The City banks on placemaking as Brexit insurance

Friday 3 November 2017

© Agnese Sanvito

The City is confident that measures it is taking to improve its environment to make it a 24-7 proposition for more than just financiers and build on its ‘fundamental advantages’ will insure it against any Brexit fallout.

That was one of the main lessons to be emerge from an NLA On Location event held in the Guildhall yesterday.

The City’s chairman of the planning and transportation committee Christopher Hayward said that the Square Mile will always be affected by changes in world trading patterns, and not reaching an satisfactory agreement with the EU on Brexit could be a ‘serious risk’, costing thousands of jobs. But Hayward is optimistic that a deal will be done and the London – which supported ‘Remain’ on behalf of the firms it represents – will still be the largest financial centre in Europe and the short-term weakening of the pound has made it an attractive place to invest in. Asia Pacific firms in particular have contributed to record-beating figures for 2017 and visitor attraction numbers are on the up too. The City is changing because of different work patterns, and is now made up of 94% SMEs, enjoying new Wi-Fi and improved public realm in places like Aldgate gyratory and Bank Junction, the latter a scheme Hayward took ‘personal abuse for’, but which has already become a safer, less polluted corner of the Square Mile without causing extra congestion. There are now more than 1 million square metres of office floor space under construction, lending Hayward optimism for the future. ‘In the post-Brexit environment’, he said, ‘the City of London will continue to succeed by being flexible, progressive and responsive to our changing times and needs’.

A symbol of the City’s lure for major institutions is Bloomberg, whose new offices are the most sustainable in the world and which represents how the firm wants to interact with the capital, said project director Kathryn Mellon. The staff that are in so far have been spending time walking through the building looking at everything rather than doing much work, she said. ‘They’re finding it really invigorating and exciting.’ Ramidus Consulting’s Rob Harris said he was fairly confident that a deal could be done on Brexit but that New York or Singapore could be winners and that, anyway, structural change was underway before Brexit.

Other speakers included Gwyn Richards, head of design at the City, who revealed how wind testing tall buildings in the cluster could help dealing with pollution from the streets below and made a case for 3d model of the capital to aid public understanding of development. British Land’s head of Broadgate said the estate would be updated to include ‘a lot more retail’ at ground floor levels, while Simon Glynn, assistant director (City public realm) said a cultural strategy will shortly be put out for public consultation, featuring a ‘culture mile’ stretching east-west. Finally, AXA Real Estate’s UK Head of Development Harry Badham said the firm’s amenity-rich plans for 22 Bishopsgate encapsulated a trend in which landlords have to pay more attention to occupiers as individuals. 

For other highlights and quotes from speakers, please follow #TheCityOL on Twitter.

By David Taylor

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What next for the Square Mile?


NLA’s annual City of London event at the Guildhall will examine the future for development and infrastructure in the City of London. What does the City of London Corporation need to do to make sure that the City remains the world’s top financial and business centre? What impact is the political uncertainty of major recent events such as Brexit and the General Election having on current occupiers?