Government publishes regulations enabling planning committees to be held remotely

The Regulations are only eight pages long, but as most of those pages are taken up with specific statutory amendments, I have summarised the key principles below:

  • The regulations are time-limited and only apply to Council meetings to be held before 7 May 2021 – after which point the world is expected to have returned to normal.
  • They apply to pretty much every form of local authority that you can imagine. The definition lists seventeen different variations, including fire & rescue authorities, and port health authorities, so it is safe to assume that all local planning authorities are covered by the provisions.
  • The regulations expressly permit local authority members to  attend meetings remotely – either by phone or video link. The basic requirements are that they can be heard and can hear others. Video links are only required ‘where practicable’.
  • Members have to be able to hear each other; applicants; and council officers; but only need to be able to hear members of the public if they are registered to (and entitled to) speak at the meeting.
  • Members of the public need to be able to hear (and ideally see) what is going on, but not required to be heard unless they are registered to (and entitled to) speak.
  • Local authorities can make their own standing orders on voting arrangements, access to documents and the form of remote access to be made available to the general public.
  • Councils have also been given a great deal of freedom over the timing of meetings, which can be moved, rescheduled or cancelled far more readily than was previously the case.

Local Authority meetings now only need to be ‘open to the public’. A term defined as follows:

 “a meeting being “ open to the public” include access to the meeting through remote means including (but not limited to) video conferencing, live webcast, and live interactive streaming and where a meeting is accessible to the public through such remote means the meeting is open to the public whether or not members of the public are able to attend the meeting in person”

The regulations give a great deal of scope for creativity and flexibility by local authorities when deciding how to hold ‘virtual’ meetings, and are not prescriptive on the technological solutions to be adopted.

 As such, it may be possible for a number of authorities to adapt solutions that they already have in place for live streaming Council meetings; or to move to other commercially available video or telephone conferencing facilities. 

Guest Blog: Price Recovery and Liquidity Parallels From the GFC

During these early stages of the COVID-19 crisis, there has been a huge demand for data and analysis that can help people navigate these uncertain times. The RCA Capital Liquidity Scores illustrate how markets behaved with respect to capital liquidity during the last global downturn and can serve as a guide during this current period of heightened uncertainty.

By Tom Leahy, Senior Director, EMEA Analytics

Today’s turmoil is very different to the Global Financial Crisis, and it remains to be seen whether property pricing will be affected in the same way that it was during 2008-09. However, our analysis of global office markets shows that, on average, markets with higher average liquidity tended to be the first to recover their pre-crisis pricing. This should provide a level of comfort to owners in these markets and also justify the higher prices paid for assets in the most liquid markets.

Instinctively, the relationship between price recovery and liquidity makes sense: the liquidity scores reward markets which have larger investor bases, a heavy proportion of institutional capital and are attractive to cross-border buyers, and those that maintain these characteristics will see higher prices.

For example, Manhattan has proven to be the most liquid market globally and despite logging a peak-to-trough office price decline of 30% – higher than the average of the markets analyzed – it was one of the first to see prices recover that lost ground. Manhattan prices recouped losses in 66 months, ahead of U.S. cities with lower liquidity scores such as Chicago or Boston.

Interestingly, there are examples that do not conform to the trend. In the U.S., Austin saw a very sharp drop in office market liquidity during the GFC but prices proved to be stickier and managed to quickly recover. Structurally, the market is oriented towards private capital and attracts relatively little overseas money. This is penalized in our liquidity methodology, resulting in a lower score than the rate of rebound suggests.

These differences serve to illustrate another important point: that while there are commonalities and trends that work across multiple geographies and sectors and help with decision-making, every market is subject to different forces, whether political, economic or financial and understanding these is also a vital piece of the puzzle.

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Industrial and Logistics industry witnesses spike in flexible requirements due to panic buying Brits

Food production is currently up by 50 per cent, due to panic buying and as a result, the COVID-19 pandemic has unleashed an uptick in flexible requirements for industrial and logistics assets, research by Colliers International reveals.

Subsequently, occupiers who manufacture or distribute essential items are in urgent need of flexible space to keep up with the increase in demand, according to the real estate advisor.

