Chatham near top of UK lockdown recovery chart

A Kent town centre has been named one of the top three places in the UK to benefit from the country’s new work-from-home culture.

Researchers have studied mobile phone data to see which towns and cities have ‘recovered’ from lockdown and those which are still struggling.

Chatham is third in the recovery league table Picture: Peter Still(39005053)

London sits bottom of the’recovery index’ because the office workers who usually commute into the city are staying at home- but the number of people in commuter towns has increased.

Chatham sits in third place in the index behind only Basildon and Birkenhead.

The data has been compiled by think-tank Centre for Cities, and also shows Edinburgh, Cardiff, Oxford and Manchester struggling.

Despite Boris Johnson’s plea for office workers to return to work many of the nation’s biggest companies, including RBS, Google and Facebook will allow their employees to work from home for the foreseeable future, meaning city centres particularly London are likely to be deserted for some time.

Centre for Cities Director of Policy and Research Paul Swinney said: ‘London’s size and the ability of many of its office-based workers to continue to work from home are likely to be the main reasons why it is having one of the slowest recoveries from lockdown.

Scenes from Chatham town centre.
High Street, Chatham.
Picture: Peter Still(39005070)
Scenes from Chatham town centre. High Street, Chatham. Picture: Peter Still(39005070)

‘Having smaller shares of private car owners is likely to be an additional factor given that many people are still reluctant to use public transport to travel into the centre.’

There are still 33% fewer people out walking and 39% fewer public transport passengers in London compared to a January benchmark, while the number of drivers is back to normal, according to Apple.

In contrast, Britain as a whole has seen a 16% spike in car journeys and a small three percent dip in the number of walkers.

London usually attracts 30million visitors every year, so the decline in tourism and commuter travel has hit it particularly hard.

Commuter towns like Chatham attracted far fewer visitors so saw a less dramatic decline in footfall after the lockdown, as many residents stopped travelling to work and stayed at home instead.

Additional research by the think-tank shows the majority of office workers across the country are still unwilling to return, but that they are even less likely to do so if they live in big cities.

In contrast there is substantial enthusiasm for remote working, with one in three office staff saying they intended to stay at home after coronavirus.

Pablo Shah, a senior economist at the CEBR, said: ‘This seismic shift, taking place in months rather than decades, will transform the worlds of property, transport, retail, leisure and, not least, fashion. Ten years ago, this would not have been possible.’

The research further indicated that between 25 per cent and 30 per cent of employees will be working from home on any one day in 2021.

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