Steve Norris - Chairman of Soho Estates

Posted on 22 May 2019 by Susan Freeman

Susan Freeman
I’m Susan Freeman, welcome back to our Propertyshe Podcast where I get to interview some of the key influencers in the world of real estate and the built environment.  Today I am really delighted to welcome Steve Norris.  Steve was an MP for more than fourteen years and as Transport Minister with special responsibility for London under John Major, brought us the Jubilee Line extension.  He famously stood against Ken Livingstone as London Mayoral candidate in 2000 and 2004, and having worked with both central and local Government, Steve’s unique, in-depth political and commercial knowledge makes him highly sought after for his many board and advisory roles in the fields of transport, infrastructure and property.   

The Propertyshe podcast is brought to you by Mishcon de Reya in association with the London Real Estate Forum.  Please make sure you check out our Propertyshe website on mishcon.com/Propertyshe for all our interviews and programme notes.  So, now we get a chance to talk to Steve Norris about his career in politics and business and how he’d deal with some of our current challenges.  Steve, welcome.  

Steve Norris
A pleasure.

Susan Freeman
You have somehow managed to combine a successful career in politics with a successful career in business, that’s unusual.  How did you manage to do that?

Steve Norris
I think it’s an attitude of mine, funnily enough.  You know, the thing about private business, whether it’s a quota business or a privately-owned business, is that the boss of the company says “Be reasonable, do it my way.”  The boss sets the tone, sets the agenda, sets the targets and, if successful, delivers them.  And really successful bosses don’t get there by being reasonable, I mean, I always remember the great, late Irvine Sellar being asked to what do you attribute your great success?  And he said, “Well, some people say that I’m an unreasonable man” he said “but the world is made by unreasonable people.”  Now, the difference is that in politics, just because you as the minister think that something is a good idea, doesn’t mean it’s going to happen because below you will be a whole series of officials and indeed if you like to the side of you, other political colleagues who may not be quite as convinced as you are of the rightness of your idea, maybe they think it’s too radical, maybe they just don’t think you understand, maybe they think you are right but for various reasons to do with their own constituencies they don’t want to agree with you so the whole process is much more about consensual argument, debate, getting your arm round people’s shoulders, moving the tanker very, very slowly, if you want to turn it around don’t think you can ever just, you know, swing the wheel, you never do it, and that kind of approach to life is what really is the difference, and it’s really interesting isn’t it, because you get a lot of ministers who come from business, they generally last about a year before they get so frustrated, they say ‘That’s it, I’m out of here’ and it seemed to me quite obvious that the first thing you had to do is to understand that you probably aren’t going to turn the ship round completely, even in in your time as minister, I mean I, for example, I fought for, and got started, the Jubilee Line extension but I didn’t open it because by then, actually, I had left politics and the Labour Government was in charge.  You have to understand that you are part of a process that might take ten years.  I am a huge supporter of HS2 because I think it’s a great equaliser in our country and massively, you know, necessary but I know it’ll be decades before it’s actually built and I am just, you know, clinging onto the hope that I’ll be there on the first train but I’ll probably be wheeling myself on with my, you know, with my wheelchair.  

Susan Freeman
Well, putting the terms in terms of moving the tanker slowly, it was a massive achievement to get the Jubilee Line extension because there must have been quite a lot of opposition at that time.  

