Sadiq Khan has said that London must be “cautious” about repurposing office and retail space without first “seeing if we can do everything we can” to bring people back to central London.
The current Mayor of London was speaking to business leaders from across the capital at an event organised by the London Chamber of Commerce and Industry ahead of the mayoral election on May 6.
Responding to questions about central London’s economic recovery from the Covid-19 pandemic, Mr Khan said that increasing footfall and the return of domestic tourism this summer will “kickstart the return to working from the office”.
He said: “I don’t foresee our future being everyone working from home, but also I think we’ve got to be realistic that not everyone is going to return back (to offices) in the numbers we had before the pandemic.
“On a normal day, we had more than five million bus journeys, more than four million Tube journeys. I don’t think we are going to return there in the short to medium term. That means being smart and innovative about how we bring people back.”
Mr Khan, who is seeking re-election on May 6, told business leaders that a £6 million campaign from City Hall, announced earlier this year, will help to “kickstart” domestic tourism and provide a boost to central London’s economy.
He believes this can capitalise on the rescheduled Euro 2020 games at Wembley this summer as well as the “world class cricket” coming to the capital.
“I think we’ve got to be a bit cautious in relation to rushing towards repurposing without seeing if we can do everything we can to bring back people to the West End,” said Mr Khan.
He went on to say that repurposing office or commercial spaces in places such as Oxford Street would be “counterproductive”.
He added that “it would be bad for there to be lots of flats there, particularly if they’re not good quality flats” if Oxford Street is to remain a “world class retail space”.
Last month, a survey of around 500 businesses in the capital conducted by the London Chamber found that more than half planned to continue remote working in some form after the pandemic and that around 32 per cent said they would operate with reduced physical space such as offices.