The property sector must embrace technology fully and move its focus away from London.

That was the view of a cohort of dynamic young professionals speaking at a next-generation event at MIPIM 2019.

A panel entitled ‘The future’s bright, the future’s different and we are shaping it’ on Cheshire and Warrington’s stand saw influential young industry experts voice their views on London’s domination, diversity, planning, the pace of change and technology.

Will Savage, head of Birmingham at Snapdragon Consulting, said tech can facilitate engagement with communities.
“The systems that are in place to consult with young people are completely out of date. Local Authorities are still putting their planning applications in the local library or adverts in the local press and that is not going to engage with young people,” he said.

“What we are trying to do is use digital communications, websites with downloadable materials or interactive maps in order to bring planning applications to life for young people and engage more on social media.

“For example a Facebook advertising campaign might cost £300 and engage with 10-15,000 people online. If you spend the same on an advert in the local press you might get 1,000 in the readership and of those, 50 people might read the advert.

“So the sector has to move online if we want to engage with local people and to make the most of planning.”

Isabelle Hease, head of research and analytics at Ellandi, argued that the sector needed to put people at the centre of all of the decisions made in terms of development planning, regeneration and repurposing to accommodate the needs of a population. 

“This will ensure that we are attracting, not only a younger generation of talent and of residents and of users, but also making a space that is really engaging and retaining the current community,” she said.

“That could be family groups or an older generation to ensure that we are creating community hubs which have retail, residential, and education for all of those groups, but also a wide variety of leisure and amenities, services and uses.”

Savage also addressed how the pull of London affects the sector. “I am critical of the property industry being too London-centric,” he said.

“We need to see more interventionist policy to support regional economies, in particular ensuring young people don’t automatically drift towards London. 

“Young people think that London is the place to go if you want to make your mark in the industry, but that’s not the case.”

Kate Healey, director of Inform PR and Communications, believes that the power of social media, like Instagram, is helping to make a difference.

“We need to encourage the media to cover the regions more and to host more events in the region to promote our expertise and excellence and the opportunities that are here,” she said.

“They have been away, focusing mostly on the South East, but it’s time to come back. However, the media scene in the North West is evolving at an impressive rate and we have some great titles like BusinessCloud to target and engage with to keep people informed and interested in what’s happening to the buildings and places around them.”

Louise Nisbet, partner at Knights plc, said that the sector needed to speed it up its approach.
She said: “The property industry is not behaving in a way that answers the next generation’s needs. If it were, then it moves too slowly in any event. Processes take too long and projects are out of date once complete.

“Look at new build real developments for example, so I feel better collaboration is needed. Change is slow but as we - the younger generation - move into positions of power and the older generations retire, change will follow.