There is no denying that 2020 was a challenging year for every business in the UK and across the globe. However, the property and construction industry fared better than most with the UK government relying on it to prop up the economy.
Senior account manager Charlotte Dove takes a look at how 2021 is starting to shape up.
We saw Boris Johnson give his ‘build build build’ speech, promise to build back better, re-commit to ‘levelling-up’ the regions and pledge a ‘green industrial revolution’. But what does this mean for 2021?
Currently, we’re in the midst of a third lockdown but there is a growing sense of hope, with the continued roll out of the vaccine, that we might begin to see a sense of normality again this year. Therefore, once again we have turned to the wisdom and insider knowledge of our wide range of clients to help deliver predictions for the year to come.
Tom Spink, director at MyPad – an affordable housing developer set up following the first lockdown in 2020.
“This year, more than ever, it feels like any industry prediction needs to focus on the positives as the construction industry continues to be inundated with opportunities to succeed, thrive, and provide for the millions of people who encounter it each day.
“In the housing market, we are going to start the new year with three months grace remaining on the stamp duty freeze, which has been one of the major contributing factors in underpinning our economy during 2020.
“The government backed Help to Buy Scheme is being extended from April 2021 and will undoubtedly give thousands of first-time buyers the opportunity to buy homes during the year. We will also start seeing the positive impact of the late 2020 changes to permitted development rights with regards to upward extensions and demolition and rebuild for accommodation.
“As a final point of positivity for what 2021 will hold for our industry, Homes England will be making available £7bn from April 2021 to deliver up to 130,000 much needed affordable home outside of London.”
Liz Clarke, director at GT3 Architects – an award-winning architecture practice with studios in Nottingham and Newcastle.
“2020 reminded us to be creative, flexible, and responsive. Whilst (as architects) we must always fulfil a client brief, we are reminded more than ever how vitally important it is to design spaces that that can be easily adapted to suit a range of activities and functions, whether that’s in the workplace, in your home, in your local leisure centre, the list goes on.
“By doing so, we are opening up new possibilities of how spaces can be used – we’re allowing our clients to be creative, we’re breaking down barriers, and we’re getting the most from our square footage by crafting spaces that serve more people, more of the time.”
Adrian Buttress, managing director of Permaroof – part of the wider PermaGroup and one of the largest importers and distributers of revolutionary roofing products.
“For the construction industry, the show must go on – so although I think 2021 will be a turbulent year, I believe we’ll all be better prepared and in a stronger position. I would like to think that by the end of first quarter, businesses will be feeling the benefits of change after rolling out their newly formulated plans and strategies.
“We’ve seen the sector working in new ways, which is fantastic. For example, speaking to customers and placing orders through Zoom was unthinkable before – but it works. It means that the team is saving around 60 hours of travel time per week. This can now be channelled into supporting customers; not to mention meaning a carbon reduction. I’d love to think that these more efficient ways of working will continue as well as the sector seizing other opportunities to grow and learn from 2020.
“I think Brexit and the pandemic will have acted almost like a coiled spring for our sector. Once something as close to normality resumes, I think we are in for a large boom of business.”
Jenny Keen, associate director at Marrons Planning – an award-winning planning consultancy and part of the Shakespeare Martineau group.
“Whilst 2020 was, without a doubt a challenging year for everyone, it has provided new opportunities by changing our perspective and asking us all to reassess our rationale, core needs and values. With the Government’s commitment to keep the construction industry open for business and the existing housebuilding agenda, I can only foresee the continued growth of this sector and a busy 2021.
“For the housebuilding and strategic land sector, the initial slowdown in construction and planning during the early days of the pandemic is likely to provide further opportunity for sustainable unallocated development in 2021 as Local Planning Authorities struggle to meet their short-term housing needs.
“New opportunities may also be borne out of a homeowner’s desire for more open space and traditional houses with gardens – which may see an additional rise in demand for family housing and a greater emphasis on provision of green spaces within developments. With ecological net gains already so high on the agenda, combined with this additional desire for more open space, we may see changes in the masterplanning of development in the future. This heightened interest in family housing could also lead to a re-evaluation of the Build to Rent sector, where we may start to see more family housing schemes coming forward to assist with high levels of demand.
“The pandemic has forced the planning system to find innovative ways to take planning into the digital world. Committee meetings and Planning Inquiries suddenly went from being held in council chambers to online platforms, and public engagement now relies primarily on website interaction. The publication of the White Paper in August 2020, and a promise to move on with the digitalisation of the planning world, will assist in ensuring this tech-revolution of planning remains in place well into 2021.”
So, there you have it.
A generally positive and cautiously optimistic feeling from across the property and construction industry.
This year we’ll have the opportunity to learn from the lessons of last year and really build on the successes. The introduction of working from home and online technologies – and the time it has freed up for many businesses – will be crucial this year.
I know we’re very much looking forward to returning to pubs and meeting face to face once again but working digitally (and not travelling two hours for a half an hour meeting) offers up not only more time but also increased creativity in how we interact with team members and clients, complete our work and use our office spaces. It also provides the headspace to make more inspired and long-term businesses decisions. It will therefore be very interesting to see how this year unfolds.