Len Rosso, Head of Industrial and Logistics at Colliers International commented:

With central banks around the world slashing base rates and injecting liquidity into the financial markets and governments implementing public spending and fiscal stimulus measures to limit the social and economic damage, the public in the UK, and in some instances in France and the US, has responded with panic buying. There has been a rush for stockpiling essential items and purchasing goods which can alleviate social isolation such as fridge freezers, gym equipment and other such items.

“Amazon, Ocado and all the major UK supermarkets have huge backlogs of orders and it is not possible to book a delivery online so with this in mind, companies are implementing their contingency plans and some are in need of urgent flexible or short term space.”

As companies reduce their output, some shutting down completely in Europe and the US, global supply chains are increasingly dealing with imbalances, bottlenecking but also a drop in goods flows.

Chris Evans, supply chain specialist at Colliers International added:

Supply chains for groceries, toiletries and medical items are strained but it is not that the items do not get to stores, but they do not get there fast enough.  There seems to be the impression that supermarkets and online retailers have not executed their contingency plans fast enough.  However, that said, the government was not fast enough either to communicate the risks of the outbreak of this pandemic.  We expect the UK supply chains to adjust quickly to meet this upsurge in demand for essential items.

“To add to the challenge, there is a driver shortage as large numbers of Romanian drivers have headed home only to get stuck in Hungary or other borders in Europe. Moreover, Spanish, French and Italian lorry drivers are not operating at capacity or are unable to work due to self-isolation.

“With regards to other warehouse operations some companies have introduced new shift patterns to split the shifts to clean down after each one and will clean again before the next shift with no interaction allowed between warehouse and office staff. This is not necessarily being adopted by every company but it will increasingly slowdown their stock replenishment and distribution operations.”

However, green shoots of positivity are on the horizon as in China, the containment of the virus has been successful so far and supply chain operations and manufacturing activity are slowly returning to their pre-outbreak level.

Colliers expects investors and developers to slowdown, if not pause, their development pipeline programme to de-risk their financial exposure while working more closely together with their occupier base to find mutually beneficial solutions.

Little rental growth for prime assets is expected whilst incentives will be moving out as GDP is set to contract.  Prime assets will be more resilient and should this fight against this invisible enemy be won over the next few months, the sector will bounce back.

Len Rosso added:

“We are dealing with an unprecedented challenge but this will also create opportunities for savvy investors. The industrial and logistics sector is better-placed than some other real estate sectors such as leisure and retail to weather this storm as all age cohorts will increasingly adjust to shopping online.”

Guest Blog: In Europe, These Are 10 Deals That Did Close in March

The number and value of European commercial property transactions in March will be low in comparison with recent years. However, despite the ongoing lockdown in the U.K. and in most other large European economies, notable deals are still being completed.

By Tom Leahy, Senior Director, EMEA Analytics

On March 27 it was announced that a member of the Qatari royal family had bought London’s Ritz Hotel for a rumored £750 million to £800 million  ($930 million to $990 million). The deal had been well trailed: it was first announced in January that the hotel’s owners, the Barclay brothers, were in talks to sell the asset.

Other notable transactions include Union Investment’s acquisition of the other 50% of Watermark Place in the City of London from their joint venture partner OMERS. Elsewhere, Aviva bought the Credit du Nord office in Paris from the tenant in a sale-and-leaseback deal; and in Munich’s prime shopping area, Centrum purchased a high street store on Maximilianstrasse for a rumored €250 million ($270 million).

On the portfolio side, some large deals have also transacted. These include the acquisition of a share of a Spanish and Portuguese shopping center portfolio by Allianz and Elo Mutual for €935 million, and ECE’s purchase of a portfolio of over 2,000 apartment units in England for £400 million.

It is likely the case that these and most other recently completed deals had been worked on well prior to this acute stage of the COVID-19 crisis and RCA anticipates a further slowing throughout April as the lockdowns remain in place, denting economic and financial activities.

