In disruption, there is opportunity

It has been nearly three months since the UK made its decision to Brexit, but no doubt its impact will remain one of the hot topics of BCSC this year.

Of course, there’s no denying the initial shock was startling, illustrated by certain property funds suspending trading. Clearly the immediate future will prove difficult to forecast as the market grapples with a post-Brexit Britain, however the early selection of Teresa May as Prime Minister has done much to steady the ship. So, the prevalent view is that we are in for some instability in the coming months and maybe years if the commentators are to be believed. Clearly the weakening of the pound will not help imports, which in turn could drive up inflation in the short term. Although, counter to this, is the strong performance of the FTSE 100, which has made a robust recovery since the initial plunge after the vote. Focusing on the short-term, however, goes against the very essence of the property market, we are undoubtedly a long-term industry.

What many are feeling is really more of a ‘sentiment’ recession, where consumer and business confidence is dipping – but, crucially, we are not yet in a financial recession. What the sector needs now is strong leadership to ensure perception and reality are correctly aligned. For the future regeneration of our towns and cities, Local Authorities must play a major role.

Before Brexit, we saw particular Local Authorities such as Newport City Council and Sheffield City Council succesfully driving retail-led and mixed-use regeneration in their respective city centres, inspiring both consumers and businesses. The knock-on effect on the surrounding urban landscapes has been significantly positive with further development being unlocked and more businesses investing in city centres with new office or retail space.

Local Authorities who can still provide a vision and the required context will continue to attract both UK and international investors with a long-term view on income growth and who see the UK as a fundamentally strong market. The recent £1 billion investment by a Chinese construction firm in Sheffield is a case in point.

In what is most definitely a timely move, the BCSC Gold Awards later this year will present Public Sector Award this year.  The award will recognise original investment and ingenuity by the Public Sector to help and enhance the retail environment through completed projects.

I’m on the Awards Jury and I look forward to seeing the public sector innovation submitted for this year’s competition,  I hope it serves a greater purpose in inspiring more Local Authorities to captain the ship in these uncertain times.