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. 

Alex Robinson headshot

Alex Robinson

Director of development for strategic land, Grosvenor Britain & Ireland

Last year forced us to reflect on our neighbourhoods. Time at home has helped people to recognise the value of the local park, playing field or high street, but I bet that many will have wished they had better access to amenities such as these.

If there is one thing that the development industry learns from 2020, it should be to take a long hard look at what matters to a community when we design new places. Reform of the planning system can help.

Spearheaded by the government’s white paper, 2020 saw renewed vigour to make the process faster and more effective. However, we need to take the public with us. Grosvenor will continue to push for better engagement.

I’d like to see a system emerge that combines the best of digital tools and face-to-face conversations to reach as broad a spectrum of society as possible.

We want to work harder this year to listen to young people in particular, adopting our youth engagement toolkit Voice.Opportunity.Power.

Engaging early on, making people feel valued and reflecting local priorities in new places will increase trust in the planning system – something we’d all like to see happen in 2021.

Jason Leek

Jason Leek

Chief executive, Riverstone

2020 was a year like no other and the economy will continue to feel the ramifications of Covid-19 for some time. In the real estate market, sectors with strong fundamentals and a favourable supply/demand ratio will be in a positive position.

This is the case for the retirement sector, with 12 million over-65s in the UK and one million over-65s in London alone.

The last year has seen increased investment interest in our sector across a range of platforms, with global institutional investors, private equity and banks all increasing their exposure. By 2037, population projections suggest that one in four of us will be over-65, so we don’t expect to see demand falling away.

At Riverstone, we have focused on continuing to build out and are preparing for the launch of our first two locations in London with Riverstone Fulham and Riverstone Kensington. We have also been busy seeking new development opportunities.

We believe that an operating model which sees over-65s own their own apartments with on-site hospitality and support will only grow in attractiveness as a result of the pandemic.

Richard Bains

Richard Bains

Managing director, Chancerygate

Last year was a turbulent one but one during which the fundamentals underpinning the strength of the industrial property sector have grown stronger.

Coming out of the other side of the pandemic, I expect the drivers of demand for industrial property, such as the growth of ecommerce, to continue to gain momentum, and this will sustain interest in the sector from institutional investors.

Brexit is likely to cause challenges. However, I think the industrial sector will be relatively unaffected given the diversity of demand within the sector and supply constraints.

Overall, our outlook is positive. We are excited by the direction the market is taking and have recently invested in new sites across the country in Edinburgh, Dagenham, Peterborough and Leicester, to bring forward in 2021. Demand for high-quality industrial space is here to stay and we look forward to evolving our product to meet the needs of occupiers in the year ahead.

Heng Leong Cheong

Heng Leong Cheong

Chief executive, EcoWorld London

With mass vaccinations for Covid-19 now under way, I hope there will be a rapid and strong global economic recovery. I also hope that post Brexit, the UK government will foster better and wider international relations and continue to position the UK as a competitive and attractive destination for global trade and investment.

I expect that there will be a lot of pent-up capital from all over the world entering the UK property market, with BTR to be one of the main beneficiaries.

This year looks set to be a significant year for EcoWorld London as we embark on our new strategic plan, an eight-year roadmap across both BTR and open-market sale to build our position as one of the capital’s leading developers.

Demand for homes in London will be high but we will need to be even more aligned and attuned to what customers want, as Covid-19 has fundamentally changed the way people live and work.

Last year demonstrated that pragmatism and flexibility are essential to weather uncertainty, and EcoWorld London will remain nimble.

Continue to part 12 here

Forecast for 2021: looking ahead with hope