Steve Norris
Well, you know it’s actually a very serious proposition because this country has been very bad generally at infrastructure, at funding infrastructure.  Just today I heard, you know, people talking about HS2 saying it could provide, what was it, something like 62,000 nurses and, you know, 24 major hospitals or whatever.  Yes, of course, you can always do something else with the money and it all sounds very enticing but other countries do recognise that sometimes you simply have to put the infrastructure in and you will be pay the bill.  What’s really interesting is that the Jubilee Line extension cost overran by something like 30 odd percent, they were small figures in terms of say Crossrail or HS2 but it was delivered at £3.2 billion in 2000, as you know on the day of course everybody knows it started on Millennium night, it’s now worth between £30 and £40 billion to the London economy in terms of what it facilitates between Docklands and the City and the West End.  That, I have to think of something like, you know, HS2 for example, or Crossrail, Crossrail isn’t going to cost £15 billion, it may cost £20 billion, it may even cost £22 billion and that’s not a technical estimate so, you know, I am must saying it may overrun even further but the day it opens it will transform London, it will add 10% to London’s rail services, it will facilitate massive economic improvement, it’s massively worth its money.  Now, I believe the same is true of HS2, again the figures are bigger but these big infrastructure decisions really have to get made, you know, we’re talking about property today but property depends crucially on connectivity.  Without connectivity, you know, you’ll never sell the houses because can ever, or the apartments, nobody will ever be able to live in them because they won’t be able to get anywhere from where they live, connectivity is everything.  

Susan Freeman
And presumably, without the Jubilee Line extension the Olympics wouldn’t have been possible?

Steve Norris
The Olympics wouldn’t have been possible but I’ll give you an even more direct example, prior to the Jubilee Line there was a view that Canary Wharf was essentially a negative asset, most of the buildings there would have cost more to maintain and provide security to them than they would have earned in net rental income.  Of course, the minute that the Jubilee Line opened, the value of the Canary Wharf estate, the old Olympia & York estate and others, rocketed massively and now of course it’s not where you put the back office, it’s where many, many businesses put their front office.  

Susan Freeman
Well, I think we owe you a debt of gratitude.  So, you famously stood as London Mayoral Candidate against Ken Livingstone in 2000 and 2004 and I know you’ve talked a little bit about how we are, or we’ve become a little bit complacent about London’s role as a world city, if you were Mayor now, what would be the number one priority?

Steve Norris
Oh, I think for me, the number one priority would actually, ironically, to be sort TFL’s finances out because they are in a pile of state and our transport system in London is beginning to crumble, that’s really, really difficult to, you know, to deal with, it requires funding so I’d be much more, how can I say, friendly towards the Department of Transport than the current Mayor; funding is not there when it should be there.  The second biggest issue, of course, is housing.  You could add in, of course, the third issue which is, ironically, the one that I fought two elections on, which was policing and security and, you know, at the time I remember we argued that why can’t London do what New York could do when Rudy Giuliani was Mayor of New York and completely transformed the way people felt about the city.  Well, you know, as it happens, crime has been falling consistently over the last, you know, fifteen years but sadly now, we’ve got this big incidence of knife crime which I think arises from two sources; one is in terms of why it suddenly has peaked, what one is no question that there is pressure on Police budgets, that’s not necessarily the number of Police officers, you know, fifteen years ago nobody in the Police service was spending their time trawling through the internet finding hate crime or, you know, checking people’s mobile phones and so on when it comes to, you know, the proceeds of crime.  These days it’s a very different Police service and then, of course, crime prevention is part of it.  What really gets me, I spent a lot of time when I was in the Home Office, and subsequently, talking about why is that we only tend to deal with crime when it’s being committed.  Why aren’t we doing more to keep young people who feel alienated by our communities?  Why aren’t we doing more to give them a real sense of purpose and self-worth?  I’ve been involved with several charities which are absolutely fixed on this subjective and now that Suricon, our Sports Foundation, for example, down in the East End of London, we run some fantastic sporting activity that gives young people – black, white, Asian – a sense of community, a sense of purpose, a sense of self-worth, a sense of teamwork, all the things that are likely to keep them away from a life of crime.  I think that’s much more important than worrying about cleaning up the mess afterwards.  
 
Susan Freeman
You don’t want to stand again, do you Steve?

Steve Norris
I couldn’t afford it, that’s all, I couldn’t afford it. 

Susan Freeman
Okay.  So, just going back to what you said at the beginning about Transport for London finances.  I think you highlighted in your Property Week column this week, the way we work has changed… 

Steve Norris
Yes.

