Uncovering the common ground in recovery

As part of our Building recovery programme, this roundtable aimed to highlight the key challenges facing the sector when it comes to prioritising fairness in recovery. Through a multi-disciplinary panel we sought to uncover shared priorities.  What was clear from the session is that there’s no shortage of ambition. We all want to reduce inequalities and use the opportunity of recovery to make our cities fairer and more inclusive. But regardless of our specialisms, we face barriers to achieving this and Covid has exacerbated issues meaning we have further to travel.

Watch the event


Roundtable Panel

  • Chatinder Bal, Director of Land, Metropolitan Thames Valley Housing
  • Samuel Blake, Head of Transport and Infrastructure Sector, Montagu Evans
  • Sam Boyle, Policy Officer, Business Disability Forum
  • Paul de Zylva, Senior Nature Campaigner, Friends of the Earth
  • Jude Hassall, Senior Policy and Projects Officer – Sustainable Development Team, GLA
  • Anouk Khan, COO, Real Estate Women
  • Laetitia Lucy, Senior Consultant, Arup
  • Robert MacDiarmid, Group Sustainability Director, Countryside
  • Jonathan Martin, Director of Inward Investment, LB Waltham Forest
  • Stephen Morris, Associate, Pollard Thomas Edwards
  • Paul Nehra, Head of Successful Places, L&Q
  • Laura Ratling, Project Manager, City of London Corporation
  • Hemali Topiwala, Programme Manager, LB Southwark
  • Anthony van Hoffen, Real Estate Partner, Lewis Silkin LLP
  • Joanna Ward, Freelance Transport Planner, Women in Transport
  • Luke Ward, Assistant Director – Development and Economy, LB Barnet

Setting the context

Anouk Khan told us that progress on the gender and ethnicity pay gaps has been stalled by the pandemic. The salary difference across all sectors between a white person and someone from a BAME background still stands at 20%.

Similarly, Paul de Zylva outlined the disparity in vital access to green space, made more apparent by the past year. Of the top 25 most deprived areas for green space in England, 17 are in London. Many people in deprived areas are missing out on the of benefits of green space such as a space for connecting with people and nature; a setting for physical exercise; and a boost to mental wellbeing.

Paul Nehra highlighted 65% of young people on L&Qs Learning to Succeed programme were less confident about their career prospects as a result of the pandemic and that they have concerns about their future role in the economy.

Responding to changing patterns

A common theme is the changing ways of living, working and using our cities that the pandemic has prompted.

  • With hybrid working likely to be the norm for many, we face issues around discounted ticketing for public transport. Jo Ward outlined that women have been feeling this for years due to the typical (but not universal) balance of part-time working and caring responsibilities. The national rail flexible season tickets just announced will go some way to addressing this and this is welcome news for equality.
  • Open-plan living isn’t really appropriate for or desired by all in a post-Covid world. Architect Stephen Morris said clients are now asking how we design homes to provide separate workspace, whilst balancing budget and space standards.
  • Luke Ward told us that in London Borough of Barnet there is a need to radically increase the scale and pace of skills and employment support, given the scarcity of retail and hospitality opportunities. This is the case in many other boroughs.
  • Flexible working and the ability to take time off for medical appointments has had huge benefits for people with disabilities and long-term health conditions. Sam Boyle of Business Disability Forum highlighted that the speed at which home working was adopted and made comfortable for people is in stark contrast to the usual, overly bureaucratic processes for disabled people to obtain adjustments.

Towards shared solutions

The strong message from our panel and the audience is that we need to put the communities who could most serve to benefit from fairer cities at the heart of our strategies and projects. Genuine engagement requires time and flexibility. Lara Ratling encouraged us to build this into our processes and decision-making. We all need to be willing do things in new ways and to relinquish power.

The panel agreed with Anthony van Hoffen’s statement that we as a sector need a shared definition of social value and how we measure it. We lack clarity between sectors on social priorities and we can’t demonstrate impact and progress on some of the outcomes to do with wellbeing and community strength. But Jude Hassall recognised that delivering social impact is difficult. We need to shift to a more long-sighted approach, different measures of success and a deeper understanding of the communities we work with. And there’s no quick fix for this.

“The bottom line needs to incorporate the risks of not delivering for communities now and into the future” Jude Hassall, Greater London Authority

The answer to many of the issues raised is increasing the diversity of our sector so that we are better able to have conversations with, and design places for, a broader range of people. We all have a role to play in this.

One way to ensure economic recovery is inclusive, is to use culture as a tool as well as a goal. Laeticia Lucy put forward that our city’s reputation for culture has a huge influence on the students, employees and companies who base themselves here. Culture offers the chance to bring people together, generate jobs and form identity. Jonathan Martin demonstrated that LB Waltham Forest’s London Borough of Culture programme has proved this is possible. So there’s a role for culture and the arts to play in our recovery strategies – reducing inequalities by generating economic activity and engaging creatively with communities.

A focus on opportunity

There was a real feeling of possibility for us as a sector to respond to recovery in a way that makes our cities fairer. One example shared by Robert MacDiarmid was the opportunities of a shift to greener construction to meet employment needs. Another was Samuel Blake’s suggestion is to use newly closed streets (through low traffic neighbourhoods) as a setting for wellbeing pop-ups.

“What other career offers us the opportunity to influence the way people live, work and play every day of our lives?” Joanna Ward, Women in Transport

Responding to the issues raised in this roundtable, the Building recovery programme will be showcasing best practice to address the barriers and opportunities highlighted. You can follow progress here.


During the roundtable our panellists and audience shared some valuable resources, listed below:

Social value

Future of London’s previous project on social value: https://www.futureoflondon.org.uk/knowledge/social-value/

London Sustainable Development Commission social value insights paper: https://www.london.gov.uk/sites/default/files/social_value_insights_paper_0.pdf


Centre for Social Justice Disability Commission report: https://www.centreforsocialjustice.org.uk/library/now-is-the-time-a-report-by-the-csj-disability-commission

Women in Transport network: https://www.womenintransport.com/

Public space

Friends of the Earth’s Green Space Gap report: https://policy.friendsoftheearth.uk/insight/englands-green-space-gap

England Trees Action report: https://assets.publishing.service.gov.uk/government/uploads/system/uploads/attachment_data/file/987061/england-trees-action-plan.pdf


The Transport Planning Society’s bursary competition this year focused on ‘A transport system that is accessible for everyone – how do we make this happen?’ https://tps.org.uk/bursaries


Research piece commissioned by G15 to provide Home for Heroes: https://www.networkhomes.org.uk/media/9201/g15-homes-for-heroes-web-dps-final.pdf

Arts and culture

Mayor of London Centre Activities Zone economic futures research: https://www.london.gov.uk/business-and-economy-publications/central-activities-zone-caz-economic-futures-research