Imagine you have been stranded on a desert island for three years with no news or internet whatsoever and have returned to the UK on the first day of 2017.
You catch up with the news and market activity. You may say: “What is this word I have never heard of, Brexit? Never mind that, more importantly, how’s the economy doing?”
It seems that the UK was the top-performing economy of the G7 in 2016. Christmas retail figures were up 5% on 2015 and construction PMI surveys are positive. Inflation is below the government target of 2% but thankfully is rising a bit because it was too close to deflation.
Meanwhile, wages are rising faster than inflation and retail prices are still some 4% lower than three years ago. Employment numbers are at record highs and unemployment at almost record lows.
And there’s a new, strong prime minister talking positively about the UK taking a more confident, outward-looking global role in the world.
Too good to be true?
Seems almost too good to be true. Let’s see how the commercial property market is performing. Just look at those low industrial yields, even for older stock. Industrial rental growth is strong everywhere, from the north down to Dover. West End and City rental levels seem higher than ever.
Global tech firms such as Apple, Google, Facebook and Snapchat are expanding and investing in jobs and office space across London - look at the massive construction in Nine Elms.
Rents are growing in almost all M25 towns and redundant old offices are going to better use as residential. Regional office vacancy is very low for anything truly lettable.
This all sounds fantastic. Speaking to agents and lawyers, they seem busy enough. Yet strangely lots of people appear down and gloomy despite all this good news.
The truth is that Brexit is becoming boring to most normal people. Life moves on, people are busy and they just want to push forward with their plans and dreams.
There are so many good things to be excited about. The government seems keener than ever to remove the barriers to growth for business. There is desire and opportunity to deregulate. But are we in our industry doing enough to help?
The truth is Brexit is becoming boring to most normal people
Numerous pre-planning costs are a ludicrous waste of time and money. In many areas, the private rented sector should be used as a partial offset to affordable housing targets.
This could accelerate delivery and overcome time-consuming affordable housing rows and viability arguments. MPs need to be more constructively lobbied about what works and what doesn’t work.
The Property Industry Alliance report announced last week sets out sensible aims. Our industry lobbying groups need to press on hard with detailed proposals. The focus must be on what creates growth.
It’s no good just complaining that business rates are unfair and too high; with huge government deficits, that is unrealistic.
Our industry needs to become more supportive of national infrastructure ideas. The proposed multi-billion-pound tidal lagoon schemes at Swansea, Cardiff and other locations could be huge catalysts for regeneration, growth and development around the regions, generating jobs, tourism and spending.
Readers will have their own growth ideas as well as frustrations about unnecessary regulation. Get them off your chest - write to lobbying groups, your MP and the relevant minister. Let’s all play our part to promote growth, growth, growth.