Sunday, 31 August, 2020


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, 31 AUGUST, 2020

Family silver, ready shovels, and seaside success!



We’re seeing many public sector-owned office space coming to the real estate market soon and we’re hearing that the same trend will apply to the private sector. This surplus space is likely a result of the gains of working from home, even if it is has not yet officially declared so. There are worries from some that this could be selling the family silver! Yet, for the sharpest leaders, they’re sensing an opportunity. Some organisations are using their assets to leverage existing public-private regeneration partnerships. Others are assembling land to create a bigger offering to the market that will transform their town and leverage larger returns. More still are finding ways to deposit sites within their own asset-backed vehicles, thereby releasing cash and retaining the asset for medium- to long-term commercial gains. At Inner Circle, we have always been a proponent of cities and regions borrowing from the London Great Estates model, which offers a path to reinvest wealth in local neighbourhoods and curate award-winning places for the public.


Those ‘build build build’ shovel-ready projects aren’t quite as ready as the PM suggests. Nevertheless, the political impetus is there to deliver quickly. We’ve been busy helping our clients to deliver at pace whilst they also ‘bend the spend’ towards ‘build back better’ strategies with long-term visions. This includes developing new projects that include a route to zero carbon, skills development, and inclusive growth.


From our friends at SOLACE, we read that seaside towns are seeing an economic resurgence. Hurrah!!! We love the British seaside. They are buzzing with socially distanced visitor activity (despite what the 24-hour news media would have you think) and seeing more property inquires than the large cities. What’s really catching our eye? Quick-thinking leaders in places like Weston-Super-Mare are investing in workspace to capitalise on these emerging trends. The new space is designed to serve homeworkers who previously commuted to Bristol but now want better social life than their crowded kitchen table has to offer.



Closing streets to cars and opening them to cyclists and pedestrians has proven to increase local spending and is creating an exciting, new global phenomena. Inner Circle’s position is that all local leaders need to review and adapt their regeneration, property and place-based strategies to profit on this opportunity. How? The suburban centres can capitalise on the pattern of displaced spending from city centres. Those that stay hung up on parking polices and car travel might feel like they secure short-term public gains, but they’ll miss out on the long-term transformation opportunity that will appeal to the young talent and the workforce of the future.


Meanwhile, towns and cities all understand that they could be on the brink of losing a generation unless they secure every part of the 15-minute city concept: walkability, cyclability, greening, culture, diversity. The pandemic has given local authorities an opportunity to implement some of these concepts, but long-term affordability issues and the creeping rise in pollution to pre-pandemic levels means this is the critical moment when local leaders can double down on the compact city model whilst investing in jobs and green and social infrastructure.


We know these strategies don’t come easily, given the state of local public finances. Just last week, the FT reported that Croydon Council has sought emergency financial assistance from the Government in the wake of the lockdown. UK local authorities are among the most stretched in Europe, according to a new report by Moody’s Investors Service. The LGA said councils were being “stretched to the maximum” as a result of the pandemic — having already lost 60 per cent of their funding since 2010.


On the subject of being stretched to the max, schools are reopening shortly. We feel for all of those parents trying to bring some structure and order back to family life. Success from our experience in east London during the 1990s, which helped develop the regeneration strategy in school improvement, makes us optimistic that we must not have a lost generation of children. Yet, we know the most vulnerable and deprived families will be hit the hardest and have to respond accordingly. At Inner Circle, we’re taking these learnings to heart and are helping parents with our ultra-flexible working patterns.


Finally, Crossrail confirmed that the central section of the new railway will not be ready to open until ‘first half of 2022’, having originally been scheduled to open in December 2018. There has been so much analysis of how and how not to deliver large projects so here are some pointers:  What’s wrong with infrastructure decision making? and Why public sector project fail.



This month sees the culmination of the first official South Asian Heritage Month (from 18th July – 17th August) which commemorates and celebrates South Asian cultures, histories, particularly the intertwined histories of South Asian cultures throughout the UK. This coincided nicely with the BBC’s six-part adaptation of Vikram Seth’s coming-of-age story, A Suitable Boy  which follows Lata, a student torn between family duty and the promise of romance, as three very different men try to win her heart. The series is one that explores a number of events, such as countryside and land reform, the first Indian general election, and religious conflict and other large themes, including the position of women in Indian society.


We’re chuffed to be shortlisted again for the 2020 Planning & Placemaking Awards – for Planning Consultancy of the Year. We won it last year due to our progressive approach and the way we position ourselves to enable clients and the wider consulting sector to have the highest impact. Inner Circle, along with PRP Architects, are also shortlisted for the Regeneration Award, in recognition of our work in Truro, Cornwall. Awards, held virtually this year, will be in early September. Good luck to our fellow planners.