At the beginning of a new year and decade, property’s leading lights reveal their hopes, expectations and resolutions for 2020 in the first of a two-part special running over the next two weeks.

Huw Thomas

Huw Thomas

Leader, Cardiff Council

I hope we see the development of a number of our key regeneration projects, working ever closer with the Cardiff capital region. Cardiff is the UK’s fastest-growing city, and our ambition is to maintain that position.

This year will see project development work begin in earnest for these key regeneration schemes. At the heart of our vision is Metro Central, a £200m project that links the newly electrified Great Western Mainline and £1bn South Wales Metro.

The project is much more than a transport hub, though. It will also sit at the centre of 5m sq ft of new commercial space with £5bn of gross development value that will virtually double the size of our city centre. In addition, our administration is investing in Cardiff Bay to develop the UK’s best urban visitor destination, anchored by a new 15,000-seat indoor arena that will drive a wider £500m redevelopment of the bay.

Resolutions: To make sure the benefits of our growth are felt by all in Cardiff and across the city region, and that the wellbeing improvements that come from this go beyond just the financial and economic gains.

Susan Aitken

Susan Aitken

Leader, Glasgow City Council, Scottish Cities Alliance

I hope that confidence returns to our property market among overseas investors and that Glasgow builds on the many developments and investments currently under way, such as the Barclays Campus HQ at Tradeston and the initial 2,500 new jobs it will create.

I also hope Glasgow continues as a leading HQ location for a wide range of firms, which already includes large banks, insurance firms and broadcasting institutions like BBC Scotland and Channel 4, and that the physical transformation of our city’s neighbourhoods and the creation of world-class communities continues apace.

My expectation is that despite the adversity our exit from the EU will create, Glasgow will nevertheless consolidate its reputation as the world’s friendliest city.

I expect us to build on our reputation as one of Europe’s cultural and creative capitals. With the Creative Cities Conference in the spring, we have an opportunity to showcase Glasgow’s emerging and maturing screen sector. In the summer, our standing as one the world’s top sports cities will be reinforced with Euro 2020 at Hampden. And our year culminates as we welcome the world’s leaders to the city in November and deliver an outstanding COP event.

Resolutions: That under my political leadership, Glasgow maximises the opportunities emerging from our hosting of COP26 next November.

This is a year in which Glasgow can showcase itself as the city for our times on the issue of our times: the climate emergency. We have set ourselves the target of becoming carbon neutral by 2030. That won’t be easy. But by showing the world how a city like ours can meet our particular challenges, we can attract the innovation and the partnerships necessary for us to deliver that.

I want the legacy of COP26 to be both global and local. Glasgow is already the envy of those cities with similar sustainability and international ambitions to ours and it’s incumbent on me and Team Glasgow to ensure we secure the benefits of this global platform.

Basil Demeroutis

Basil Demeroutis

Managing partner, FORE Partnership

Last year, I was hopeful we would see greater focus on social impact in our industry. I was not expecting the dramatic change in the mindset of investors and landlords that we’ve experienced. As a pioneering ‘green’ property fund, this has been incredibly rewarding for us to see.

I hope this will accelerate and we will convince more people that property truly has the power to shift outcomes not only in carbon efficiency – the ‘E’ in ESG – but also in the ‘S’ – addressing social issues like homelessness, food poverty, wealth disparity, and countless others, where property is the stage on which these crises play out.

I also hope people see that this approach is good for financial returns. However, I hope this does not evolve into ‘purpose-washing’, and instead we all grasp this opportunity to authentically transform the industry. It’s long overdue.

On the carbon side, I think we’re just now finding our voice as an industry, and I expect the confidence we’ve gained to grow into a more unified approach to tackling the climate emergency.

Net-zero carbon will become the new normal, as big pools of capital compete to outdo one another, seeking to be more sustainable to win key tenants as occupiers, too, figure out their own pathways to transition to a low-carbon economy.

We’re going to hear more and more about refurbishment, and the debate over redevelopment versus refurbishment will intensify. Our recently completed office, Windmill Green in Manchester, is a retrofit, which obtained BREEAM ‘Outstanding’ and is the ‘greenest’ new office in the city. And our next project, Tower Bridge Court in Southwark, is also a retrofit – and will be a 100% electric building and zero carbon in operation. Retrofit must come into play more if we are to meet our carbon-reduction targets.

Resolutions: Personally, to spend as much time as possible with my newborn twin girls, and professionally, to act with urgency and conviction to help accelerate the transformation of the industry to ensure it is taking its social and sustainability obligations seriously.

