Cllr Matthew Corner is a councillor for Nine Elms Ward on Wandsworth Council. He is Chairman of the Battersea Conservative Association.
Imagine living in an area where high streets are thriving, where a new town centre is opening, and where every time you walk down the road you see new businesses setting up shop and creating thousands of jobs. Imagine an area which, just a decade ago, was a derelict industrial wasteland but is now transformed into a key part of the UK economy.
You would be forgiven for thinking you had been transported back to a bygone era sometime before the internet, before concluding this place could not possibly exist in 2022. But you would be wrong.
For residents in Nine Elms, in the London Borough of Wandsworth, this is the present-day reality. For decades, the iconic Battersea Power Station lay abandoned and decaying on the bank of the Thames.
But now, it is the location of thousands of homes and hundreds of shops and businesses which will create opportunities for people to get on the housing ladder and build their careers. These businesses include Apple, whose decision to locate their UK headquarters at the Battersea Power Station is a big vote of confidence in Nine Elms as a new centre of economic growth.
The Nine Elms regeneration has already delivered London’s newest tube station at no cost to the taxpayer, and will soon boast a new health centre and school for residents who pay the lowest average council tax in the country.
The regeneration is also a rising tide that lifts all ships. Investment by developers and businesses is supporting existing communities across Wandsworth, by partnering with social enterprises, funding community improvements, and working with schools and employers.
At completion, the regeneration will create 25,000 permanent jobs and homes for 20,000 people, all in less than a square mile.
You would be forgiven for concluding that no political party or local council could oppose this – Europe’s largest regeneration – happening on their patch.
I am afraid you would be wrong again. Astonishingly, Wandsworth’s new Labour-run council boycotted last week’s opening of the Battersea Power Station.
For residents in Nine Elms, it will not be a surprise that Wandsworth Labour is giving Europe’s largest economic regeneration the cold shoulder. The regeneration is a key legacy of Wandsworth’s 44 years of Conservative control, and it is a tangible example of the Conservative values of innovation and social mobility in action.
In contrast, local Labour councillors do not care about economic growth and spreading opportunity. They refuse to harness the power of private sector investment to deliver for residents.
Instead, they are focussed on the implementation of a small-minded anti-regeneration ideology which will reduce investment, stop job creation, prevent council tenants getting better housing, and strangle the growth of the local economy. Even the GMB Union opposed their boycott, calling it ‘disrespectful’ to the 4,000 workers who helped restore the Power Station.
Wandsworth Labour has consistently opposed the visionary Nine Elms regeneration since it began over a decade ago. The truth is that the Nine Elms regeneration could only be delivered by a Conservative council, working in partnership with the private sector and community groups.
The Nine Elms regeneration draws a key political dividing line that exists across the United Kingdom.
Local jobs, investment, and community infrastructure, such as train stations, health centres and schools, are rarely unpopular. Neither is the building of homes people want to live in on brownfield sites.
But this can only be delivered in partnership with the private sector. Something that is anathema to the new generation of Labour councillors in London and beyond.
It’s time for Conservatives in local government to take a stand against Labour’s lack of ambition, seize the regeneration opportunity, and make their area the next centre of growth and innovation.