The Covid-19 clouds are finally beginning to lift.
We are not quite at the ‘let’s whack on the shades, the future’s so bright’ stage yet – the chancellor’s failure to adequately address business rates or extend the stamp duty holiday in his spending review this week made sure of that – but the news that people can spend Christmas together and that several vaccines are on their way give real cause for hope.
Throw into the mix speculation that the government is closing in on a Brexit deal and the more welcome aspects of the spending review, such as the £4bn Levelling Up Fund, £7.1bn National Home Building Fund and national infrastructure bank, and the skies start to look clearer still.
But even in the darkest depths of the Covid-19 crisis, it has not all been doom and gloom. Witness the extraordinary achievements – often against all the odds – of the winners at last week’s Silver Anniversary Property Awards. Last Thursday, in the midst of a second lockdown, the moment finally came to reveal this year’s winners as selected by our expert panel of judges just before the first lockdown.
Some might say that this is not the time for celebration. I disagree. I thought it was strangely fitting on the silver anniversary of the awards that we were able to come together, albeit virtually, to salute an industry that has very much been the silver lining to this darkest of clouds.
The two-hour virtual extravaganza was a very different but, in many ways, more important awards ceremony than usual given the context. Once again, we had a record number of entries, which is incredible when you think we were already staring down the barrel of a gun as far as Covid-19 was concerned when entries were coming in.
The calibre of the entries was also exceptional, especially in our two new categories: the Social Impact award and the one-off Silver Jubilee award, recognising the best company of the past 25 years. Who would have thought a few years ago that a shed specialist would take home the biggest prize, but that’s exactly what SEGRO did and, as well as picking up the Silver Jubilee award, chief executive David Sleath also bagged the Personality of the Year award.
In an impassioned acceptance speech, Sleath said it had been “a year like no other” and was quick to give credit to his team: “As any business leader knows, you cannot achieve sustainable success without a strong purpose, a clear strategy and, most importantly, a great team around you.”
Grainger chief executive Helen Gordon and Derwent London co-founder John Burns also gave rousing speeches when they were inducted into the Hall of Fame. Gordon said: “This time, I think our country is going to need more than ever the support of the real estate industry.”
Burns talked of the many changes we would have to adapt to as we emerge from this crisis but added: “I have no doubt that we will do so successfully.”
What they and all our winners demonstrate is that this is an industry that never gives up. It doesn’t know how to, even in the face of the most formidable of challenges.
So a huge congratulations to all those who made the shortlist – an achievement in itself – and to all the winners. See you again next year, hopefully in person. In the meantime, keep fighting the good fight!