“2022 was…intense. Five housing ministers, four chancellors of the exchequer, three prime ministers, two different monarchs, one war in Ukraine…countless policy U-turns and the highest inflation in 40 years. For a more comprehensive recap and look ahead, check out our last edition of the year here.
As individuals, society and as a sector we have surely learnt to be more agile and less trusting of long-term horizon planning and forecasts but, as we peer into 2023, it’s still nice to at least attempt to anticipate the road immediately ahead. So, for this special edition of LDN (ahead of our 250th anniversary edition next week!) we have collated some expert views from our clever clients and colleagues on what we can expect from the next 12 months.
There are some clear themes – economic challenges, sustainability and climate resilience, a longing for political uncertainty – and some green shoots too.
Thank you to everyone who has contributed and as ever readers, let us know what you think."
Jenna Goldberg – Partner and Managing Director, Insight, London Communications Agency
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2023 should be the year the property industry leads from the front on sustainability
“2023 should be the year the property industry leads government, rather than the other way around. We need buildings to be designed to mitigate their overall impact on the environment and to adapt to an ever-changing climate, rather than to meet tick-box style legislation. EPCs are blunt instruments in what is a very large toolbox, and we should recognise their limitations – they are no longer fit for purpose to address the environmental challenges we face today.
“My hope for next year is that as an industry we prioritise in-use energy performance to evaluate the energy efficiency of buildings, and a mandatory need to disclose this information is already on the horizon. In-use energy performance is a far more valuable metric, using real-time data to allow asset owners and operators to optimise their buildings and set them on a more realistic and achievable pathway to net zero.”
Sadaf Askari – Associate, Smart Energy and Sustainability at Hydrock
2023 could be a very challenging and uncertain year
“Sadly it seems 2023 could be a year of very poor housing delivery. We have a perfect storm of higher borrowing costs, higher construction and labour costs, but falling or at least uncertain values. On top of this we have political leaders seemingly determined to bash the sector rather than support it, and a continued distrust of the viability process which is seeing local authorities becoming increasingly inflexible in Section 106 negotiations.”
And we enter yet another year with real uncertainty on the Government’s planning policy agenda, for example how an Infrastructure Levy or street votes could work in practice. Set against this there remains a supply versus demand imbalance and our industry never stands still. Clever people will continue to find opportunities, but the year ahead will be a tough one and let’s hope we all emerge stronger into 2024.”
Jonny Popper – Chief Executive, London Communications Agency
2023 will be a year to take stock and plan for a comeback
“There’s no denying that the economic forecast for 2023 appears bleak for the built environment sector, with property values set to fall and construction rates to slow. However, it’s not all doom and gloom. Big real estate players are banking on 2025 as their next landmark year, with London investment set to roar back after the sharp decline, and for projects that have been put on the backburner, this should lead to a construction boom.”
So instead of focusing on the negative impacts of a slowdown, we should instead see it as a golden opportunity for the sector – the best developers will use 2023 to de-risk and ensure the right strategy is in place for the effective delivery of their ambitious projects.”
As just one example, instead of waiting for the government to mandate the digitisation of the planning system, it’s up to us as an industry to lay the foundations of economic recovery through savvy investment to make sure the right tools are in place to deliver success. Staying one step-ahead now will reap double the rewards, leading us to the light at the end of the economic tunnel.”
Jamie Holmes – CEO of VU.CITY
FORECASTING HOUSING AND PLANNING
2023 could be the year when planning reform in earnest actually seems possible
“Beyond wobbly markets and grim economic forecasts, 2023 could be the year when key policies for England’s built environment are settled, or at any rate fleshed out following years of proposal and counterproposal, debate and speculation. The Levelling-Up & Regeneration Bill should complete its final stages in the Lords and secure Royal Assent by the Spring. An initial consultation on a revised National Planning Framework (NPPF) is underway and due to conclude on 2 March; a further consultation on the NPPF is expected after LURB is adopted.
Looking beyond planning, this year should see the Social Housing (Regulation) Bill gain Royal Assent. The Government will hopefully also produce literally life-critical regulations stemming from the Fire Safety Act and Building Safety Act (see my colleague Jane’s thoughts on this below). Ministers have also promised us new Bills for reforming the private rental sector and the leasehold system. Of course, there’s no guarantee they’ll do all of these things, but here’s hoping they’ll do at least some of them.”
Stefanos Koryzis – Account Director, Insight, London Communications Agency
2023 will be the year new building safety regulations seriously shake up the sector
“For some time the sector has been anticipating new planning rules requiring second staircases in new buildings over a certain height (the initial rumour was 18 metres), in response to the Grenfell Tower tragedy where there was only one. Then at the very end of December the government launched a consultation on building safety amendments. This includes a requirement for sprinklers in all care homes and a new maximum height for using a single staircase in residential buildings which in practice would mean any residential building over 30 metres would need a second one.
Although this is to be welcomed, it does raise questions about the safety of numerous existing single staircase tall buildings across the country. A second staircase is supported by the National Fire Chiefs Council, who have also called for all existing high-rise buildings to be retrofitted with sprinklers and other fire safety measures. These draft measures have been described by DLUHC as the biggest change to building safety in 40 years and will clearly have significant ramifications for the public and private sector. The consultation runs until 17 March and the Government has already noted that it is proposing ‘a very short transition period’ before implementing the changes."