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Temp use powers to rise as property adapts to coronavirus challenge

In just a few weeks, the UK has reconfigured property to save lives and demonstrated it is possible to swiftly create new temporary uses for real estate

By Anna Ward, Associate, Senior Research Analyst, at Knight Frank

China built two new hospitals in Wuhan in under two weeks in its efforts to mitigate the impact of coronavirus, on top of other moves to convert existing buildings into makeshift hospitals. In the UK, the government has converted the likes of business centres, warehouses, hotels, sports stadiums and even the car park at Chessington World of Adventures into medical facilities.

The most high-profile and significant example is the ExCel conference centre in Newham, east London. Other temporary medical facilities announced so far include hospitals at the NEC in Birmingham, Manchester Central Conference Centre and the Principality Stadium, the national stadium of Wales. Although the UK has not gone as far as Wuhan in terms of building brand-new facilities, it has swiftly freed up thousands of new hospital beds by temporarily changing the use of buildings enabled by planning legislation.

Chris Benham, planning partner at Knight Frank, comments:

“Governments and indeed societies are having to quickly adapt to fight against Covid-19. Many of the changes we are facing as a nation are both immediate and will have long-lasting effects. Focusing on real estate, we have seen mass closure of premises and spaces whether in public or private ownership, and sadly many will not re-open. The loss of footfall and income will be too much for many organisations to bear, but there are opportunities for those that own property.”

Such opportunities are wide-ranging and can allow landlords to put vacant units to good use to support the government’s efforts to minimise the spread of coronavirus, and to assist with the economic recovery in due course.

Benham explains:

“In the short term, and in direct response to the pandemic, there are opportunities to seek the temporary change of use of underutilised properties such as hotels, care homes and purpose-built student accommodation to medical facilities, significantly growing our capacity to treat people. These changes can be achieved through the submission of planning applications. There are also a range of Permitted Development Rights that enable either permanent or temporary changes of use of commercial properties which will be very useful to property owners in the longer term.”

For instance, in the hotel sector, Best Western has said it is prepared to turn its empty hotels into makeshift hospitals. The hotel group has more than 250 hotels across the country.

“Whilst planning permission would need to be granted for such a change of use, it is difficult to see planning authorities refusing, particularly on a temporary basis, where they would want to support the national effort fighting Covid-19,” says Benham. “Indeed depending upon how urgent the change of use is, and whether it has the backing of the national and local government, it would be possible to commence the conversion works and seek a retrospective planning permission as we have seen with the change of the ExCel Centre and other high profile facilities to field hospitals.”

The rise of temporary use measures could have an influence on the planning system going forward, as the Government prepares to consult on current practices and ways to enhance them.

Benham comments:

“In recent years the Government has introduced a range of measures in an attempt to simplify and speed up the planning process, provide more flexibility to property owners, and increase housing supply and economic activity. The Government is due to consult on a White Paper focused on planning reform in the coming months and we expect to see further measures introduced that will get us building again, and to kick start the economy.”

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Corona Crisis May be Turning Point for ‘Just in Time’ Supply Chain Era, as Inventory to Sales Ratios Head Higher after Decades of Contraction

The coronavirus crisis may mark a tipping point for the ‘just in time’ minimum inventory management ethos that has underpinned global production supply chains for decades,Chris Caton, global head of strategy and analytics at Prologis, Inc, the world’s largest specialist logistics real estate firm, said in an online presentation.

“Supply chains have been built to be very lean and efficient, but that doesn’t work in a crisis and it is not proving to be revenue maximizing. I think that we should have every expectation that the supply chains of our customers will carry higher inventory levels going forward,” Caton said in the latest edition of U.S. industry association Nareit’s REIT Report podcast.

Inventory to sales ratios, which measure how efficiently a company manages its stocks,  have been in a 30- to 40-year downward trend, but troughed in the last cycle and have since started to creep higher. Caton sees inventory levels rising in the medium to long term, but expects a ‘push’ in products coming through supply chains over the next few weeks.

“If we look at activity in the real estate logistics space, there was good momentum in January and February and real outperformance of economic activity. We’ve seen resilience in the second part of February and first part of March, but a little less happening in the rest of the month. A lot more will happen in April.”

