When I asked back in July ‘where are the urbanists?’, it was a question I asked with my serious face on.

Seriously, if the post COVID or post pandemic (to be more precise) scenario is the ‘build back mantra’ that’s been with us for 5 months now with little tangible outcomes in cities for what this means beyond a few cycle lanes here and there (and these have their proponents) and perhaps the 15-minute city. Or was it the 20-minute neighbourhood? or the Doughnut? Does anyone remember Lord Richard Roger’s Urban Task Force Report? What was it, the 800m (15 minute walk) to the train station… That was 1999 people! It even talked about new financial instruments for attracting institutional investors into the residential private rented sector.

I am minded to again say that we (i.e. YOU organisations) cannot and, more importantly, will not be able to innovate if you don’t have the people to innovate. It’s logical, and we will call you out. Same way I called out racism in the property industry. It is what it is, and you cannot dance around it with commissions and committees and conversations…. It’s either Black Lives Matter or a Trump win in the elections in November. Today, according to Michael Moore, it’s the latter that’s the more probable outcome.

You might think you are an expert on innovation and thought leadership but you are not. Honestly, you are not! Carbon budgeting? Vulnerable adults? ESG reporting?

If you are an expert, tell me why has COVID19 accelerated and highlighted the need to adhere to ESG requirements to create a most sustainable future (quoting a financier in property)? Why do you believe the utterly useless EPC ratings system that few landlords, buyers, sellers, and tenants understand must be improved instead of consigned to the bin of history (remember the blog ‘Bonfire of the COVID agencies‘ on Public Health England?) Consigned to the bin of history. Kind of anyway!

Planners will lead the way of course. They have to. But they’ve also got to see the big picture and understand dependencies, and comparables, even when each site is unique. As a councillor, I am bewildered (as I am this week) when I come across an officer’s report granting permission because a new build in a garden that’s alienated neighbours and was refused by an inspector but has cycle storage is ok. No mention of solar panels (shh.. don’t mention the flat roof), no mention of high performance glazing, bespoke low energy lighting, recycling facilities, etc..

We can’t blame COVID for everything but it seems nearly everyone is hell bent on taking advantage of COVID to excuse bad planning, not consulting with residents, selling dubious financial products, build a new tax system, become an expert on absolutely anything and everything… It’s a long list.

One thing is certain and has been clear from Day Zero back in March, and that is that the uptake of e-commerce (Amazon in particular) and the adoption of video-conferencing (Zoom shares rocketing) have increased rapidly.

As World Bank colleagues wrote last week, this is a distinctive feature of crises – that they can accelerate otherwise slow-moving trends. Crises can be harnessed by those seeking to create positive change, providing a rare upside in bleak and challenging times. They can also be harnessed by those who want to swing the pendulum the other way. This is why organisations must hang onto or bring on board people who have fluency over the detail.

I wonder whether No 10 Downing Street is listening/reading as it hunts for a Spokesperson. Would they hire a journalist, or someone with that fluency, setting a good example for others?