2021 has brought about a major change in focus for local authorities, as they pivot from COVID emergency mode to recovery planning. And, for many councils, regeneration and estate transformation is front and centre of these plans.
But what people want from their community has changed, with workers rejecting the idea of travelling to the office 5 days a week. According to ONS, in April 2020, 47% of those in employment worked entirely or partly from home – the vast majority of them as a result of the COVID pandemic. And there’s a lot of research to indicate that neither workers or employees expect to return to old working patterns: a CIPD study of 2000 UK employers found that 63% plan a permanent shift to hybrid working.
The increase in time spend in and around the home has accelerated interest in the “15-minute city”. This concept is founded on the argument that people enjoy a better quality of life when amenities are within 15 minutes reach by walking or cycling. It highlights the need for good quality, outside space where residents can spend their leisure time closer to home. That means more green spaces, outdoor gyms, less traffic and reduced pollution.
Home working and hybrid working also has implications for housing itself. Research from RIBA points to a demand for more flexible space in which to live and work.
All of this means that councils and developers now need to review existing plans, to make sure homes and estates are fit for the future. And, as they develop longer term plans for place and community, they need a sound understanding of what the future looks like for work, life and leisure.