Bouygues is not a company that blows its own trumpet. Many people in the property business might even struggle to pronounce its name correctly (in case you were wondering, ‘Bweeg’ is pretty close).
The business model of the French giant is to enter new territories relatively quietly through its construction arm – the heart of the business – and then branch into direct development once it has a grip of the local market. It is an approach which it is rolling out across the 82 countries which generate its €33bn+ turnover.
The company entered the UK construction market in 1997 and has increased its presence through organic growth and acquisition. It may not be a ‘household name’ in the UK, but its business in this country now has an annual turnover of around £800m, and it gets involved in very high quality projects.
The Mary Rose Museum in Portsmouth, The Home Office building in Whitehall, the Aardman Animations HQ in Bristol and the Central Middlesex Hospital in Park Royal demonstrate the diversity of the company’s construction activities.
However, it is in direct development and regeneration that Bouygues Development is now making its mark both in London and across the UK. Its work in this area includes mixed-use schemes, private residential, the PRS sector (which it recognised as an important opportunity long before it became fashionable) and student accommodation, which it develops under its Uliving brand.
Its flagship development is Hallsville Quarter – a new £600m heart for London’s Canning Town encompassing homes, retail and leisure.
Forming part of the £3.7bn Canning Town and Custom House Regeneration Programme, Hallsville Quarter is being delivered in five phases across a 15-acre site that sits to the north and south of the A13 flyover.
The first phase – 179 residential units of private and affordable housing with a 75,000 sq ft Morrisons is scheduled for delivery next year and will be followed by more than 350,000 sq ft of shopping and leisure, and a further 900 homes split between private ownership, private rented and affordable housing.
The man overseeing the project is Richard Fagg, Bouygues’ Development Director of London and South East.
Having cut his teeth working on BUPA’s portfolio and then various large-scale healthcare development projects, he joined Bouygues Development six years ago just as the company was selected by the London Borough of Newham as development partner for its wider Canning Town and Custom House Regeneration project.
“I joined in the May, completed my induction and then went straight to work on the project,” he recalls.
It took around four years to secure preferred bidder status for Hallsville Quarter and obtain the necessary planning consents, finalise development agreements and undertake local consultation but the project is now motoring full steam ahead and Fagg’s excitement is clear.
“There wasn’t really a heart to the area prior to the project. It has fantastic transport infrastructure and great potential but the residential, shopping and leisure provision just wasn’t up to what people need.
“At the moment, Canning Town experiences 97% ‘leakage’ of its shopping spend to other locations which demonstrates its potential.”
The demographics would certainly seem to indicate an area with potential.
The rate of population growth within the Hallsville Quarter area is twice the Greater London average, and the catchment is expected to rise to around 450,000 people by 2024. Household income and retail spend are already above the national average and there is a very high proportion of young ‘pre-family’ people in the area.
The latter factor is clearly an effect of young people looking to find somewhere in the capital which is affordable to live but also has good transport links.
Canning Town is on the Jubilee Line just one stop away from Canary Wharf and a 25-minute journey to Green Park. There is also a DLR station which offers a six-minute connection to London City Airport.
In 2018, it will be a five-minute walk from Hallsville Quarter to the new Crossrail station at Customs House.
“The transport facilities are sensational,” Fagg observes, “It’s clear that people will want to settle here and it’s up to us to provide the homes and the shopping and leisure amenities that they need.”
Although the giant Westfield shopping centre is also just a couple of tube stops away, Fagg is realistic about the retailing that they are trying to create.
“We are not trying to compete with Westfield, but people need good quality retailing and places to eat nearby: you can’t expect them to jump on the tube every time they want to shop or have something to eat.
“That’s what we are aiming to provide: a range of very good quality retailing and other amenities which will serve the growing population of Canning Town.”
The next phase of retailing will comprise 62,000 sq ft of shopping space and is being marketed by GVA ahead of completion in 2017. This phase of development will also include a 196-bed Accor hotel and 349 residential units.
Fagg reports: “The momentum of the scheme will steadily build as the phases are completed. The Morrisons opening will be a major milestone and this will begin to change people’s shopping habits and start strengthening the area’s retail credentials.”
Bouygues is very focused on enhancing the overall setting of the development and integrating it fully with the existing community. Fagg’s family originally hails from the East End and he is passionate about this dimension of the project. During the course of the last six years he has got to know the community. He has become a governor of two local schools and is championing a wider notion of sustainable development.
He reflects: “Sustainable development isn’t just about green buildings and construction excellence; it’s about creating local employment and involving the local community with what you’re doing. I get excited about that aspect of the scheme.
“What we are trying to create is a new Canning Town and that should involve everyone from every part of the community.”
In the wider context of Bouygues Development’s presence, the Hallsville Quarter scheme looks set to provide the company with impeccable credentials as they continue with other major regeneration projects including Queens Park, Bedford Town Centre and Addlestone.
Bouygues’ ability to blend construction expertise with commercial nous and committed stakeholder consultation means that it is likely to be contending for many more development opportunities in the near future.
And who knows: maybe soon everyone will be able to pronounce the name.