Planning matters blog | Lichfields

Planning matters

Our award winning blog gives a fresh perspective on the latest trends in planning and development.

UK hotels market after Covid-19 – an uneven recovery?
It is stating the obvious that the hospitality sector was one of the hardest hit by the Covid-19 pandemic. The majority of businesses that provide holiday accommodation were forced to close in the first lockdown that started in March 2020, and, even after some restrictions were lifted, visitor confidence was slow to recover.
ONS figures show that consumer spending on hospitality started to increase once travel was permitted, but remained at less than 70% of pre-pandemic levels in May 2021.
This blog considers which UK cities have driven the hotel sector’s recovery since the pandemic and considers factors which will shape future growth.  

Domestic holidays and city breaks lead the recovery

The table below shows the top and bottom five locations in the UK in terms of hotel occupancy and revenue per available room in 2021 compared to pre-Covid (2019) figures.

Source: Colliers UK - The Recovery of the UK Hotel Market

1.  2021 occupancy measured as a % of 2019.

2.  RevPAR measured as a % of 2019. Revenue per available room is a performance measure used in the hospitality industry. RevPAR is calculated by multiplying a hotel’s average daily room rate by its occupancy rate.

In terms of occupancy, the locations that fared best in 2021 were those that are either popular domestic holiday or city break destinations in their own right (Bournemouth, Norwich), as well as those that are strategically located near to tourism hotspots (e.g. Gloucester – which is close to the Forest of Dean and the Cotswolds). The top five locations for occupancy recovery in 2021 were all in the south of England, again indicating that domestic summer holidays drove the bounce back in 2021.
The locations that recovered less well in 2021 were the major cities of England and Scotland, including London, Glasgow and Manchester. The hotel markets in these cities all rely heavily on business travel, international tourism, and major cultural and sporting events, most of which were not in full flow in 2021.

Looking ahead

2022 has been a more positive year for the hospitality sector, with UK average hotel occupancy reaching 80% in June 2022, compared to 57% in June 2021. This has been driven by a rebound in both leisure and business travel, including international tourism.
The resumption of major events this year such as a full-scale Edinburgh Fringe taking place this summer will have provided a boon to hoteliers (see my colleague Arabella’s blog on visitor accommodation challenges in Edinburgh). When it was recently announced that Liverpool will host the 2023 Eurovision Song Contest, asking prices for accommodation reached an eye-watering £8,000 a night – demonstrating that major events remain an important driver for hotel demand in the UK’s major cities.
Locations such as Newcastle, Blackpool and Bristol remain popular destinations for domestic travel, bolstered by demand for hen and stag parties. It is likely they will remain strong locations for the hotel sector.
Looking ahead, ongoing inflationary pressures and the cost of living crisis will no doubt be a concern for the hospitality sector. The silver lining for UK hoteliers may be that as belts are tightened, people may choose to take domestic holidays or UK city breaks rather than travelling abroad. Another silver lining for the UK hospitality sector is that the weak pound is acting as a spur for international travel to the UK, with US travellers regarding UK travel as being ‘on sale’.
Overall, although 2023 is likely to see challenges to all sectors of the economy, there will be opportunities for growth in the hotel market across the UK. Lichfields has built an enviable track record assisting in the delivery of hotel projects – ranging from stylish city locations to boutique rural retreats. For more information on Lichfields’ work in hotels please click here. If you would like to discuss opportunities for the market or a particular project, please get in touch and we will be happy to help.

