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. 

David Saul

David Saul

Co-founder and managing director, BE Offices

I expect to see a continuation in the fundamental way we work and use the workplace, offices in particular. There will be more of a balance in our approach to work and this will provide greater opportunities for the flexible space sector.

No longer will we seek to cram as many people into an office as possible. Greater consideration will be given to space distribution and how it impacts people’s wellbeing and productivity. At the same time, workplace design will be given a higher priority as employers seek to create a more people-friendly and efficient work environment.

If the pandemic has taught us anything, it is that the humble office cleaning operation has become of critical importance to everyone involved in the offices sector. The ability to deliver a thorough and deep clean in the workplace matters more than it has probably ever mattered. Cleaning will become a major element in the property management portfolio.

On a broader note, I hope that the Brexit deal enables the UK to prosper once more and to fulfil its potential as a trading and manufacturing nation.

 Alastair Moss

Alastair Moss

Chair of the planning and transportation committee, City of London Corporation

It will be months before a semblance of normality returns, but it will return, and we should plan now to ensure the recovery is speedy. We do not have to look far to see some of those green shoots already starting to emerge.

Recently, the City Corporation revealed that planning applications, both received and decided upon, were higher in November than they were in the same month the previous year, meaning that we had surpassed pre-pandemic levels.

In planning terms, we ended 2020 on a promising upward trajectory. We believe this direction will continue this year with continuing developer confidence in the long-term prospects of the Square Mile as a centre of business excellence.

Our City planners report an extremely strong pipeline full of exciting City developments – many of which are strategic transformative schemes of cultural significance.

In 2021, we will continue to encourage development that delivers on our promise of climate action and sustainability as we strive for our Climate Action Strategy target of net-zero by 2040. We will also continue to make radical transportation transformations to make City streets safer for our residents, workers and visitors.

We await what 2021 will bring for the world-leading City of London but remain confident in a thriving future as the Square Mile gradually returns to being a vibrant 24/7 destination.

Richard Auterac

Richard Auterac

Chairman and auctioneer, Acuitus

The government has floated the idea of enabling massive investment via workplace pension schemes into a diverse range of long-term assets including property and infrastructure, the latter also encompassing green infrastructure projects such as renewable energy.

We believe demand for property at both a macro and micro investment level will remain strong and may be strengthened if the current – almost unprecedented – level of personal saving that has taken place since the first lockdown can find its way into the market.

How these trends will proceed is not knowable at this point, but what is certain is that creating a freely accessible, liquid and transparent marketplace will be important for future investors. In this respect, auctions will continue to play a key role.

 Mary-Anne Bowring

Mary-Anne Bowring

Group managing director, Ringley

Making predictions for 2021 may seem like a fool’s errand, but a few things we can say with certainty. First is that another c-word alongside coronavirus will continue to dominate headlines: cladding.

While next summer will mark the fourth anniversary of the Grenfell tragedy, we will be no closer to solving the issue of thousands of people living in unsafe buildings.

The government’s response will continue to make things worse, with its flagship Fire Safety Bill, currently making its way through Parliament, threatening to worsen the issues caused by the now-notorious EWS1 form.

The £1bn building safety fund will prove inadequate and, as a result, both leaseholders in buildings under 18m and those in high-rise residential buildings will continue to be forced to foot the bill for costly tests to determine what’s in the cladding or remove it altogether. This, in turn, will lead to growing calls to reform or abolish leasehold, despite the alternatives being presented, such as commonhold, not tackling the root causes of leaseholders’ issues.

Outside of cladding, UK residential will continue to draw increasing attention from institutional investors, with the pandemic laying bare the vulnerability of traditional property investments such as offices and shopping centres.

Lastly, having been something of a late adopter, real estate will continue to wake up to the centrality of technology, especially when it comes to the operations of assets.

Continue to part 15 here

Forecast for 2021: looking ahead with hope