What was The Buzz in July?

Our monthly roundup of real estate industry news.

Here are a few of the stories that caught our attention in July. From the passage of a new ‘flexible work’ bill, to the battle over M&S Oxford Street, revolutionising decisions are being made that will shape the future of the UK real estate industry.

UK embraces flexible working revolution with passage of new bill

The UK is set to revolutionise employment practices when a new bill that grants employees a day-one right to request flexible working arrangements becomes law. The bill successfully passed through the House of Lords without any amendments last month, and now awaits royal assent before it officially becomes law.

Currently, workers are required to provide 26 weeks of continuous service before they can apply to change their work location, hours, or pattern. However, the new bill will remove this qualifying period, making flexible working a day-one right. The government believes that these changes will give employees a greater say over when, where, and how they work. This flexibility is expected to help people balance their work and personal life, particularly those with responsibilities such as caring for children or vulnerable individuals.

The U.K.’s Minister for Small Business Kevin Hollinrake has expressed his support for the bill, stating that giving staff more say over their working pattern leads to happier employees and more productive businesses. He believes that greater flexibility over where, when, and how people work is an integral part of their plan to make the UK the best place in the world to work. Read more

Citi to track UK office attendance to identify hybrid holdouts

Citgroup has told its UK workers it will begin monitoring data attendance data, the latest sign of Wall Street’s increasingly stringent approach to hybrid work. “One swipe per person, per day, per location will be captured,” the memo said. “The focus of the reports will be employees with consistent office absences.”

Citigroup, which has 12,500 staff in the UK, requires hybrid employees to spend at least three days in the office. The monitoring came after a month-long consultation with UK employees, and from now consistent flouters face disciplinary action from bonus adjustments to termination. Read more

The battle over M&S Oxford Street and construction’s carbon footprint

The retailer’s redevelopment bid has raised questions about the environmental costs of demolishing and replacing older buildings as opposed to retrofitting them, reported Financial Times. Opponents led by the conservation group SAVE Britain’s Heritage argued that demolishing it would be an affront not just to history but to the wider environment. Razing it to the ground would release 40,000 tonnes of embodied carbon, they say, the equivalent of almost 20,000 flights from London to Sydney — whereas a “retrofit” retaining parts of the building would leave a much smaller footprint.

British Secretary of State, Michael Gove, went on to reject Marks & Spencer’s plans to demolish the store later in the month. “This is a hugely important decision that rightly challenges the way we continually and needlessly knock down and rebuild important buildings across our towns and cities,” said SAVE Britain’s Heritage director, Henrietta Billings. “Repurposing and converting buildings we cherish and saving thousands of tonnes of C02 in the process is a no brainer. This is a massive positive step and we salute the Secretary of State.” This was echoed by the Twentieth Century Society. “A huge victory for heritage and environmental campaigners, and a landmark decision for the future of UK construction and the built environment,” it tweeted. Read more

Gove announces £24m to ‘bust’ planning backlogs

The government will launch a £24m planning skills fund to deal with backlogs and introduce further flexibilities over shop conversions to boost housing, the levelling up secretary announced today.

In a speech setting out the government’s long term plan for housing Michael Gove said the government would meet its manifesto pledge of building one million homes by the end of the parliament. Mr Gove said: “Today we are more than doubling our funding to bust planning backlogs with over £24m of additional investment.”

This will see a new “super-squad” of planners and other experts made available to support local areas. Mr Gove revealed plans for new flexibilities in how shops could be converted into homes as well as reducing restrictions on repurposing agricultural buildings for housing. The levelling up secretary said that through a review of permitted development rights he hoped to “maximise the potential of existing buildings for new homes”. Read more

Continuing growth in the London Flex Office market

Colliers’ Cost Management and Research & Economics experts review the continuing growth of the London Flex Office market, examining key trends in the sector, alongside important CAPEX considerations, to forecast what this may mean for the future market.

“The flex office market has witnessed unprecedented growth in recent times and is now commonplace in most major cities around the world, with London being a key player. The attraction of the hassle-free plug and play approach combined with a raft of lease term options mean that there is arguably a solution for all occupiers, whether a start-up or a more mature corporation looking to adapt to new hybrid working practices.” Read more[/vc_column_text]

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