London’s recovery is picking up speed as Derwent London chief executive Paul Williams hails the return of workers to the city’s offices and restaurants, while data reveals footfall and flexible workspace usage in the capital have soared to beyond pre-pandemic levels.

Speaking to Property Week ahead of the Westminster Property Association’s (WPA) annual lunch, WPA chair Williams said the hospitality and retail industries had been key to London’s revival.

“Restaurants in the West End are packed at the moment and retail is picking up ahead of Christmas – this vibrancy is key in people wanting to go back to offices in this fantastic city,” he said, adding that demand for office space in the city was also being fuelled by the “war for talent” among occupiers post pandemic. “We think office demand is back to good levels, but it is a precise demand for better buildings, really focused on better-quality spaces,” he said.

“We now have tenants ready to work with occupiers on reducing emissions, a need for creative, more flexible spaces and at the WPA we’re also helping maintain Covid-friendly buildings. This means it’s very much a war for talent, and what needs to be done over the next few years is for the sector to keep on creating quality, carbon-neutral buildings.”

Williams’ comments come as data from the New West End Company revealed that West End footfall for Saturday 13 November jumped 13% above equivalent 2019 figures – marking the first time West End footfall has returned to pre-pandemic levels. Data for the whole of Greater London from Workman shared exclusively with Property Week found that footfall for 3 October 2021 was up 13.7% year on year.

Meanwhile, data from WeWork shared with Property Week revealed that the average revenue per member (ARPM) for London in Q3 2021 was four percentage points above what it stood at in Q4 2019 and data from IWG showed a 31% surge in visits to its workspaces across London between August and September this year.

The rental housing market had also bounced back, said Shorecap analyst Alastair Stewart: “The real nail in the coffin was Covid and travel restrictions as a lot of London rental homes are for overseas workers, tourists and students. There was the fear that London was going to go to hell in a handcart because of Brexit and the city would empty out. All of it suddenly reversed and the London rental market is bouncing back, almost vertiginously.”