The Government will this week set out whether England can take the next step in its roadmap for easing lockdown restrictions as expected on 17 May.
The data seems positive, so we hope to see more people returning to the Square Mile soon for work, hospitality, shopping and everything else on offer – other than, just yet, full scale return to the office.
With restrictions easing and businesses preparing for a return when recommended, we are unwavering in our confidence that the City will prove resilient.
This confidence was backed up by recent polling of global institutional investors conducted by FTI Consulting on behalf of the City Corporation. Despite the pandemic, 64 per cent of those surveyed said they currently invest in the capital, with a further 30 per cent considering doing so.
Significantly, the capital was also seen as leading on the environmental, social and governance agenda. It found that 66 per cent of the 250 global investors surveyed consider London to be world-leading or one of the best cities in the world in tackling ESG issues. This will provide a springboard for the Square Mile as we adapt to post-pandemic trends and remain a globally renowned business hub long into the future.
The Square Mile has also seen developer confidence flourish this year and, tellingly, in the first two months of 2021 our Planning and Transportation Committee granted consent to applications equivalent of almost 80 per cent of the total office floorspace approved for the whole of last year. Last week we released striking new CGI images illustrating how this additional office space will appear on the City skyline by the mid-2020s. We know that the success of the City of London has been built on the benefits of agglomeration, and offices remain at the core of our recovery plan.
Of course, we cannot afford to be complacent, which is why the City of London Corporation’s Recovery Taskforce recently set out an action plan to ensure the Square Mile adapts to trends such as hybrid working.
There is no denying that the Covid-19 pandemic is changing ways of working and accelerating some trends that were evident already in urban centres. Greater flexibility and different working patterns are likely to become increasingly common. So, we are encouraging even more sustainable, flexible and adaptable buildings.
This development will be underpinned by work to future-proof the City’s communications, energy and transport infrastructure. A pilot with Cornerstone, a leading mobile infrastructure services provider, will be held along Queen Victoria Street to demonstrate that mobile infrastructure can support the requirements of the four licensed mobile network operators. If successful, there will be a City-wide deployment that will deliver 5G coverage across the Square Mile by the end of 2022.
We are also committed to providing new and improved public spaces that include enhanced opportunities for culture and exercise. The mental health and wellbeing benefits of open spaces have become even more evident during the pandemic so we will continue to invest in the City’s gardens, streets and public spaces to ensure they remain attractive and inclusive places to spend time.
The City has always adapted to the changing needs of business throughout its history and will do so again to remain a world-leading hub for workers, visitors and residents.