Header image: The Athenaeum 



Greening the Grey

Greening the Grey

Tara Johnston 23 Nov 2022
The coronavirus pandemic has emphasised the importance of urban green spaces. The positive impact of green space to our mental health and wellbeing, physical health and fitness is generally accepted. According to The People and Nature Survey for England, led by Natural England in July 2020 (published in March 2021) almost half the population (46%) say that they are spending more time outside than before the pandemic [1]. The Survey also concluded that urban green spaces continue to be the most popular type of green space visited, with 50% of adults reporting a visit in a month.
Urban greening, once a term that was used to describe simple corner parks and the inclusion of trees within development proposals, now encapsulates a wide variety of creative designs, such as pocket parks, living walls, green roofs, urban farms and allotments [2].  As the climate change emergency intensifies, built environment professionals have been increasingly challenged to find new ways to use green infrastructure solutions to make cities more environmentally friendly and attractive places to live.  
When the Olympic Park in London was created it was acknowledged as being the most biodiverse new landscape in the UK [3]. Ten years since the 2012 Olympic and Paralympic Games, the Queen Elizabeth Olympic Park is the largest new urban park in the UK for over a century. I recently attended a design-led evening guided tour by LDA Design which discussed how the planting, habitat creation and design of the park sought to future-proof a hotter and wetter London. This tour demonstrated the multi-faceted approach to design, which allows the park to support a multitude of activities and wildlife, helps tackle the urban heat island effect and provides sustainable urban drainage systems to manage high rainfall events, which has successfully taken 4,000 homes out of flood risk. The Park also contains the ‘Great British Garden’, which integrates new planning designed for the Games with the hedgerows and woodlands that occupied the banks of the canal for years. This space provides a diverse green urban environment, which supports wildlife and biodiversity, as well as providing an aesthetic and communal asset.
The Olympic Park was successful as the principles of green infrastructure were built into the masterplan at the start of the process. Given the status of creating a legacy of the Olympics, there was a recognition of social and environmental values as well as financial values which has resulted in a successful urban park landscape.
Planning policy is catching up and there has been shift at national and local level that reflects the view of the increasing importance of urban greening. The National Planning Policy Framework (NPPF) 2021 changes include the addition of a reference to the importance of trees in improving the character and quality of urban environments (Paragraph 131).
London has been forward thinking in its approach to urban greening. The adoption of the London Plan (2021) brought the introduction of an urban greening policy (G5) which states that “major development proposals should contribute to the greening of London by including urban greening as a fundamental element of site and building design, and by incorporating measures such as high-quality landscaping (including trees), green roofs, green walls and nature-based sustainable drainage.”
With this policy, the urban greening factor was introduced. This requires all new major developments and refurbishments in London to include a greening element to buildings and the public realm. The purpose of this is to improve biodiversity, rainwater run-off, air/noise pollution and urban temperature regulation. The increasing importance of urban green space has not only been seen in London, but throughout the UK. In March 2021, Liverpool City Council made a commitment to protect all of the city’s parks and green spaces in perpetuity with the Fields in Trust charity [4].
Biodiversity net gain will mark another shift in requirements, pushing developers to consider vegetation and ecological benefits to their surroundings by requiring developments to deliver a minimum of 10% biodiversity net gain, through the implementation of a mandatory pre-commencement condition. It is currently anticipated that the condition will start to be imposed in November 2023, but this is already being requested by many Local Authorities. 
The intention of these new policies is to help create more sustainable high-quality places. But does it always work? When it comes to implementing urban greening, a main issue is the engineering and maintenance required. Areas of planting are more time consuming to maintain as they require watering, weeding, pruning and to keep them visually attractive, and litter removal is often required. Ongoing maintenance costs often get passed on to occupants through service charges. It is also acknowledged that there can be viability issues with urban greening as there can be significant costs for the installation of green features such as green walls and roofs. Without good management practices, these features can suffer and become a visual amenity issue. To realise the benefits from urban greening tools, it will be important to ensure that the correct management and maintenance is in place for the future of the development which can secured via the planning process, through planning conditions and legal agreements.
In our projects at Lichfields we are seeing an increase in diverse and innovative approaches for urban greening within development schemes.  We recently secured hybrid planning permission for U+I at Morden Wharf which is located on the southwestern end of the Greenwich Peninsula. The permission includes up to 1,500 homes set in more than six acres of high-quality public realm including a 4-acre landscaped public park opening up more than 275m of Thames riverfront that includes a river beach. Amongst other measures, the buildings will also feature vertical green façades that will help to provide natural screening and improve air quality.
As built environment professionals, we need to continue to explore new ways to help achieve net zero and adapt to the climate change impacts we are already facing. A crucial part of this is embedding urban greening into developments by careful planning and consideration early in the design process to ensure that these are a success for future generations to come.


[1] The People and Nature Survey for England: Monthly interim indicators for July 2020 (Experimental Statistics) - GOV.UK (
[2] The Importance of Urban Greening | Outdoor Living Walls (