Blog: 2022 priorities by Gareth Roberts

16 May 2022

Following his appointment to CPA Chair, Gareth Roberts (Head of Development – Broadgate, British Land) discusses the organisation’s priorities for the year ahead and how the City needs to invest in streets and open spaces to create a more open and welcoming destination for workers and visitors alike.

As the newly elected Chair of CPA, can you tell members how you and the CPA chose the four priorities that have been set for 2022?

We mirrored this year’s priorities from the themes that were set by my predecessor Dan Scanlon which are focused around economic and cultural development, sustainability, diversity and inclusion and the environment, and all of these themes remain important for the year ahead.

Our priorities are well aligned with the broad spectrum of work of most interest to our members and the City Corporation. Good alignment and partnership helps us to all pull in the same direction to deliver our shared goals.

Do you think there are any obstacles to achieving CPA’s priorities?

I think there are a few obstacles we will be faced with, but those obstacles (and their solutions) come down to the same thing: change. If we are going to change direction, or advocate change, then we need to make a concerted effort and be deliberate.

We need to make sure that we are maintaining momentum with our members and the City Corporation and we help each other along the way.

Why do you think it’s important to champion the City as part of levelling up in the UK?

I’m a great believer in ‘don’t change the way you’re going to cut up the pie, make the pie bigger’; the City is such a fabulous engine of growth for the UK economy and it makes such a big contribution to the Exchequer. The amount of spend that happens in the City massively benefits the wider UK.

I believe that all parts of the UK, including the City of London should be challenged and given the opportunity to try and fulfil their potential.

How do you think CPA can support the City Corporation’s aims to become a net zero carbon city by 2040?

I think the CPA can support the City Corporation’s aims through three things; transparency, funding and allowing room for experimentation.

The CPA needs to be transparent with its stakeholders and members on these issues, but also be led by the City Corporation’s example. If we are transparent with each other, together, we can support the change that is needed to accelerate the City’s move to net zero.

I also think that we need to take risks to fulfil these aims, but be forgiving if they don’t work out how we imagined. We should all be aligned to support net zero and tackling climate change because it’s the right thing to do, but we can’t do this without taking risks.

How can the City’s recovery be accelerated?

I think there is a risk that the City could become too prescriptive. We need to encourage a sense of entrepreneurship within the City and accommodate a wide range of uses and occupiers which we can do by saying yes to more things. I’ve got such respect for entrepreneurs, who are brave enough to have an idea to pursue it to take risks, so when I think about people who set up businesses during the pandemic, my first thought is: what can we do to make their lives easier?

I believe that there is a big productivity problem which we need to tackle because productivity will drive economic growth. We can do this by making worker’s commute to the City easier, more pleasant, more flexible and affordable, in order to encourage and inspire people to return to the office. Crossrail will help this massively. Creating good working environments will also be important.

How transformative do you think the opening of Crossrail will be for the City?

I think Crossrail is going to be massively transformative and important for the City for two reasons. First, Crossrail will use standard TfL pricing which is really important as it will become more accessible to suburban locations and businesses which makes the City easier and more attractive to visit, and it will improve workers experience of the City.

Crossrail will also help with productivity in the City. People can land at Heathrow and head straight into the City. This will provide great economic benefits and it should also bring back some of the evening and weekend trade that the City needs after the pandemic.

As chair of the CPA, how do you think the CPA can achieve a more diverse and inclusive sector?

We need a ‘growth’ mindset and continue driving change in order to deliver the benefits that a more diverse and inclusive sector can bring. I believe that this will be done by lots of small steps which includes the importance of communicating and actively listening to each other.

Our CPA NextGen programme is helping to deliver these changes through their Diversifying Real Estate guidebooks. Also, I’m proud to say that the CPA Board and wider membership is more diverse than it was a few years ago, but we acknowledge there is still work to do. We are continually trying to improve and work towards a more diverse real estate sector.

You can read CPA’s 2022 priorities here.