Susan Freeman
…flexibility, people aren’t travelling, they are not commuting every day, that’s not going to change, so how is Transport for London going to keep that revenue up without increasing fare prices?

Steve Norris
Well, I mean there’s an argument that says that the City should effectively subsidise public transport and that’s what the TFL budget assumes, largely because, of course, every time somebody uses the Underground or uses a bus then they are improving air quality for all of us who are simply walking around the streets or living close to traffic so, you know, the value of public transport is enormous.  You are quite right, this later trend to flexible working has the kind of slightly pervasive effect, if you are the transport operator, that you get fewer people using your service because they are more working from home.  But this is a trend which we simply have to cope with and deal with.  It may mean in some cases that we need less service, for example, on night bus routes than we currently operate.  I think a radical overhaul of London’s bus routing is overdue and would actually produce some very interesting results, there’s an awful lot of service that probably shouldn’t be running at certain times of the day, and I’m not talking about, you know, buses in Oxford Street and whatever, those hardy annuals, although there’s an element there but it’s difficult to see how you could actually completely alter that situation, nonetheless looking at bus flows and at how we deal with the new approach to working is I think one of the big challenges for TFL but don’t get me wrong, I don’t think in the near or medium future, you are going to be able to run TFL as either a profitable business or even as a break even business, it’s going to need quite a lot of subsidy which we, as Londoners, ought to be prepared to pay for.  

Susan Freeman
A couple of years ago there was a London Finance Commission report which made some very interesting suggestions about fiscal and other devolution for London, it seems to have gone a little bit quiet, I mean is that something we should really be focussing on giving London some autonomy to make its own decisions?
 
Steve Norris
Well, you know the great Professor, Tony Travers, just talks such obvious common sense about most issues and he was absolutely right about this.  Everybody knows, who has worked in Government, and I have been local Government as well as in national Government, the current system is horribly broken.  Just to give you some idea, the average Local Authority only raises 17% of its revenue from its Council Tax, all the rest of it comes from Government.  So, you know, 83% of everything that Council spends will actually come in the form of grants or allowances or block grants from Central Government, a lot of directed at what Central Government’s objectives are, you know, we’ve told you what we want you to do Mr Local Authority, here’s the money, go off and do it, which is hardly allowing the Local Authority much flexibility in the way they use that money and, you know, bluntly, it’s also true that every year over the last fifteen, when austerity might seem a slightly odd phrase to use when in every single year of the last fifteen, the amount the Government spends has actually gone up, not down, nonetheless where it’s really bitten, is in public services, it’s bitten with Local Authorities, who every single year have been asked to do more with less money.  Now that’s just not acceptable and what Tony was talking about, and what works for London, actually works for the rest of the country.  We need to get to a situation where, if you like, 83% of what a Council spends is raised locally.  Now, clearly, you know, that means paying less income tax, paying less of other taxes to compensate for paying so much more in local tax but that would actually mean it was worth my while voting.  You know, the real irony about local elections is that we all know that they are not actually about local affairs at all and I think that’s because most people kind of instinctively recognised it doesn’t really make any difference whether you have a Labour or a Conservative Council, they’ve got so constrained resources that there’s very little that they can do that Government isn’t allowing them to do.  So my own view is that we need to get to that situation where we actually introduce probably a portion of income tax, ironically, because that would make it relatively painless which isn’t going to Central Government but is going to Local Government, that would allow Treasury to make the kind of necessary adjustments that would make this thing reasonably painless to introduce, and then I could say I am going to stand for better services, more efficiently delivered, for example, by private contractors, and my Labour opposition might say ‘No, no, no, I believe that, you know, the public sector does it best, it might cost you more but, you know, the public will own the service’.  Now those are legitimate arguments but it would actually make it worth my while voting.   

