Martha Grekos has been a planning lawyer for 23 years. She is now back in private practice as a partner for DAC Beachcroft, after several years spent running her own business. She is also a City of London Common Councillor for the Castle Baynard ward, elected in March 2022 for a three-year term. She was interviewed recently by our Director of Public Relations, Andrew Plant.
I’m trying to use my professional skills in other areas where I think I can hopefully add some value. During Covid, I was in and out of my consultancy office in Fleet Street. The area just felt run down. Shops were closing, tenants were vacating. It was grey and concrete and lacking any vision or enthusiasm. I just thought, ‘Gosh. I don’t really like this area.’ And I knew that I wanted to help out.
I got introduced to the people at the Fleet Street Quarter Business Improvement District (BID). Together we put together a vision for the area, to help it get back on its feet. The more I thought about it, the more I realised I could help even more by becoming a Councillor.
I’m a Londoner, born and bred, and I believe in the city. I really want to help this area to thrive again; get new businesses, attract new people. What is key for me is consulting and engaging with new developments. Give it three to four years with all these new developments coming through and it will go back to flourishing, and have a different history to celebrate. That’s why I became a councillor, not political aspiration of any sort.
Two things. Retail has suffered from workers not being in the city. It’s a little bit run down. It’s hard to entice people back in. So I want people to think the city is not just 9-5. It’s 24 hours. It’s about the weekends. Being a ‘Destination City’ is about getting visitors at any time of the day. So I’ve been going round talking to people, telling businesses about footfall and encouraging them to try new things, new opening hours, new ways to interest new visitors.
The second thing is improving the area. Working with developers and landlords to create better thoroughfares for pedestrians and cyclists. So people can cycle here and find something new; somewhere to sit down, take time out, realise a different destination exists. I want to stop people leaving the area and encourage them into new parts of the city. Change is happening and I’m working to encourage it.
I’m not in a hurry. I think I can achieve a lot in the three years that I’ve got. And I can always run for another term. All I want to do at the end of whatever my tenure may be is leave the city in a better state than I found it in, so if I can achieve the things I’ve set out to do then it will be on a better trajectory. Hopefully people will see the energy and momentum to keep that going, even if I don’t stay on for another term. I’m not in a hurry but it has to be done right, because Castle Baynard is a very special community. You need to take everybody on this journey with you.
My electorate have asked me the same thing – as have my partners at the law firm! I’m not good at sitting still. It’s all or nothing. For me it’s definitely all. Everything I do I am passionate about, and it drives me. I do have downtime though. I used to row at a high level. I ran the London Marathon recently. I saw one person holding up a sign saying, ‘If you run out of gas, blame Putin.’ I love this community. All of it energises me.