City property vital to London’s world standing

 
Stuart Fraser
LAST week I joined 15,000 leading practitioners from across the property industry at MIPIM, the international property conference hosted in Cannes every year.

Contrary to what you may have read, I can assure you it is not all sun, champagne and parties on yachts.

Throughout the week, I spoke publicly about the challenges facing the City and hosted countless meetings and events with some of the world’s leading architects and developers to discuss what the future may hold.

Of course, being based in the Square Mile has numerous advantages. That is why the world’s top firms and top talent continue to want to be based here.

However we also face many difficulties, not least creating a modern and sustainable property offer and infrastructure network amidst a medieval road network that is home to a number of world-famous landmarks.

These are issues that many newer, purpose-built business environments – especially those in emerging markets – do not have to consider.

If the City is to retain its pre-eminent position as one of the leading global financial centres, we need to be able to meet the demands of the international business community – and property, planning and transportation have a vital role to play.

The state of the commercial property market – particularly in important business centres – often reflects the state of the economy overall; international developers and financiers would not invest in property if they were not confident there was a market to fill their latest projects.

At the height of the financial crisis, many of the City’s most important developments, including many of the landmark tall buildings, were at one stage or another thought to be under threat. In 2011, all of these schemes secured the requisite financing.

In its dual role as the representative body for the UK financial and professional services industry and as the local planning authority for the Square Mile, the City of London has to take a wide-range of seemingly disparate issues – from the ongoing unrest in the Middle East and the future reform of the banking system to narrower, more sector-specific problems such as rights to light and the ongoing City street-works – into account in order to protect our status as a world-leading financial centre.

Fortunately, my time at MIPIM confirmed that the international business community – and perhaps even more importantly, its employees – still want to be based in London.

However, this is a job that requires our constant attention and, judging from the sheer number of international exhibitors present in Cannes, we cannot afford to take our eye off the ball for a single second.

Stuart Fraser is the Policy Chairman at the City of London Corporation.