Susan Freeman
It would make a lot of sense because you mentioned housing earlier, I mean, you know, a really big issue, we have a housing crisis and yet we need the Local Authorities, I think, to be in a position to build their own social housing, affordable housing…

Steve Norris
That’s absolutely right, I mean, there’s a dichotomy here because on the one hand we want Local Authorities to take more responsibility for building housing. On the other hand, of course, the only power that Local Authorities do really retain these days is the power to say the answers ‘No, now what’s the question’ when you come to planning.  And I am afraid to say that whereas outside London, planners are generally much more accommodating and indeed positively welcoming and will say, you know, how can we help you?  In London, I mean, let’s be clear about this, part of the problem in delivering housing is the attitude of Local Authorities towards planning.  

Susan Freeman
Yes, I was going to get to the question of planning.  You advise, you know, a number of major developers on complex planning issues so you must be seeing this all the time, I mean, there clearly is a problem with our planning system but it’s not absolutely clear how one sorts it out because, again, a lot of it seems to be down to underfunding, not having, you know, the right sort of teams in Planning Departments but is that the problem?  Is it money or is there something more fundamental?

Steve Norris
Oh, I think it’s absolutely true that, sadly, if you are a really good planner you’ll get pinched by the private sector immediately.  Come and work for us on the dark side, you know, where the money is better and the hours are less and you won’t have to deal with the horrible sort of, you know, public sector whole sort of vibe that effects local and central Government, you can tell why it’s difficult to recruit at the right level.  However, I don’t think that is the problem.  The problem is the system.  There’s a slight irony about this because you say I do advise on a lot of very complex planning schemes and, frankly, I really don’t think I should have to, it’s as simple as that.  I don’t think I should have to.  Very interesting, you know, Reza Merchant who founded The Collective and is one of our most successful young developers, is spending increasing amounts of time these days in New York and when I asked him about this he said “it’s very simple”, he said he “had a terrible run around from the London Legacy Development Corporation’s refusal to let him build a decent building in Stratford for his co-living product.”  He said “contrast that with what I am doing in Brooklyn.”  He said “I’ve got a site in Brooklyn, all they say is ‘it’s got to be no wider than this and not taller than that.”  He said “basically, I can get on and do what I want with it.  Nobody says ‘Is this the right use?”  They say ‘well, it’s your money for god’s sake.  Presumably you know what you are doing.”  Now, I’m not suggesting we go necessarily all the way there but moving more to a zoning system where I know I will get consent to build and all I need to do is to satisfy you that what I am doing isn’t impeding other development, you know, and is deliverable within the context of the site that I own, that’s the kind of system that we really need and we just don’t have it.  Of course, the problem is that the very councillors whose only real power these days, is planning, are the people who go out and, you know, put leaflets through the doors for MPs when they want to get elected and who support them and who probably run their local associations, their Labour associations or Tory associations, so MPs of course, don’t really dare propose the kind of radical change that I am talking about because what it would is to take some of the powers of Local Authorities away.  At the moment, the Local Authority speaks for those who already live in the area and nobody really speaks for the people who desperately need housing and don’t currently live in the area, that’s one of the great quandaries of our system and you need radical reform to get it right.  

Susan Freeman
So, you mention The Collective and obviously it is a rental scheme but the Government still seems to be focussing an awful lot on, you know, the dream of home ownership that everybody should buy their own home and yet, you know, one of the fastest growing sectors is build to rent.  Do you think we’ve got beyond, you know, people thinking they must own their own home to, you know, really a lifestyle choice to rent rather than to buy at certain stages during your life?

