Exclusive interview: Acorn design director, Julian Hampson

By Marco Cillario - Thu 23 June 2016, 6:15 pm

Julian Hampson, design director at Acorn Property Group, tells Southwark magazine about 20 years of developing in the borough and partnering with the council.

Why did Acorn decide to develop in Southwark?

We have been very active in the borough since 1995. Back in the 90s, we saw developing in Southwark as a very big opportunity: Southwark was an area where, if you had courage and commitment, you could start a project and create value. 

What has developing in the borough meant for Acorn?

We see our business as intrinsically linked with the success and regeneration of the area over the last 20 years: the process that has made the borough the great area it is now. We have worked with a variety of partners and some of Britain’s top architects, developing award-winning schemes. We have a number of long-term relationships with local business and landowners and continue to appoint a large number of consultants who are based in the area, including some who are based in buildings we originally developed.

What is it like to work with Southwark Council?

Southwark is a forward-looking borough, close to central London but with a cultural edge and Southwark Council recognises this. In particular, I have dealt with the regeneration department on and off over the years and found them very open and positive. The director of regeneration, Stephen Platts, is a great person to work with: he is really keen to get things done, get projects through. It is very refreshing to see that sort of enthusiasm.

What has been the impact of your schemes on the area?

We have been involved in delivering nearly 1,000 homes in SE1, spread over 30 different projects. They include numerous offices, shops and restaurants, renovating warehouses, reinstating historic courtyards off Bermondsey Street and creating extra play space for Charles Dickens Primary School. If you walked down Bermondsey Street, through the small courtyards and backstreets and then on through Tanner Street Park, you would pass by at least 20 of Acorns developments, all of which have now settled into the local urban fabric. 

Could you give us an overview of Acorn’s ongoing projects?

We have two major projects in Southwark at the moment, both designed by Haworth Tompkins and granted planning permission in the last three months. Ufford Street, where we are creating 60 residential units and 800sq m of office space along with a new pedestrian street linking to The Cut. And Harper Road, a very exciting development which provides the opportunity to create new housing and office space on the edge of the Trinity Estate. Here, a successful partnership between Acorn, Galliard, Otterlo London and the 500-year old charity of Trinity House has resulted in planning permission being granted in March for 64 residential units and 300sq m of office space. Work is due to start on site later this year with completion in 2018.

Has Acorn developed other schemes in the borough this year?

One of our recent schemes is Newspaper House, where work has just completed and all but one of the nine residential units are sold. The commercial unit in the scheme has been let to the Glass and Glazing Federation. The external tiling, using a hand made tile by Robus Ceramics, has been put forward for a Brick Award. The architects were Thompson Baroni.

Are you planning to develop other schemes in the near future?

We have another 150 homes in the pipeline.  We are about to complete the renovation of a pair of Listed Grade 2* houses in Long Lane. They have been used as offices following an unsympathetic conversion in the 1970s. Our proposal, working with Heritage England, is to bring them back to life as family houses, restoring the original paneled interiors while adding sympathetic contemporary interventions.

The conversion was designed by Conran and Partners. The scheme will be completed later in the summer. Around the courtyard at the rear of these houses, we are working on a mixed use residential and office scheme. These actions should bring some life back to a currently dead frontage on Long Lane.

We are also planning to build six new town houses in Pope Street, by redeveloping a site which at the moment is occupied by an empty parking compound. We are hoping to achieve planning permission in the summer and to start on-site later this year with completion late 2017.