As we prepare for a brighter summer, the UK is entering a new recovery phase of the pandemic with our successful vaccination drive leading the way. The economy is being gradually unlocked as shops, outdoor hospitality and – mercifully for many – hairdressers in England join those preparing to reopen next week in line with the Government’s roadmap.
This will be an important stepping-stone towards bringing back the buzz and vibrancy of the Square Mile. I urge workers, visitors and residents to support these local City businesses and institutions as they emerge from lockdown while also complying with the remaining restrictions.
I will be doing just that with visits to different sites across the Square Mile next week. The City of London Corporation is also playing its part in supporting firms, including through a new Covid Business Recovery Fund of up to £50 million.
Of course, footfall on our streets is lower than it was pre-pandemic given that work from home rules remain in place. We eagerly await more information from the Government on plans for facilitating a safe return to offices as part of a review that is due in the coming weeks.
Employers have dedicated considerable resources to deliver COVID-secure workplaces and to restore confidence among their staff, many of whom are eager to return to the Square Mile. Senior leaders at businesses have told us that they remain committed to maintaining a central hub in order to bring staff together to innovate, collaborate, learn and socialise.
That is why I remain optimistic about the long-term future of the City and our offices, even if trends such as greater flexibility and different working patterns may become increasingly common. It is also important to remember that working from home does not necessarily work for everybody.
In the first two months of 2021, our Planning and Transportation Committee granted consent to applications equivalent of almost 80% of the total office floorspace approved for the whole of last year. This is a vote of confidence in the City office market from developers and investors as we work to ensure the Square Mile adapts to new ways of working in the post-pandemic world.
Two towers on Gracechurch Street and one on Finsbury Avenue are among those to receive planning approval. All three developments embrace health and wellness trends, while they also offer break-out and flexible spaces.
The City Corporation remains fully committed to its mission of restoring the Square Mile to a vibrant and thriving hub with a world-class business eco-system and outstanding environments.
Saving lives and protecting the NHS have rightly been prioritised for the last 12 months given the impact of this terrible virus. Public health remains paramount but now is the time to shift the focus to reopening and recovery as cases across London and the UK fall. Together we can build back better.