Steve Norris
Yeah, I do think we are getting to a real tipping point and I think it’s pretty obvious why.  You know, when I first started off on the housing ladder, I knew that what I had to do was to mortgage myself absolutely to the hilt, to the point where it really hurt in the early days because the more property I bought now, the more it would be worth in a year’s time, two years’ time, three years’ time and, you know, basically one couldn’t afford to ever get off the ladder.  If you’d ever rented in the days when I was, you know, sort of living in London, well then you’d never be able to go back and buy the kind of property that you left to go and rent, you know, it would have been a disaster.  These days we’ve had well over a decade of almost zero interest rates and very low inflation.  Over the last two or three years in London, in many cases, if you bought your house, for example, in 2014/15, you might well find that today it’s actually worth slightly less, certainly no more than it was when you bought it.  So, the whole idea that you desperately had to own in order to keep the value of your capital alive, is no longer true and I also think the millennium generation which is much more focussed on the idea of being able to travel, what they call the experiential life rather than, you know, the sort of investment life, is a feature of modern living and facility of cheap aviation, of, you know, a broader horizon of people being much more aware of this big wide world that they live in and which they want to experience so, you know, yeah, I think the experiential life is rather more attractive to young people than necessarily saying “gosh I own, isn’t it marvellous that I own this place” when, actually, there doesn’t seem to be any difference these days with whether you own it or you buy it.  Now, that won’t always be the case but it is true that if you looked at the way rates of inflation and rates of housing inflation worked from say the 1950s to the 2000s, I mean, there was an absolutely explosive, you know, increase in the value of property.  I mean, I remember on one occasion buying a property, this would be in the early ‘80s, for an amount which two years later went for various reasons I moved, we’d doubled – now that’s just kind of crazy but that was not unusual in those days, we are way off that now.  We’ve seen the collapse of the ultra-high end of property in London for, again, for political reasons of various sorts but we’ve seen almost no growth in the London housing market at every level, even below a million, it’s been pretty flat for the last five/six years.  A product, as I say, of very low interest rates and very low inflation generally.  

Susan Freeman
So, we’ve got this far without mentioning the Brexit word.  Is it worth just talking a little bit about where the opportunities for the UK are going to be in the post-Brexit world?

Steve Norris
Yeah, I think it is interesting isn’t it that we were told that if we even dared vote to leave that the economy would crash and it certainly hasn’t.  Not only did it not do immediately, it hasn’t done since either.  In fact, as you know, right now, the UK is looking at higher growth rates than Germany, or France, the two other major economies in the European Union.  That’s, incidentally, because Germany is a heavily industrialised economy and it’s manufacturing industry that’s taking the biggest hits but, you know, the UK economy continues to be pretty solid and much more to the point, we have the great advantage of speaking English, having a transparent system, housing the big four account firms and they magical circle law firms who dominate the English speaking world in terms of finance, accountancy and professional services.  People like coming here, they still love London as a city although that doesn’t mean to say they always will but they certainly love it as it is right now, it’s considered a safe place to live which relatively of course it still is, not as safe as some of us would like it but it’s certainly very safe compared to virtually everywhere else in the world, stable currency, you know, stable Government believe it or not because it is democratic, we may have a Government at the moment which happens not to have majority in Parliament but generally speaking, those who say ‘Gosh, you know democracy is collapsing’ having missed the point entirely, democracy is working very, very well, parliamentarians are able to express a view.  So, no, I think what you will see is that actually in the post-Brexit world, you will see Sterling rise, of course, because almost any final solution, whatever it is whether it’s Mrs May’s deal or any other deal, will allow investors to say ‘Finally, we’ve got a deal, let’s move on’, that will see Sterling rise.  Good if you are going on holiday, not great if you are an exporter.  Not great actually if you are looking at the people who come in and buy your property, one of the really interesting things right now is the number of investors who are saying ‘I am just going to wait and see what happens with Brexit because if the currency goes the other way, I might buy that building for 10% cheaper’.  They are still going to buy.  That’s what interesting.  Everybody I talk to who is in the investment management business says all my, you know, prospects are still there, they still want London, they are just waiting until we resolve Brexit which please God we will do sometime soon, we really have to.  

