It’s that time of year when thoughts turn to the months gone by and the prospect of a new year in just a couple of weeks. Rather than attempt to come up with my own sage observations, I have instead purloined the thoughts of half a dozen of the industry’s finest, all of whom were interviewed by Property Week over the past year.

Lem Bingley

Lem Bingley, PW editor

Our meeting with BPF chief executive Melanie Leech 12 months ago was squeezed between train strikes, and highlighted the trials of transport infrastructure.

“One of the big challenges our members will be increasingly talking about is the importance of connectivity in transport links,” Leech said, little suspecting that prime minister Rishi Sunak would scrap the northern leg of HS2 10 months later. “The patient capital that will be at the heart of regeneration across the country needs to see a coherent story,” Leech argued. “If they can’t see how you get from A to B within a region, it massively undermines the investor proposition.”

West Midlands mayor Andy Street discussed affordable housing in a cost-of-living crisis, and said his combined authority had achieved 27% affordable homes according to its definition of the term – spending “about one-third of people’s disposable income” on housing. Notably, Street’s formula aims to keep pace with wages, not property values.

Chithra Marsh, national chair of industry body Women in Property, naturally focused on equity, diversity and inclusion in our interview with her.

“People think they are already there, and pat themselves on the back [that] they’re open-minded and very diverse. And then the very next second, they’ll do something that is totally the opposite,” she observed. There is still much to be done to conquer unconscious bias, she concluded.

Rob Wilkinson, chief executive of investor AEW in Europe, was relieved that the collapse of Silicon Valley Bank and Credit Suisse in March had been contained, adding that the UK’s property price drops in 2022 had helped to prevent over-correction. “[Property] has actually moved very quickly, perhaps because after such a long bull run people knew this was coming,” he noted.

Barratt Developments’ chief executive David Thomas told us that – as businesses can’t fix economic or political turmoil – the best course is to “focus on driving revenues”.

It was a philosophy tested by the closure of the Help to Buy scheme in the spring, ending a decade of support for new homebuyers that buoyed up about a third of all new-build sales.

In June, departing UKGBC chief executive Julie Hirigoyen looked back and noted: “There is still an enormous amount government needs to do to put in place the right policies, frameworks and regulations to drive change [in sustainability].” She added: “I’ve seen five prime ministers in [my time as CEO] and yet we still don’t have a comprehensive [net zero] plan.”

And indeed, in September, ahead of the Tory party conference, Sunak watered down green policies rather than outlining a constructive new plan.

As 2024 looms, none of our experts can say what the future will bring. But if the past year is any guide, we should be prepared to be surprised.

Property Week’s print edition is taking a short winter break and will be back on 12 January.