We are facing a climate emergency. Now is the time for action and that is potentially really exciting as I think we could soon be entering a golden age for property, with innovations that will be transformational.

Emma Long

Emma Long

Commercial director, BizSpace

I have three main hopes for 2020: that the UK can get back to normal, with the impact of Brexit minimised; that the government delivers on its promises to invest in infrastructure in the regions; and that the contribution our small businesses make to the economy is recognised, with policies that support their growth and development.

My expectation is that London, being more internationally focused, is likely to feel more of an effect from Brexit; businesses in the regions will continue to ‘get on with it’ regardless of the goings-on at Westminster and globally; businesses large and small will increasingly look for flexible arrangements when it comes to taking office space; and there will be continued adoption of agile working practices.

Resolutions: Following a year of rapid growth, with nine new sites acquired and numerous new centre launches, our resolution for 2020 will be to optimise our existing portfolio. While we will still be looking selectively at opportunities to buy new sites, our primary focus will be on our customers, looking at how we can add value through the spaces we offer, the service we provide and a combination of technology and the personal approach.

John duckworth instant group

John Duckworth

Managing director UK and EMEA, The Instant Group

In London, nearly 35% of office deals involved operators of flex workspace in 2019 – a sign that our market is really driving the dynamics of the office market.

There is now more sub-5,000 sq ft of leased space available than at any time since 2009 as demand switches to more agile models within the flex workspace sector. This is going to keep edging forward and by 2023, we expect that 12.5% of commercial real estate will be in flexible workspace. Ultimately, this is dependent on the ability of the flex workspace market to produce enough supply to match demand – which is going to take some more agreement and better understanding between landlords and operators.

Flex space is now a fast, agile route to market for companies of all sizes, and adoption of flex space will only increase as larger organisations work flex options into their processes.

Larger deals already make up a greater proportion of flex space demand than at any time previously. Now that we have a government that looks set to finally push Brexit forward, we expect to see more movement in the market.

Resolutions: Workspace has been procured through conventional leases for more than a century and it is a large oil tanker to turn around. But with large, blue-chip clients predicting that up to 40% of their portfolios will consist of flex options in the future, there should be enough enterprise-level demand to drive future growth. We look forward to continuing to work with large corporates to help find solutions that meet the ever-changing needs of their workforce.   

Harry Downes

Harry Downes

Managing director, Fizzy Living

I hope Boris’s thumping majority means that he will get things done, and not just Brexit.

I hope for a housing minister who has some prior knowledge of the subject, understands that BTR has a role to play and remains in post for long enough to own a strategy and manage its delivery.

The Hackitt report made strong recommendations post Grenfell, which should be addressed as a priority. At the same time, a robust delivery system must be introduced that addresses shoddy workmanship and promotes quality and safety.

Government needs to recognise that the planning system is a major part of the logjam and do something about it. Perhaps it’s time for a dramatic policy, such as town centres being classified as enterprise zones with assumption of planning approval for BTR buildings that are up to 10 floors where all flats are let at 80% of local market rent.

I expect government to continue to support home ownership over rental, missing the opportunity to attract substantial international investment into BTR. The planning system should be an enabler of development, but while it is led by Nimbys it remains a massive hurdle. Perhaps to start with there should be a rule that a planning officer cannot vote on an application that is within five miles of their home.

Resolutions: As I approach my 65th birthday, I have resolved to take on rather a big challenge: the Marathon des Sables 2020. Six marathons in six days in the Sahara, carrying all food and kit in 45-degree heat. I am supporting a fabulous charity, Walking with the Wounded, which does outstanding work with wounded military veterans. My professional resolution is to get as many of you as possible to support me to raise more than £5,000.

Olivia Harris has become chief executive at Dolphin Living,

Olivia Harris

Chief executive, Dolphin Living

My hope is that those responsible for housing policy will recognise not enough is being done, especially in high-value areas, to provide housing for median earners.

I hope they revise housing and planning policies and reassess housing needs to reflect the requirements of the entire community as part of the proposed devolution agenda. I also hope they increase the housing grant, particularly for two- and three-bedroom homes.

My expectation is that we are unlikely to achieve political or high-level policymaker support, but that we will continue to gain support from the public and more socially aware organisations who understand the need for more rental housing that is affordable. It’s also important that policymakers recognise that we need housing specifically for workers who are currently stuck in a rental poverty trap due to high rents near their place of work.

With this growing support, eventually politicians will have to take notice. My main fear is that it won’t be in 2020.

Resolutions: Aside from the usual ‘get fitter, eat better, sleep more’, my resolution is to prioritise my time better so that I spend more time with the people who matter to me and so that I’m more effective at work.

Continue to part five here