Susan Freeman
Just turning to a couple of the property companies you have a particular interest in, you have been Chairman of Soho Estates for some years, I think they have about sixty acres of property in Soho, and the strapline is ‘Building the future, respecting the past’, so one of the issues is how you modernise without, you know, gentrifying and sanitising an area.  I mean, is that quite a difficult path to tread?

Steve Norris
Well, I think it is in our case because, you know, respecting the past and building the future would probably be what many developers would say about the towns and cities and the quarters of cities that they own or that they want to build in.  But in our case of course it’s been quite a dramatic change.  In the sixties and the seventies and all the way up to the introduction of the internet actually, you know, Soho was where you went for rather illicit purposes, you know, for sex, you went for sex, you went to the clubs and the strip clubs and the bars and whatever, and you could walk up the stairs of some of those little rooms in Old Compton Street and Brewer Street and Walker’s Court and Peter Street and so on and, you know, that was not necessarily terribly attractive but it was pretty unique that Soho was where you went.  Well, that’s gone, it’s all gone.  So, what we’ve got to do is completely transform.  You’ve got to keep that edginess, you know, one of our in-house mottos in Soho Estates is ‘Edgy not sleazy’, you know, there are aspect of Soho that are still frankly not attractive and which we have no truck with at all, but at the same time I think looking to the future and respecting the past is about is precisely, as you say, with those higgledy-piggledy buildings, they are not massively distinguished buildings as such, keeping that vibe, keeping it lively, keeping it the place you really want to go to, and we’ve done that through, you know, investing in clubs and pubs and bars, and in, you know, for example the Boulevard Theatre which is coming which is Fawn James’ big project which is going to be just great in Walker’s Court, a new theatre where the old Comedy Club was where, you know, all the comics of the eighties and nineties actually learnt their trade.  It’s about Nick Jones’ Soho House and all the adjuncts to Soho House about, you know, the Groucho and, but the Admiral Cod and all those great pubs, the Pink Pound’s a really significant part of what we do, we love that.  I love the fact that it’s a very unusual business, you know, nowhere else do you get a demo outside your office from the English Collective of Prostitutes on occasions, I mean, it’s just very, very funny, it’s a great business to be in and I love it to bits.  

Susan Freeman
Turning to a slightly different property business, you’ve recently become Chairman of This Land which is a Cambridge Council owned development company and I am delighted to be a non-exec director alongside you.  Obviously a very different company from Soho Estates and the other companies you are involved in, what particularly interested you in this role?

Steve Norris
Well, you know, I said earlier that there is massive pressure on Local Authorities to do more with less every year.  They have really stretched revenue budgets and so a few years ago one or two enterprising Local Authorities recognised that there was a way in which you could at least mildly ameliorate that situation and that was by using the Public Works Loan Board which is a strange sort of creature within Government but essentially is able to lend Local Authorities money at extremely competitive rates for them to invest in frankly a very wide range of assets of one sort or another.  The Public Works Loan Board doesn’t tend to be overly critical of how the money is being used, it merely, you know, wants to be clear that there is a base case for the investment and that’s led us, I think most of our listeners will know, to a proliferation of Local Authorities using this device from the Public Works Loan Board to basically create more income for themselves.  Now, for example, Spelthorne Council simply said ‘Well, let’s arbitrage this very cheap money we get by buying commercial property with a yield which is significantly greater than the amount of interest that we are paying’ and, you know, they’ve now got something like a billion pounds worth of commercial property mostly in central London on which at today’s prices at least, they are probably making something like 5% arbitrage between the rate they are paying the yield that they are getting, now, you know, on that basis that’s 50 million quid extra to spend on a billion pound property, that’s pretty significant.  In the case of other Local Authorities, however, they’ve seen this very differently – Darren Rodwell, the charismatic Leader of Barking and Dagenham, Labour Council, brilliantly run Council, says “I want to use this facility of an arm’s length property company to put my property in at zero with a commercial developer so that when I say I want half of this to be affordable, I can actually then get two people on a London living wage to be able to afford to live in one of my apartments” and he calls his scheme ‘Nobody left behind’.  Now, I think that stems from the specific problem that he has, he hates gentrification which just means pushing poor people out and letting middleclass people in and he quite rightly says “This is the way I can deal with it.”  Cambridgeshire, well, Cambridgeshire desperately needs more revenue and so what it’s decided to do is to take it’s surplus land and transfer it into the arm’s length property company which, as you say is called This Land and basically said “Go and hire a proper professional property development team and go and become our wholly owned property development arm starting with our own sites so we not only get the land value but we get the development value as well”, and of course as you know because you are part of this and I am absolutely delighted that you are, it’s a very exciting prospect, we’re probably dealing with at the moment, about £74 million worth of Cambridgeshire land, we’ll develop all that out over the next, well, five to ten years really because some of these sites are quite large but we’ll also be developing outside Cambridgeshire because as an arm’s length company, we actually do run it as if it were a perfectly commercial business.  The role of Cambridgeshire is simply to be our shareholder, now, shareholders have to be respected in any format but in the practical sense, we operate as if we were a listed company, we make the management decisions, they get the benefit in terms of dividends or in repayment of their loans.  

