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10 Point Commercial Property Recovery Plan Proposed for Central London and UK Cities

30th November 2020

The Westminster Property Association (WPA) has announced a new 10-point economic recovery plan to aid the struggling businesses in Central London which have been hit by the COVID-19 pandemic.

As Lockdown 2.0 comes to an end, commercial property tenants will require further protective measures to fortify their perpetually fragile position. If these are not introduced quickly, the sustained economic impact of the pandemic may force their businesses to close.

The effects can clearly be seen in Central London, which is home to a high density of shops, bars and restaurants dependent on tourism and customer footfall. As reported by the Evening Standard, across Westminster it is estimated that a colossal £50 billion of business will have been lost by the end of the year. Additionally, other areas of the UK will eventually feel the effects of this slump, as Westminster is a hub for some 50,000 companies which together contribute to around 9% of the UK’s business rates.

To combat this struggle, the WPA has proposed a 10-point manifesto for the government to consider, in an attempt to save businesses across all UK cities. The points, based on previous research, are listed as follows:

  1. Activation of the streetscape through the creation of more open spaces for pedestrians and a reduction of traffic, alongside measures to attract innovative pop-up retail and leisure uses.
  2. Comprehensive support for active travel in city centres, including dedicated infrastructure and e-bike and cycle incentive schemes.
  3. Business support at local and national level targeted at businesses and sectors which need the most help, including extension to the business rates holiday in 2021.
  4. High street reforms including an extension to traditional trading hours (including Sunday trading) and a fairer business rates system taxing online sales.
  5. Greater support for sustainable office development to help drive revival of commercial centres, with 18 jobs in retail, leisure and hospitality sustained by every 100 office workers.
  6. Focus on attracting visitors to commercial centres. Visitor numbers should be fundamental to city planning and vision documents, alongside a reversal of plans to end tax free shopping for tourists.
  7. A clear route map to the resumption of international travel to support the return of tourism in London and other UK cities and regions.
  8. Infrastructure investment to boost digital and transport connectivity within cities and across all parts of the UK.
  9. Financial flexibility and freedoms enabling cities to innovate and invest in their areas, particularly the leading commercial centres which need to drive recovery and create jobs.
  10. An alliance of cities across the UK to end regional hostility and the undermining of national unity. No city has been immune to the pandemic. Now is the time to work together.

These goals may be key to securing the survival of retail businesses and, with the rise of online shopping during the pandemic, it is essential that a road map is set out to protect UK high streets.

In a similar vein, the City of London Corporation authority has urged for there to be a set timeline to allow workers to gradually ease back into offices. Reported by City A.M., the request has been made in the aftermath of the most recent government rules concerning the Christmas holiday period after national lockdown ends on December 2nd.

Chair of the Corporation, Catherine McGuiness, has welcomed the easing of public restrictions but has sought further clarification on how office spaces can start to become occupied once more. As it currently stands, workers are still being asked to work from home where it is possible to do so.

With office restrictions still technically in place until March 2021, it will be almost a whole year that workers have been encouraged to work remotely. However, with recent news of progress concerning COVID-19 vaccinations, a return to the office may be sooner than expected.

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