Visiting the Largest Urban Shopping Centre in Europe is All in a Day’s Work

It has been two months since my last blog and I have to admit, it’s been a very busy two months.  With visiting construction sites and attending the King’s College Law Fair my seat in International Construction & Energy Disputes is flying by.

Westfield Shopping Centre Arrives in Stratford….

As a rather lucky Projects & Construction trainee, I was invited, as part of a small group, to an exclusive visit around the new Westfield Stratford City construction site.  As most readers of this blog may already know, Westfield shopping centres have been popping up all over the world from Australia to America, the most recent in England being Westfield London Shopping Centre located at White City.

The newest Westfield site under construction is located in Stratford, slap bang in the middle of the London 2012 Olympic site and East London.  Upon arrival I was more concerned about traipsing around a muddy construction site in my heels than what I was soon to be exploring, but from the off I knew this was going to be an out of the office trip to remember.

Upon arrival we were ushered into a ‘builder’s wardrobe’ to kit up.  Fully decked out in hardhats, high-vis coats and hobnailed boots we were ready for our tour.  The sheer size of the new shopping centre is overwhelming; we could have walked around Westfield for weeks.  One thing is clear, the new site has something its White City counterpart does not; the title of Europe’s largest urban shopping centre.  At the heart of this shopping city is a 240,000 sq ft John Lewis flanked by a 14 screen Vue cinema and even two hotels.  Whilst some parts of the shopping city are as yet unfinished, others, such as the Marks & Spencer are moving into the final stages.

The Only Way is Up…..

After two hours of being shown the impressive lengths to which the masterminds at Westfield have gone to in order to make the shopping city at one with it’s East End surroundings, it was time to visit what is  set to become the Premier Inn hotel.  There was, however, one problem.  When asked if anyone was scared of heights I kept quiet.  I then found myself being shot up in the air in a crane to the highest point of the shopping city.  After vowing that if I ever got out of the situation alive I’d never be stupid enough to fail to admit my fears again, I eventually opened my eyes and what I saw was incredible.

The Westfield City stretches out to a total of 1.9 million sq ft and has the London 2012 Olympic grounds as a neighbour (the ODA are another important client of the firm).  The view from the crane (whilst daunting) was breathtaking.  The main 80,000 seat Olympic stadium is still under construction, as is the innovative aquatic centre.  What is clear is that both the Westfield and Olympic sites will complement each other and bring a new standard of living to the residents of Stratford.

At an estimated total cost of £1.45 billion, the shopping mecca is due to open to the public in September 2011 and is currently six months ahead of schedule.  So, you are probably thinking, what does any of this have to do with the role of a solicitor?  Well, as explained by Dermot McGarrity, the in-house head of the legal department at Westfield, the solicitor plays a key part in most aspects of the project’s development.  From commercial leases to the relationship with the subcontractors and any potential disputes that may or may not arise in the future, it is a solicitor’s dream to be involved in the variety of work that such a large project demands.

From my viewpoint it was eye-opening to see how the type of work that Pinsent Masons excels at can come to life.  Whilst we are working hard at our desks proof-reading construction contracts or bundling documents for international arbitrations, the end result is easily seen in the form of the finished project.

And a Few Words about Applications….

After recounting this tale of shopping centres and crane rides it is time for me to get back to the day job!  Please post on my blog if you have any questions about my Westfield visit or maybe of more use to you, vacation scheme applications.  With the deadline of 31 January fast approaching I’m sure you are all itching to find out how best to make your application stand out and I am more than happy to pass on any advice!

So Merry Christmas and Happy Application Form Filling!

Sam