After a decade of ‘outsized’ growth in ecommerce, Caton also predicts the rate of online market penetration will accelerate in the wake of the coronavirus crisis and the range of products purchased through the Internet will widen. Another longer-term trend he foresees is that Mexico, Poland and other countries in Central and Eastern Europe, will likely grow in importance as key logistics hubs. Manufacturers are evaluating a wider range of production locations and these countries are favourably situated, he said. Related second- and third-tier suppliers will follow, he added.

With logistics real estate supply already very tight and new development activity potentially curtailed in the wake of the coronavirus pandemic, warehouse vacancy rates could slip further beyond current historic lows, Caton said.  While the current financial market uncertainty is likely to be a headwind for all forms of real estate, logistics included, the warehouse sector has benefited from historic low vacancy rates, strong demand and disciplined supply.

“The responsiveness of supply to uncertainty in demand is higher in logistics real estate than in other categories, so we’re watchful for how the development market responds. That in turn may mean that vacancy rates may remain a bit lower than would be expected,” he said.

Notwithstanding the current ‘fluidity’ in the market, the long-term outlook remained stable, Caton added.

“We think the investment space is going to recognize the relative beneficial attributes of logistic real estate in terms of long-term demand and drivers against other categories that have more uncertainty. Investors are going to have the potential to look through the short-term volatility and reassess the logistics real estate space. That’s something that’s been happening over the last decade and I think it will continue to happen given some of the structural changes likely to come out of all of this volatility,” he concluded.

Click here for the podcast:

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Embracing digital transformation is more important than ever – so how do we get it right?

The Covid-19 pandemic has sent shockwaves throughout our industry. There will be much discussion on how we best move forward, but what is abundantly clear is that the importance of embracing digital solutions has never been more apparent.

By Ben Mein, CEO, HARNESS Property Intelligence

This isn’t exactly news, it must be said. Digital transformation has been our industry buzzword for some years now and a number of exciting products and solutions have come to the marketplace to help reduce reliance on repetitive labour-intensive human output. Take our PDF Extractor, for example, which can extract data from 1,200 PDF investment brochures – tenancy schedule tables included – in the time it takes an asset manager to do one.

But while the benefits of incorporating tech solutions to improve an organisation’s processes is becoming increasingly clear in these uncertain times, what’s less apparent is how to go about wholesale digital transformation. This particularly applies to data transformation; it’s widely accepted that this immensely valuable asset holds the key to competitive advantage, but for a business to actually leverage the data they need to not have to rely on manual processes to access and unlock it.

There have been a number of commercial endeavours from across the industry attempting to address specific pain points around CRE data. To truly outstrip competitors a business needs to fully harness its in-house data, from the capturing of it, through to the structuring and fusing of the data so that it can be analysed, and decisions can be made based on it.

I’ve seen many companies put sizeable time and resources behind in-house transformation programmes, but the problem with trying to deliver them internally is they’re complex, expensive, time-consuming, and in some cases even political. This is an issue for the industry as a whole. Normal business activity (BAU) will distract, derail and ultimately, obstruct, and escalating costs can cause even the most generous CFO to ask difficult questions part way through such programmes. It’s hard to admit at the outset that ultimately many of these programmes carry a high risk of failure.

The problem is compounded as the time spent on delivering these lengthy programmes means that less time can be spent on innovation, which slows the ability to adopt products and solutions that make political and economic crises all the less disruptive. This is time which could be spent helping to improve the efficiency of our industry, ultimately allowing technology to support the greater good.

Digital transformation and proptech more generally is still in its infancy, so understandably the value of delivering these advancements at scale isn’t widely acknowledged yet. As an industry that has traditionally been slow to adopt and embed technology, it’s important we learn from our counterparts in other fields which have undergone similar journeys. The AdTech industry has grown through innovation in product and digital transformation. That’s because of the contribution of organisations of all shapes and sizes, many of whom fulfil niche requirements that interlink within the ecosystem and crucially have been able to devote time and expertise towards developing a particular specialism, without BAU distractions.

Technology works best when it underpins an organisation’s operations as an enabler. Allow your property specialists to devote their time to the things they’re best at and allow time for “technology osmosis” to occur. Using technology and data third party experts prevents costly distractions and reduces risk of failure, so long as you pick the right partners.

