The continued dominance of the life sciences sector, a dysfunctional planning system, further pressures on the housing market and optimism for the post-pandemic world. Our experts voice their forecasts and challenges for 2022.

Here’s what our Eastern Echoes said when asked what they think the new year will bring:

William Rooke, partner at Carter Jonas said “Expect the Life Sciences sector to continue to dominate the Cambridge market, although yields will probably start to soften as interest rates rise in the face of inflationary pressures.

Also, expect to see more pressure on the green belt around Cambridge with the lack of supply of available development land in the city and the Science sector critical to national infrastructure I anticipate there will be a few Very Special Circumstance (VSC) planning applications brought forward by land promoters which could see some unexpected sites released for development.

The final thought is that the ripple effect from Cambridge has been slow to take hold in the wider region so pricing in our market towns and cities is still cheap by comparison, however, as investors start to acquire further afield in search of value this price gap could start to close”

DevComms director Charles Bushe said “Although none of us quite know what next year will look like, I’m certainly looking forward with optimism to 2022.

Despite being driven by necessity, there has unquestionably been a spirit of innovation in the planning and development sector over the past year, as we’ve all been forced to adapt.

This spirit of innovation has undoubtedly created a more equitable planning system, by improving access to information through digital and other means, creating a more democratic planning process and enfranchising certain demographics who didn’t previously engage in the planning process.

So what are we hoping for in 2022? In politics, we hope for stability. In planning, we hope for direction. But in communications, and particularly at DevComms, we can be certain of further innovation.”

Philip Waddy, managing director of multi-disciplinary architectural, planning and design consultancy WWA, said “Uncertainty is the key issue. The latest Covid variant has thrown a spanner in the works. Just as we thought the world was getting back to normal, we see more restrictions, increased working from home (not the way to stimulate the economy in my view) and a lack of confidence in the economic rebound that had begun following the release of the previous restrictions.

The longer this stasis goes on the more the economy will stagnate.

Demand will not disappear in the economy; it simply backs up – like a huge rubber band. If and when we get back to full normal there will be a huge rebound. Then inflation kicks in big time.

After a decade of low inflation and steady-state conditions, inflationary pressures will hit the young and those with large mortgages will feel it the most.

In my opinion, the Government needs to sort out the dysfunctional planning system. It’s a brake on economic growth whereas it should be a catalyst.

Development happens today despite planning, not because of it. The Planning White Paper came out over a year ago and we look set to wait the best part of another year before Gove produces version two. The longer the uncertainty goes on the more it costs the economy.”

David Jones, managing director of Evans Jones, said “In property and development, by far the most serious issue is (to quote Boris) our ‘outdated and ineffective planning system’.

Eighteen months on from the Government white paper, Planning for the Future, we have seen no real appetite to implement much-needed reform.

This, coupled with a poorly resourced and underfunded local authorities, all amounts to a perfect storm;  a planning system which is broken and unfit for purpose, coupled with a slow and ineffective decision-making regime.

So what do I see for the coming year? Greater uncertainty, slower decision-making, and increased frustration for all. Happy Christmas.”

Hugh Blaza, consultant with both UK Property Forums and Sandstone Law, said “2021 gave the commercial property community a glimpse of ‘normal’ life and to say that the market is bulging with latent demand would be the understatement of the year!

The go-stop-go as we emerge from the pandemic is not reflected in deal flow; industrial, R&D and distribution deals are powering forward (where land can be found).

And even the nervous retail market is picking up, with the voids in Oxford, at least, gradually being filled by interesting (ie non-chain) offerings.

If Omicron is despatched early in the New Year and we don’t suffer yet another, more threatening, variant, all the signs are that the market will take off. Better buckle up!”

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