for much longer than I dare to admit). Indeed, there is so much left to do I may not even be around to see it completed (politically, I mean, I’m not that morbid), but at the very least I can say I was there when we were finally confident the iconic heart of Nine Elms Battersea would be saved.

  1. A very rare occasion, one of only a handful in my fifteen years on the council, when I’ve had hospitality I need to declare. 

Not, at first sight, the greatest news for Nine Elms that the banks have called in the administrators at Battersea Power Station. My reaction on hearing the news yesterday was not one I would readily repeat. Could the site be cursed?

In fact, the outlook for Nine Elms remains good.

For a start, the Government is now backing the Northern Line Extension. This is a linchpin for development, making the ambitious targets of creating 16,000 homes and 25,000 jobs possible.

Even the bad news of Treasury being put into administration has some positives. The financial status of Treasury had increasingly become an issue, and this at least bring that to a head.

And, most importantly, Nine Elms is a different place to the last time something like this happened, and Treasury bought the power station site from Parkview. Preparatory work has begun at Battersea Power Station and the first phases of the development could be started quickly, even if later phases change.

Meanwhile, other parts of Nine Elms are already moving forward. Work has started at Riverlight, the US Embassy has committed to the area and other developers continue with their plans.

So, not great news for Treasury. But that doesn’t mean Nine Elms future is any less bright.

Before yesterday I’d never been to a ground-breaking. And never really understood them, it seemed an attempt to attach symbolism to an other arbitrary part of a process. But yesterday’s was different.

The keys had been removed before he was allowed in!

For a start Boris Johnson was doing the ground-breaking, and it’s always worth listening to him speak: and he was as entertaining as it was educational. Starting by suggesting the souvenir paperweight he’d been given may also be useful in defending himself from rioters, he declared the ‘Vauxhall Nine Elms Battersea’ designation unsuitable (and said he’d decided it should just be Battersea) went on to discuss the changing path of the Thames (which he congratulated on finally deciding to flow through the world’s greatest city) before finishing to “declare the ground shortly to be broken.”

The irony being that he didn’t actually break any ground; health and safety, you understand.

So it will fall to someone else to dig out that first patch of ground. But the symbolism is there nonetheless. After all these years, work is finally starting in Nine Elms. Riverlight is the first, and has moved from St James acquiring the site to work starting in under two years, but there is so much more to come: the US Embassy, Covent Garden Market and the Power Station itself.

Finally everyone will start seeing Nine Elms as more than sketches and computer-generated imagery, but a developing area and a new centre for Wandsworth and London.

Although nothing like as closely involved in the developments in Nine Elms as I was (and even then it was such a big project I was only tangentially involved) the development continues apace: the Tideway site was recently given planning permission and the Secretary of State recently approved the plans for Battersea Power Station.

One of the next big developments is the New Covent Garden Market site. This is the biggest single site in the Nine Elms area, pretty much stretching from one end to the other – so what happens there is going to have a major impact on how the opportunity zone looks and feels when completed.

They are about to start their third public consultation, before submitting their formal planning application. If you are interested then you can visit their exhibition about their plans at the Yvonne Carr Community Centre on Thessaly Road later this week. The exhibition will be open on 4.00-8.00pm on Thursday, 3 Mar and Friday, 4 March and from 10.00am-5.00pm on Saturday, 5 March.

I missed this when it was first published, but a nice video outlining the vision for Nine Elms.

I’m not sure the real benefit of a new underground station is that the first thing travellers see is The Duchess, but it shows that the benefits of regeneration come in different shapes and sizes for different people.

The council are running two meetings, tonight and tomorrow, for residents interested in finding out more about the regeneration of Nine Elms.

I’ve written before about how exciting the scheme is for Battersea and Wandsworth. It is the biggest regeneration area in central London and is a massive opportunity for the borough creating 16,000 home and around 25,000 jobs.

The two meetings both run from 19:30 until 21:00, tonight’s will take place at the Rose Community Clubroom in Ascalon Street and tomorrow’s at All Saints Church in Prince of Wales Drive.

Another of the big projects for Nine Elms took a step forward yesterday with the announcement of the six shortlisted developers for the redevelopment of New Covent Garden Market.

New Covent Market is the biggest single development site in Nine Elms and having the six major developers from which to choose is a real boost given how hard the recession hit the construction sector.

Amidst all the gloom and talk of austerity it’s exciting to see things starting to move there. I noticed one of the sites referring to the area as the ‘Embassy Quarter’. Perhaps a bit premature, but a sign that after the recession the optimism is there.