Lunch & Learn with Roger Madelin, British Land


On a particularly cold day and in the wake of the US Presidential Elections the day before, there were certainly a lot of heated discussions between the Young Leaders gathered at the Printworks in Canada Water. However, British Land’s Roger Madelin – with his wealth of experience and personal charisma – successfully managed to direct the attention of the YLs back to the present.

From his aspirations to become an RAF pilot to being one of the most renowned developers in the country, Roger has always been fascinated by the built form and its interaction with the wider setting – whether through his love for flying and spending time outdoors, or through his passion for architecture and sustainable buildings. Taking up a role at Argent 30 years ago to help Argent a company of 6 people with some land options to start delivering developments on the ground was for Roger a natural progression from working on the contractor side and a move that allowed him to focus on creating successful places and communities.

Roger outlined the highlights of his Argent career and the key lessons that he has learnt over the years. For example, in the case of both Birmingham Brindleyplace regeneration and the Kings Cross masterplan in London, public sector infrastructure investment was crucial – pedestrianisation in Birmingham and £2.5 billion transport investment at King’s Cross. Therefore, early partnerships with the public sector are crucial for unlocking place potential and generating good returns. On the outcome side, the physical architecture and features of newly created or regenerated places are equally as important as ensuring a sustainable, balanced socio-economic structure and vibrant place character (e.g. UAL students, Granary Square fountains and foodstalls at Kings Cross).

The four tips Roger shared with the Young Leaders for a successful career in property were:

  • plan, research and prepare in advance – whatever project you are working on;
  • work as a team and create trust to improve results;
  • make firm decisions and communicate them clearly; and
  • in case of lack of success – move on and learn how to do things better next time.

Finally, Roger described the from Argent to British Land in order to lead on the Canada Water opportunity. He saw the high density, mixed use 46-acre site which is taskedto deliver over 2 million sq.ft. of workspace, 3,500 new homes and 1m sqft of retail and leisure over the next few years as too big and exciting a project to not take a lead on it.

Roger described a number of challenges with the site – for example the obtaining of Vacant Possession of all land – as well as the numerous opportunities that it presents. For example, as part of GLA-opportunity Area Canada Wateris very well connected to Central London – being just a 13-minute cycle away from Bank or an 11-minute Tube journey away from Green Park – and hence could help the continued shift of  the working population south of the river. On the other hand, the site is home to cultural heritage (e.g. the Brunel Museum and listed dock office buildings) and offers some of the best views of London, in addition to being surrounded by successful existing local communities – therefore it is crucial that any development is in the form of “place evolving” and not “place making”.

This is why British Land are going to be investing in new public spaces and adaptable, future-proof mixed-use buildings to create a unique sense of place where everyone is welcome.

Thank you very much to Roger for an extremely interesting presentation, to Michael for a behind-the-scenes tour of the Printworks and to Georgina for organising the event!

Words by Alex Zolyniak 

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