WE recently held the second annual RICS North East Summit and I can honestly say it provided some excellent insights and a degree of forecasting about the property sector for next year.
The next 12 months are going to be tough, but the North East is nothing if not resilient. One bright spot was the forecast that the residential market is set to improve, but the commercial property sector is likely to remain the same for the foreseeable future, at least until we see an upswing in demand.
We heard very useful information from Barclays’ head of property finance (Northern) David Hardcastle and Simon Rubinsohn, chief economist at RICS.
Next year is about change and a new government will be formed. No pointers as to which party that might be but three speakers – Julie Elliott, Labour, Ron Beadle, Lib Dem, and Lord Michael Bates, Conservative – gave an excellent précis of their respective policy matters. A common theme was the need to deliver economic regeneration locally, through the democratic process. All agreed that our regional development agency One North East had done a good job.
While Labour and the Lib Dems would keep them roughly in the same form, the Conservative‘s are set to abolish RDAs. However, Lord Bates said that if the region wanted to have a body like One North East there was nothing stopping us.
Managing change, even in a good economy, is a challenge but emerging from a recession makes the task a lot more difficult. My plea is for the public and private sector leaders to collaborate now so that we hit the ground running.
Melanie Laws, chief executive of the Association of North East Councils, gave a good all round summary of activities the region promotes in collaboration. Melanie also reminded us that councils are supportive and welcome developers and, to achieve development in the future, a more intensive working partnership is essential.
Pat Ritchie, regional director of Homes and Communities Agency, and David Cramond, director of capital projects at One North East, also provided summaries of their plans in what will be a challenging year. There is a degree of optimism that projects can be achieved.
Another speaker reminded the property professionals present that regeneration is really about people and that construction is a means to an end.
Kate Welch OBE, chief executive of Acumen Community Development Trust pointed out that it’s no use renovating a group of shop fronts unless you have the local people there with the wherewithal to run successful businesses to fill them.