There’s an enormous wealth of talent in the property industry and I firmly believe in letting the experts do what they’re best at. It’s time like these when that is more important than ever. For CRE companies that means devoting their time and energy to driving market growth and relationship management, and utilising tech and data to better support BAU activity.

Podcast: COVID-19’s impact on the world’s real estate investment markets

Can the rest of the world learn any lessons from Asia’s experience yet? Will the markets revert to their pre-March 2020 levels at some point, and if so when?

Savills’ Mat Oakley (UK), Tris Larder (Europe) and Simon Smith (Asia Pacific) join Guy Ruddle remotely to discuss the real estate investment market’s initial reaction to the Covid-19 outbreak.

Can the rest of the world learn any lessons from Asia’s experience yet? Will the markets revert to their pre-March 2020 levels at some point, and if so when?

Listen to the Savills Podcast here.

Guest Blog: WiredScore’s guide to improving your internet when working from home

Last year, a WiredScore survey found that 85% of people experienced issues with their internet at home. As the world transitions to working from home, we wanted to share some handy tips on how to ensure you’re getting the best internet possible.

By William Newton, President and MD at WiredScore

So what can you do to improve your internet?

  1. Check your speed

Start by testing your connection speed on or Speedtest by Ookla. This will tell you the download speed you are experiencing, and, if you click “Show more info” on, you will also see your upload speed.

If your speed test gives you a number that is significantly different from what your Internet Service Provider (ISP) advertised, try moving closer to your router, or carry out the same test over a wired connection by connecting your laptop to your router with a network cable. If this does not improve your speed, get in touch with your ISP.

Ofcom in the UK have produced a useful guide to help people understand the approximate speeds required for different online activities.

2. Improve your Wi-Fi connection

If you’re getting a good speed when testing your internet over a wired connection, it is likely that it’s your Wi-Fi connection that is causing speed issues. This could be a result of wireless interference between you and your router or wireless access point.

So what can you do to fix this?
If you’ve been on the same package for a number of years, the chances are you can get a newer router with better speed and coverage. Call your Internet Service Provider and see if they can offer you a new router – a number of them will do this for free.

Consider physically moving your router/wireless access point closer to where you’re working. This Huffington Post article has some good tips on ensuring this is centrally located and not blocked by any walls or devices.

Your Internet Service Provider may also offer a troubleshooting guide on their website or mobile app. Some even offer tools such as “Wi-Fi Optimisers” to help fine-tune how well your network performs.  . 

Change your router settings – but be careful when doing it. There is a risk of bringing the whole network down and phone support can be hard to follow. But, if you do decide to explore this, access to your router settings can be gained by going to a web address (also known as a URL) that is printed on the back of the router itself. This URL may be a string of numbers, such as, and can be entered into your internet browser just like any other web address. There will also be a username and password printed on the back of the router..

When changing your router settings:

Pick the right network: Most routers have the ability to broadcast two wireless networks; 2.4GHz and 5GHz. Whilst the 2.4GHz network gives you better range, the 5GHz network provides higher speed, or bandwidth, at shorter distances and is less congested (this is because 2.4GHz is used by most networks including the microwave). Your router may already be broadcasting both and give you the option to choose one over the other. If it doesn’t, you should be able to use different names for the two networks by going into the basic settings of your router. This will help you recognise which network you are connected to, and prioritise the 5GHz network for your work devices (e.g. laptop and phone).

Select the right channel: The networks used by people around you often cause congestion and interference with your signal. You can download free software like Wi-Fi Analyzer for Windows to see all the networks nearby and what channel they use. If your network overlaps, consider switching to a less congested channel. You may be able to conduct this scan directly when logged into your router. Once you have identified the best option, select the appropriate channel within your router settings to ensure there are minimal overlapping networks.

Newer routers will allow you to prioritise devices. This may, for example, allow you to ensure that your laptop is prioritised for speed over other devices such as games consoles.

It’s also worth checking if there are any firmware or software updates available for your router – this will likely lead to performance and security enhancements.

3. Try alternatives 

If you are still experiencing Wi-Fi issues after taking the actions above, consider using a Powerline solution or installing a Wi-Fi mesh network.

