Sunday, 17 January, 2021


Jamie Ounan

We believe that the best solutions are yet to be discovered and the best outcomes yet to be delivered. That is why we prepare organisations for change and help them implement it. We do this through an intimate understanding of their business, a relentless focus on delivery, the use of techniques that challenge the status quo and bridge traditional disciplines. We provide a range of services to public and private organisations including project and programme management, property consultancy, change management and strategy development and strategic advice. Contact us to discuss a project.

Sunday, 17 January, 2021 



Belated Happy New Year from the gang at Inner Circle.  

We come into the new year in awe of the science and scientists that have given us all hope. The record-breaking pace at which they worked and the global collaborations that created so many viable solutions offer supremely positive examples for us all. City and Local Government has shown the same spirit and agility in the face of adversity. Those same unsung heroes have yet again leapt into action to protect the vulnerable whilst managing the basic services we all depend on.  

Just as we are seeing lockdown 3.0 embed the patterns of home working and begin to add more pressure on our cities, we believe it will ingrain new patterns of innovation, lock in gains to our ways of working, and cement new collaborations in our local-level government. 


A Right to Regenerate to turn derelict buildings into homes and community assets has been launched. A positive move to enable community activism and unleash the market or another attack on our local governing institutions? I suggest this move will favour those councils and cities that are on the front foot with clear plans to regeneration or reuse assets as part of the recovery. Those on the back foot are more likely to be caught out by keen-eyed developers rather than the local community movements emphasised in the Government’s press release. Most importantly, we would rather see this approach to turning dereliction into creative new city spaces apply to all sectors: private, educational, health and more. Let’s stop unnecessary land banking or complacent asset management full stop. Let’s have a newly streamlined “right to appropriate” when the creative reuse of derelict sites is linked to clear regeneration and recovery plans. If we’re cutting red tape, let’s doing it comprehensively in the public interest.  

Why is the Modern World so ugly?  This article addressing that very question has been going viral. It takes a clear position on modern architecture and design and the poor aesthetic outcomes for our cities and places. Published by the School of Life, founded by author Alain de Botton, their website often offers wise advice, programmes, and services pertinent to getting through these challenging times, but this is a great read on beauty of place.  

Levelling up and down – are affluent towns in south among most vulnerable?  In reviewing 109 towns and cities across the country, KPMG are the latest to conclude that an increase in remote working and online shopping is expected to be one of the lasting legacies of the pandemic. However, the report notes that places recording a bigger decline in commuter footfall than others will see the accelerated hollowing-out of high street shopping. They beat a now familiar drum, stating: “High streets will need to be reimagined as cultural and recreational hubs that will act as magnets for businesses and jobs able to transform less prosperous areas.” But weren’t the big real estate firms part of the problem, ever pushing up pricing? Can they really be agile and creative enough to be part of the solution or will that take the coordinate local action of thousands of entrepreneurs? 

Cancelling Crossrail 2 causes unfortunate outcomes. The Mayor of Hackney, writes about the unfortunate outcomes on the government’s decision to cancel Crossrail 2. In an OnLondon piece, he notes that the axing of Crossrail 2 will hold back London’s town centres and have undesirable knock-on effects for planning strategies, engineering expertise and the continuing growth of the capital. Meanwhile, TfL are seeking £15.8bn multi-year capital funding package to maintain the city’s infrastructure. Levelling up is vital, but it is pretty clear that if the UK is to grow back its international reputation as a great place to do business and a sensible global leader on big issues like decarbonisation, the capital’s exceptional infrastructure must be among the very the best in the world.   

Business secretary praises construction’s “crucial contribution.”The newly appointed business secretary, has written an open letter to the construction industry praising “the crucial contribution” the sector is making.  Construction output in the UK rose past pre-pandemic levels in November 2020, latest official statistics indicate. The level of construction output in November 2020 was 0.6% (£80m) above the February 2020. This was thanks to repair & maintenance work, which was 7.4% above the February figure; new work remained 3.1% below its pre-pandemic level. We believe investment in our public estates is a superb opportunity for Local Authorities to further boost economic activity and jobs in this sector whilst delivering on safety and green commitments. We have been working with several council’s using our Stock Investment Rapid Assessment Tool (SIRAT) to create plans for the near future.  

Watch this in preparation for your next trip, once travel restrictions hopefully lift later this year. We’ve been watching Fran Lebowitz, the 70-year-old cultural critic and consummate New Yorker’s, new Netflix documentary series – a six-episode collaboration with Martin Scorsese titled Pretend It’s a City. It takes an unflinching look into everything from the subway to e-cigarettes to wellness culture. It’s especially gratifying to hear her weigh in on the future of her home city as it fights a pandemic. 


A few weeks ago, we were delighted to hear that the Future High Streets Fund has awarded money to all four of the applications we supported, alongside 72 other stellar submissions from towns and cities across England. The £831m recovery fund will be used to encourage an inclusive recovery by bringing generational change to high streets and town centres across England. Thanks to our excellent local authority partners who played a part in pulling the bids together and to our hard-working, dedicated team that delivered a great outcome for our clients. 

Speaking of the aforementioned Ms. Lebowitz, we’ve always loved her edict that, ”if you don’t love something, you don’t care that much if people are ruining it.” Every day, we’re driven by our passion for creating great places. This pandemic has tested all of us, our local businesses, our public sector heroes, and at times has made us question the very existence of our cherished urban centres. Yet, we know you share in our love for these places and it’s why we we are so inspired to see local government leaders, high street businesses, councillors, and town centre managers work so hard to make sure there’s a place we can all be excited to return to, soon.