Jane Groom – Partner and Co-Managing Director, Politics, Engagement and Planning, London Communications Agency
2023 will be a long, hard look in the mirror for social housing
“The social housing sector, used to seeing themselves as the good guys, are facing a reckoning this year. As public scrutiny on living standards in their homes, ongoing maintenance problems, and stories of poor customer service has grown, the sector can no longer count on public support, or indeed, help from government. The tragic death of two-year-old Awaab Ishak from exposure to mould at home was in many ways a watershed moment, but sadly it seems this has been coming for some time.
Housing Associations, Councils, and Registered Landlords alike are being forced to account for themselves, as poor conditions and bureaucratic complaints procedures are put under the microscope. After decades of austerity and budget cuts, new pressures from the Secretary of State and some potentially very difficult new financial arrangements coming down the line, this is a difficult time for a vital sector. As the cost of living crisis rages on, people need decent homes they can afford and, sadly, that seems ever more challenging.”
Harriet Shone – Director, London Communications Agency
FORECASTING ARCHITECTURE AND DESIGN
2023 will be a year to keep pushing change and progress
“Hopefully 2023 will be the year that we continue to see clients working with exciting design teams. That means asking established practices to team up with younger and smaller studios that bring a different kind of thinking to the table – from diversity of background, education and experience – and ensuring that procurement processes are set up in a way to facilitate this.
Retrofit and re-use of buildings and materials will clearly continue to be a big topic. In London we’re yet to see the kinds of boundary-pushing housing retrofits that have become prevalent in Paris, Vienna and even on a smaller scale at Sheffield’s Park Hill. It would be great to see some of the more forward thinking local authorities bringing forward this kind of work, as London’s architects definitely have the know-how for delivery.
Finally, I hope we see some interesting innovations in the office market. So far the post-Covid revolution hasn’t really delivered on that front and it’s something where the capital and its architects could really become global leaders.”
Andrea Klettner – Director, London Communications Agency
2023 could be the year than interior design becomes a more considered part of the planning process
“Placemaking has been an area of discussion across the built environment for years, and in recent years has new relevance for interior design. I’ve always been fascinated by how people interact with spaces in the context of living, working, and spending leisure time, which is what creates that ‘sense of place’.
“As interior designers, it’s our job to imagine the typical profile of the residents or tenants occupying a building, their expectations and lifestyles, and how they will really experience the space. By understanding how residents or tenants will connect with a space, we can work alongside masterplanners and architects to add value at the planning stages.”
James White – Co-Founder, MAWD
2023 could be the year Boris comes back (again)
“The possible return of Boris Johnson (remember him?) will be a fault-line running through domestic politics this year. There are many strong arguments against it: the public would not buy yet another round of Tory leadership battles; Rishi Sunak is at least providing a drama-free antidote to the madness of 2022; Johnson himself faces a potentially devastating parliamentary inquiry into Partygate and his Uxbridge constituency is under serious threat from Labour. And yet, and yet…If Keir Starmer’s party retains its 20-point poll leads and May’s local elections are a disaster for the Tories it is just about conceivable that Conservative MPs, facing a general election wipeout, hold their noses and take a punt once again on the man who delivered them an 80-seat majority last time round. Don’t bet against it.”
Paddy Hennessy – Senior Advisor, London Communications Agency
2023 will hold some important tests for the Prime Minister and Leader of the Opposition
"While Londoners won’t go to the polls this year (probably), the Prime Minister faces his first major ballot-box test at the 2023 Local Elections. Rishi Sunak was lucky – up to a point - that the first two by-elections of his tenure (with likely more to come) were in Labour strongholds, but contesting council seats in Tory heartlands (this year’s local elections feature swathes of councils across England) means the pressure is truly on to show that his party has at least a fighting chance of holding on to power at the next general election. Given the current polls, Sunak would surely be pleased with any improvement on 2019’s poor local election showing.
This May's local elections – the first to require voters to provide photo ID – will also be a test for Keir Starmer who needs to prove he can capitalise on Tory weakness on a national scale. The Lib Dems will be looking to build on their strong local election credentials in traditional Tory heartlands, particularly just outside the M25, whilst the Reform party are once again hoping to be the thorn in the side of Conservatives."
Rahul Shah – Insight Executive, London Communications Agency
2023 will be a year to bet on London
“London is one of my favourite cities - it has a vibrant and unique culture that can’t be found elsewhere and continues to attract talent from across the globe. Our investment in the British capital should be an indicator of confidence in the UK market – it is resilient and it will bounce back.
“Despite the pressures of the cost-of-living crisis and war in Ukraine, we remain confident in the London market not only for the upcoming year, but over the long-term, as reflected in our programme of investment. We see the UK market as resilient as well as attractive on a global scale, as proven through its diverse nature and broadly skilled workforce.”
Damien Patriarche – Chairman and CEO of Patriarche
2023 will be the year that London speaks for itself
"Last year, the Opportunity London campaign launched and this year the programme really gets going. The mission is clear; inviting sustainable investment into the capital to enable good growth, greater prosperity and a better quality of life for all. Opportunity London will allow us to sing about the capital with one voice, showcase responsible, long-term investment opportunities and create an open door to the right investors, helping them to engage with the Mayor, the borough and communities. Founded by the NLA, LCA is the communications partner of this public-private coalition that is going to do big things for the capital in 2023."
Jenna Goldberg – Partner and Managing Director, Insight, London Communications Agency
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