Letter to the Financial Times on future of City offices

Dear Editor,

It is simply incorrect to suggest that the City of London Corporation is looking to “tilt the balance” away from the primary business role of the Square Mile through converting offices to housing as part of our recovery plans (Lex, April 28).

The success of the City has been built on the benefits of agglomeration, and offices remain at the core of our recovery plan. We have committed to growing high quality office floorspace by a minimum of two million square metres during the period 2016 to 2036 in our draft City Plan, while in the first two months of 2021 our Planning and Transportation Committee granted consent to applications equivalent of almost 80% of the total office floorspace – or 190,297 square metres – approved for the whole of last year.

The City is already home to 9.3 million square metres of office floorspace with a further 760,000 square metres under construction, while there were only 7,850 residential units in the City as at 31st March 2020.

There is no denying that the Covid-19 pandemic is changing ways of working and accelerating some trends that were evident already in urban centres. Greater flexibility and different working patterns are likely to become increasingly common, which is why we are encouraging even more sustainable, flexible and adaptable buildings.

We are unwavering in our confidence that the City office market will prove resilient. This confidence is underpinned by strong demand from developers and investors. Senior leaders at businesses have told us that they remain committed to the City as the premier place to bring staff together to innovate, collaborate, learn and socialise.

We will continue to protect existing office floorspace against any other use, including housing, where the loss of office space would cause harm to the primary business function of the City.

The City has always adapted to the changing needs of business throughout its history and will do so again to remain a world-leading hub for businesses, workers, visitors and residents.

Catherine McGuinness, Policy Chair, City of London Corporation

Alastair Moss, Planning and Transportation Chair, City of London Corporation

Notes to editors

The City of London Corporation is the governing body of the Square Mile dedicated to a vibrant and thriving City, supporting a diverse and sustainable London within a globally-successful UK. www.cityoflondon.gov.uk