Five minutes with Simon Baynham, Chairman of The Harley Street BID

Each month, we spend five minutes with one of the impressive professionals that call Harley Street home. This month it's over to our very own Simon Baynham, Chairman of The Harley Street BID.

Can you tell us a little bit about your work at The Harley Street?

I was an Executive Director at Howard de Walden Estates where I worked for 25 years as their Head of Property.

I retired in October 2020 and now hold a number of non executive director posts including chairing the BID, a private property company and am also involved in a number of medical initiatives, mainly putting the right people in contact with each other.

Describe your average day.

I am now retired but come up to London once a week for meetings. I also do emails each morning over breakfast and if it’s raining! I often compare my new life as being like a student. I have a long list of things I want to do each day, I usually achieve very few but then there is always tomorrow.

How did you get to where you are today?

I studied Estate Management and then became a chartered surveyor. My first job was with London Merchant Securities who were based in Marylebone. After 5 years I moved to private practice and then 11 years later moved to HDW.  I was very fortunate that when I joined in 1995 as we were emerging from a long and deep property recession. Therefore we enjoyed a sustained period of recovery.

How has Covid-19 impacted your organisation?

Financially, it was a difficult time for the company. Central London residential rents fell like a stone, non food retailers really struggled and many rents were rebased and other concessions granted. But the company were fortunate that it had a major medical portfolio which compared to other sectors including offices was better placed to ride out the lockdown. However, the company had recently moved offices and therefore the IT systems were up to date which enabled home working to be adopted with relative ease.

What do you like most about being based on Harley Street?

I know so many people in the area and I can often bump into three or four people I know when I walk from one building to another. It is also a surprisingly tranquil area given its proximity to Oxford Street. This is due to the low rise buildings, the 400 or so listed properties in the BID footprint making it one of the most historically important parts of Britain. 50% of the buildings by floor area are residential which gives the area a certain calmness during the day and ensures a good evening and weekend vibe.

What are your thoughts on the future of the Harley Street Area?

The Harley Street Area has fantastic potential to make a much greater contribution to the economy and our nations healthcare. The NHS is under so much pressure and just chucking more money at it is unsustainable and unaffordable particularly in the context of an increasingly ageing population as the baby boomers like me reach retirement, coupled with reduced numbers of working age upon whose financial shoulders we will all depend to keep the economy going.  I believe the area can also attract much more overseas medical tourism, helping the economy not just in medical fees but in hotel, shopping and other expenditure. Medical expenditure accounts for just a small percentage of a medical tourist’s expenditure in the UK particularly those that visit accompanied. I would also like to see a closer link between Harley Street and the growing life science sector in London centred around Kings Cross. I believe there is a natural synergy between the two sectors.

How does the Harley Street BID support your business?

It is early days for The BID but it’s aim is to help all businesses in the area through a number of initiatives. But the BID also sets out to improve the environment through better  greening, way finding, safety, street cleaning, seating, vehicle collections and loading, parking and other public realm initiatives.

How could a visitor to the area spend their time here?

There are many destinations to visit such as The Wallace collection and The Wigmore Hall. But just walking the area and taking in the architecture is satisfying.

Any particular recommendations or hidden gems?

Marylebone High Street has in the past been voted by Time Out readers, the UK’s best High St, and in my view still is.

It’s a great place to do your Christmas shopping or meet up with a friend.