In the same week, we saw a soggy Prime Minister set a summer election date, 13,000 people braved the rain in Leeds for the UK’s Real Estate Investment and Infrastructure Forum – otherwise known as UKREiiF 2024. The event brought together regional combined authorities, local councils, and government departments, as well as the largest investors, developers, and operators from across the UK (and internationally).

Copper Associate Director Chris Midgley and Senior Account Director Laura Nelson were at the three-day extravaganza. There were more than 800 speakers who tackled an impressively diverse range of topics. And yes, politics was one of them.

Kicking off the action, Angela Raynor, Labour deputy leader and Shadow Secretary of State for Levelling Up, Housing and Communities chose her keynote speech to announce a new policy. The policy is aimed at tackling the housing crisis. Should they win the election on 4 July, Labour will establish an expert taskforce to identify sites for new towns, with a list drawn up within the first 12 months. The ‘new town codes’ will set out to ensure new settlements have great design and infrastructure, with 40% affordable homes.

While it’s clear Labour intends to be an active force in the housing market – with an ambition for 1.5million new homes over five years – they will no doubt come under increasing pressure from both developers and the public to share more about how this will actually be achieved.

Of course, climate change and climate resilience featured heavily on the agenda, with many in the industry calling for more regulation to keep up with the ever-increasing challenges being faced.

Mental health was also covered extensively, making its way into a range of discussions from placemaking to AI and skills. While it’s not the first time the property/construction industry has acknowledged the challenges around mental health, it was noticeably more prevalent than in previous years.

Social value took centre stage on the third day, with numerous sessions aimed at unlocking social value potential and a deep dive into how it is being used to influence placemaking strategies. While the term it was given varied from room to room – including ESG, social impact, community investment and CSR – there were four common themes that everyone agreed on:
  1. Communities need to be treated as subject matter experts
  2. Local engagement needs to be early and ongoing to be effective
  3. Measurement needs to move away from a ‘box ticking’ exercise towards better storytelling
  4. Long-term investment will have better financial returns if we get social impact right

Now the doors have closed on this year’s UKREiiF, it’s time to look ahead to the next big event in the infrastructure industry’s calendar. In just over a month we should know our country’s next leader. And with that may come new policies and priorities. As ever, the whole Copper team will have our collective ear to the ground as the parties launch their manifestos and will be offering briefings on what they mean for the industry as a whole, and individual projects.


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