Speech: Marcus Geddes, newly elected WPA Chair lays out business priorities in inaugural address

20 Apr 2023

Thanks Oli for that kind introduction and for hosting us here today. What an impressive building and a fitting venue to mark this year’s AGM drinks reception. I am sure the scheme will be a great success.

I am delighted to address you this evening as the new Chair of WPA…….but before we look forward to our priorities for the coming year, it would be remiss not to look back and say a collective and a hearty “thank you” to my predecessor, Paul Williams, for his exemplary stewardship of WPA.

Paul guided the Association through the fragile pandemic recovery and into and through an unprecedented period of political and economic turbulence.

As Vice Chair working alongside Paul during his two year tenure, I’ve seen first-hand his sharp insight, boundless energy and commitment and of course his deft negotiating and cajoling skills.

So on behalf of us all here, and especially the Board, Paul thank you for your extraordinary leadership and fantastic achievements of your tenure –  not least the Sustainable City Charter, developed and launched in partnership with Westminster City Council.

Sustainable economic growth is key to achieving the aims of a fairer, more equitable future for the communities we operate in. More than ever, The WPA executive team AND our members are committed to working with the City Council on our many shared goals. Crucially,  ensuring that the economic and social opportunities that we’re all working hard to deliver flow right across the City’s resident population.

Working with the City Council or independently, WPA members are making valuable contributions to our local communities.

I’m sure our keynote speaker here this evening, Cllr Adam Hug, Leader of the City Council will want to say a few words on this shortly.

Business Priorities

A lot has happened over the past year.  But I want to focus on the positives.

We have seen the opening of the Elizabeth line, which has been transformative. It is already the busiest line in the capital, carrying more than 600,000 passengers daily.

Its opening has no doubt helped to fuel the demand for high quality sustainable spaces with good amenity provision…… just like where we are today. The West End has outperformed other parts of London, and indeed global city competitors, on many levels over the past year.

Despite global volatility and domestic political issues, the West End’s resilience has continued to surpass all expectations. But success cannot be taken for granted….we must work together to ensure it enables inclusive growth as part of a sustainable global city.

Which brings me to the 2023/24 Business Priorities the Board has endorsed under my tenure as Chair and is supported by James Raynor, from Grosvenor, as our newly appointed Vice Chair.

The four pillars of our programme are:

  • Supporting the West End’s economic, social and cultural resilience
  • Championing a sustainable City
  • Strong private and public sector collaboration
  • A more diverse and equitable future for Westminster’s young people
  1. Supporting the West End’s economic, social and cultural resilience

 Our members are investing in the spaces and places that make the West End a global destination for workers, visitors, residents and tourists.  At the heart of this is the essential role of the office.

The pandemic has accelerated a shift in the way we work and spend our time, but its evolution as a place that can bring colleagues and peers together to collaborate and innovate and will continue to form a fundamental part of our approach.

  1. Championing a sustainable built environment

Decarbonising Westminster’s built environment is a huge challenge, and the WPA will play its role in convening the industry to drive meaningful change. As part of this we will be:

  • Building on the success of the Sustainable City Charter to help drive down operational carbon emissions from commercial buildings.
  • Using the WPA network to share industry best practice and drive forward new innovations in delivering net zero buildings and places.
  • Promoting the role of city centres as leaders in low carbon living.
  • Supporting the industry to decarbonise its inefficient building stock.
  • And finally……. leading the discussion on creating truly sustainable places, taking into account social, economic and environmental sustainability.
  1. Strong private and public sector collaborationWorking with Westminster Council on our shared aspirations is essential, along with other partners such as Young Westminster Foundation and 2-3 Degrees, both of whom are at the forefront of opening up real opportunities to the City’s young residents. 
  1. And last, but no means least. Promoting diversity, equity and inclusion in the real estate sector

Our active NextGen network is helping to lead the way here – working with Young Westminster Foundation – to support The FUTURE…that is the incoming talent that’s finding its feet somewhere across the breadth of roles that our industry has to offer.

Our successful series of diversity guides will continue with the support of NextGen, whose work I’m delighted we will hear more about from the group’s new Chair, Emma Lally, shortly.

Before that, I am delighted to welcome Cllr Hug here this evening, who after almost a year in office, will update us on the council’s priorities and how we can all continue to build meaningful public and private collaboration.

So with that, it just remains for me to thank you all, our members and stakeholders, for your continued support, as well as the Board for putting its faith in me to take the organisation into its next chapter.

Further reading:

Read: Press release – Marcus Geddes is elected Chair of the WPA

Read: WPA 2023 Priorities