Powerline: Powerline uses your home’s electrical circuit to transmit your internet signal between two points through the house. For example, you could install one adapter next to your router and another next to your working position, and the network will use the electrical circuit as if it was a physical network cable between the two adapters. Tech Radar has a list of the top 5 to help you decide.

Wi-Fi Mesh Network: Mesh networks use multiple wireless access points to transmit Wi-Fi signal to hard-to-reach places in your home. The multiple access points can be positioned around your home, and will connect to each other wirelessly to boost signal. A number of hardware manufacturers such as Google, Amplifi, Eero and Linksys have mesh Wi-Fi products, however check with your ISP first, as some offer them free of charge to customers. PCMag have published a list of their top 10 Wi-Fi mesh extenders.

4. Try mobile 

If you are experiencing issues with speed, you may find that your mobile provider offers you a better service in the interim.

Most modern smartphones give you the option to hotspot from them. This creates a portable Wi-Fi network which you can connect to. On the iPhone this can be found by going to Settings → Personal Hotspot.

Note: This will use up your mobile data package and additional charges may apply if you go over your allowance.

If you find that your mobile connection is the best way of accessing the internet, you may want to consider buying a dedicated mobile hotspot and contract from your mobile operator.

However if you have a stable broadband connection through your home internet, we would recommend that you don’t use your mobile hotspot as your main internet connection. This is because it can cause delay (latency) issues when using video conferencing software.

Should you have poor mobile signal, and trouble making and receiving calls, some smartphones and mobile networks will allow you to make calls over Wi-Fi. On an iPhone this can be enabled by going to Settings → Phone → Wi-Fi Calling. You can follow similar steps on Android devices.

5. Use Wi-Fi and mobile together

It’s possible to increase your bandwidth by using Wi-Fi and your mobile network concurrently. This also gives you a backup connection should there be issues with your broadband connection while working. Speedify is one redundancy service which can provide this.

 Download a PDF version of the guide here.

WiredScore is the digital connectivity rating scheme for real estate that empowers landlords to understand, improve, and promote their buildings’ digital infrastructure.

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RAI Coronavirus Special Report: final call for contributions

Real Asset Media is preparing a Coronavirus (Covid-19) special report which will analyse the impacts of the pandemic across our sector. RAM will donate every second advertising Euro to the Coronavirus Relief Fund.

The special report will focus on 4 broad themes:

1) The macro context, which will analyse the respective reactions of world governments and central banks, with a focus on the US and the Federal Reserve, the European Union and the European Central Bank and the UK government and the Bank of England.

2) The impact on investment and leasing transactions, capital flows, asset allocation and performance.

3) An analysis of the most vulnerable sectors and consideration of what strategies are best placed to minimise disruption. The article considers sectors including retail, leisure and hospitality; logistics and industrial; Offices and coworking; residential including student accommodation.

4) impact on financing markets, the role of banks and other lenders throughout this new crisis, and the effectiveness of government measures designed to protect against a wave of administrations, insolvencies, and bankruptcies.

Deadline for editorial contributions to macro and capital flows/investment articles has passed. However, there is still time to editorially contribute the vulnerable sectors and restructuring/financing article. If you would like to send commentary, please email:

We are also open to a limited number of articles contributed by sectors professionals. We are flexible on topics, so please feel free to suggest ideas, here are a few ideas from us:

1) What is the future now for coworking? This is the first stress test for coworking. How do you expect things to the sector to perform across the UK and Europe?

2) Government stimulus and tax relief. Will the UK government’s Business Rates Relief be effective in preventing the closure of vulnerable firms? Will the new emergency insolvency laws protect company failures? What else could be done?

3) The view from the technology professionals: how can technology help us during this period of restricted movement? Is the technology infrastructure of your business sufficient to operate remotely for a protracted period? Will this crisis prompt an internal technology strategy review? What more can proptech firms do to help the sector seamlessly connect and digitalise their workflows in this period?

4) Perspectives: from occupiers; from asset managers, from developers.

If you are interested in writing a Guest article for RAM’s special report, as a Guest Blog in our daily newsletter, or to volunteer to take part in a one-on-one recorded video discussion with us, please do get in touch today at:




We look forward to hearing from you.