After a tumultuous 2020, property’s leading figures share their hopes and expectations for 2021 as the year gets off to a rocky start with yet another lockdown. 

chris geaves

Chris Geaves

Chief executive, Sovereign Centros

My biggest hope is that Covid-19 gets suppressed and life returns to a degree of normality, enabling businesses to operate as normal.

Despite all the headwinds, we had a very successful 2020 so the hope is to repeat that in 2021, expanding our asset and development management platform particularly in the shopping centre and retail park arenas.

There will be much more defined categorisation of retail assets between prime and secondary dictated to a large degree by occupier demand. It is plain to see where retailers want to be by the way they’ve negotiated through Covid talks.

A lot of secondary retail assets will fail as they will not be relevant in the new emerging market. It will be a busy time for the banks, which will want to help steer best-in-class operators through the next 12 months. Innovative development solutions for alternative use will save some locations and reinvigorate others where there might seem little hope at present.

Sara Bailey

Sara Bailey, Trowers & Hamlins, Head of Real Estate

Head of real estate, Trowers & Hamlins

There are many lessons to be learned from 2020 and as we look forward, we should focus on how and what we can improve.

I see this sense of reflection manifesting itself in many forms, from how we connect with each other and how we work together to how we interact with our communities, our neighbours and the businesses that operate in our towns and cities.

Taking action to implement positive change, focusing on creating places that people are proud to live and work in, drives prosperity. Real placemaking takes planning. It requires real estate investment and development with social value at the heart.

This is the essence of our current research, which focuses on unlocking prosperity in cities. We have looked across Manchester, Birmingham, Exeter and London, pre and post-Covid, to identify what the key drivers are. ESG is now common parlance and consequently, a number of investors are looking at social value becoming a tangible and measurable factor in investment decision-making.

While ESG is intrinsically linked to sustainability, there is still plenty of room for broader social impact to be viewed as a driver for prosperity in our cities and towns.

Andrew Bird

Managing director, Tilstone Partners

Many people will be pessimistic about what lies ahead, but for me it is all about opportunity. Ideally, our relationship with Europe can move forward ‘post the divorce’, enabling both sides to address economic issues arising from and prior to the pandemic. But with Europe only accounting for 11% of global trade (post the UK’s departure), I hope we can harness our historic global trading relationships with the many Commonwealth countries around the world and others too.

This will help grow the UK’s GDP, and that of our trading partners, which is intrinsically linked to solving so many political issues around education, levelling-up of the wealth divide, improving the nation’s health and reducing public sector debt.

I hope the government will take the opportunity to increase the maturity date of its borrowings and invest wisely to honour its election promises. This will bring growth to many UK city regions (outside of the South East), some that are already prospering and some that have fallen behind as the economy has been repositioned.

Susan Freeman

Susan Freeman

Partner, Mishcon de Reya

Oddly, the hope I expressed in this publication for 2020 was: “We can return to normality, whatever that is, and deal with the hugely important issues we face.” Little did I know what unmitigated turmoil and general abnormality 2020 had in store for us.

Forget normality and let’s hope that the pandemic will serve as an extremely loud wake-up call for the threat to the planet of climate change and that our sector will step up, lead the way and take responsibility for helping to dramatically reduce carbon emissions.

I also hope vehemently but not with much expectation that, as was the case after the Spanish Flu epidemic 100 years ago, this pandemic will be followed by the 21st-century equivalent of the Roaring Twenties, heralding a decade of economic prosperity and social change, turbo-charged by advances in technology, robotics and AI which have been accelerated by Covid. We could do without it all ending in another Great Depression.





Continue to part 11 here

Forecast for 2021: looking ahead with hope