Susan Freeman
I think it’s going to be an exciting journey isn’t it.  

Steve Norris
It’s going to be great, an exciting ride.  

Susan Freeman
So, I have a final question for you, Steve.  What was your best career decision and is there anything with the advantage of hindsight you would have done differently?

Steve Norris
Well, with the advantage of hindsight, I would never have gone into politics because the pay is absolute rubbish and, you know, I look at my pension from Parliament, it’s very funny parliamentary pensions, everybody assumes MPs get fabulous pensions, I did fifteen years in Parliament, five of them as a Minister of The Crown, I think my pension is about a thousand pounds a month, some ridiculous sum which, you know, I have to say doesn’t go that far in the Norris household.  No, seriously, I think I have had a wonderful life, it’s been completely accidental, everything that’s happened has been, it was an accident that I got elected to a county Council, it was an accident getting into Parliament, it was an accident, you know in a way, stumbling into business afterwards, I had always been in business, that seemed to be pretty logical, I’ve had some wonderful, wonderful opportunities.  Do I regret any of it?  Non, je ne regrette rien and I look forward to the future with enormous enthusiasm.  I am going to retire the day the phone stops ringing.  

Susan Freeman
Well Steve certainly doesn’t sit on the fence and I don’t think anyone else combines his unique in-depth understanding of the world of politics and the world of real estate, transport and infrastructure so, thank you, Steve for managing to mention sex and also mentioning the late Irvine Sellar, Reza Merchant and Barking and Dagenham Leader, Darren Rodwell.  So that’s it for now.  I really hope you enjoyed today’s conversation as much as I did.  Please join us for the next Propertyshe podcast interview coming very shortly.  

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Steve Norris was a Conservative Member of Parliament for Oxford East and then Epping Forest from 1983 to 1997. In 1992 he was appointed Minister for Transport with a special responsibility for all London transport.  After retiring from Parliament in 1997 he was twice his party’s candidate for Mayor of London. 

He is currently Chairman of Soho Estates, London Resort Company Holdings, Driver Group plc and Independent Non-Executive Chairman of Cambridgeshire County Council’s arms-length property company, This Land.  He is an advisor to NPL Group and a Non-Executive Director of Excel, the East London conference and exhibition centre.  He has been a member of the Boards of both Transport for London and the London Development Agency.  He is on the Board of Cubic Corporation, the developers and managers of the London Oyster card. 

He chairs the National Infrastructure Planning Association which works with government to improve the planning regime around major projects and advises a number of clients on major development projects.  He is a Fellow of the Royal Institution of Chartered Surveyors, a Companion of the Institution of Civil Engineers, a Fellow of the Chartered Institute of Logistics and Transport and an Honorary Fellow of the Project Managers Association.  

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