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GET IN THE cultural groove
Smallworks
InBrief #1
COUNCIL STILL confident
BOOST FOR Strood
Vibrant small businesses
ON THE race track
REIT flies in
InBrief #2
NEW TO Bromley
HIGH FIVES FOR Croydon
Altus Group Henry Adams

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Kent, Surrey & Sussex Commercial Property News - Wednesday, September 30, 2020

Issue #60

GET IN THE cultural groove

Kent, Surrey & Sussex News

Sadly, the outbreak of coronavirus has put a question mark on a growing policy among local authorities in the three counties to put faith into expanding their cultural and digital facilities as part of the drive for economic growth in the face of the tough time hitting their High Street shops.

Fortunately, the schemes are long term and should continue.

There are schemes in a number of towns to augment the cultural offer, such as expanding Colonnade House in Worthing and boosting the successful creative industries in Ramsgate. Brighton, of course, has a thriving cultural scene.

Similar policies have been followed in Folkestone with its arts festival for some time. Expanding the cultural effort increases the attractions of town centres and helps the climate for commercial development as well as mitigating the woes of vacant shops.

Research by Heritage Lab CIC and Canterbury Christ Church University, funded by Locate in Kent and the Arts Council England, highlighted that Ramsgate is helping to contribute over £165 million to the UK economy through its creative sector. The report said this had a major impact on the seaside town’s economy.

In the town made famous by world renowned authors, artists and architects such as Jane Austen, Wilkie Collins, Mary Townley, Vincent Van Gogh and Edward Pugin, there are estimated to be 233 creative enterprises contributing £85 million to the local economy each year. The figure of £165 million relates to those people working in the UK wide creative sector.

Locate in Kent suggests that Ramsgate illustrates the growing appeal of the south east to the creative industries which comes from connectivity to London, lower property prices and a growing talent pool.

Heritage Lab CIC’s role in this is to bring heritage buildings and community assets back into sustainable use, boosting local employment. They are currently bidding to save Edward Pugin’s Grade II listed Granville Hotel by restoring 1,600 sq.metres (17,223 sq.ft.) of space in the former ballroom, theatre and bar to create spaces for exhibitions, performances, community events and conferences and gallery and interpretation space to be known as Pugin’s Chambers.

Rob Kenyon of Heritage Lab CIC said: “It is clear from this report that our diverse and growing creative sector is putting Ramsgate well and truly on the map and we aim to help the sector to thrive by regenerating some of the town’s heritage buildings”.

Gavin Cleary of Locate in Kent said: “Ramsgate is ideally placed as a prime location for those wanting to invest or relocate to Kent”.

Emma Wilcox of Creative Estuary, a new concept that is promoting the Thames Estuary Production Corridor, said: “Ramsgate has the key role to play in the delivery of the Corridor”.

Smallworks

Kent, Surrey & Sussex News

With its 41,805 sq.metres (450,000sq.ft.) of industrial buildings in Kent (and more than six times that nationally) Chancerygate is now experiencing a bounce in the level of viewings following the Brexit result.

It specialises in smaller Grade A warehouse units, which have historically been in undersupply, and suit SMEs. It measures the rise in viewings and units going under offer at 30%.

Chancerygate said: “Prospective occupiers continue to be interested in owning the freehold of their property, and this is even more evident as rental growth in industrial property has been significant recently. The company has offered occupiers the chance to buy freeholds of their units for over 20 years”.

InBrief #1

Kent, Surrey & Sussex News

Kingsbridge Estates has sold its 7,618 sq.metres (82,000 sq.ft.) warehouse in Chichester Food Park to a private overseas investor advised by Lambert Smith Hampton. Chris Fry of Kingsbridge said: “Having maximised the value of the unit, we have now sold, enabling us to reinvest in new developments”. Jerry Vigus of LSH said: “This transaction is a substantial investment for our clients, who have secured a long term interest in a well managed park”.

COUNCIL STILL confident

Kent, Surrey & Sussex News

Worthing is also captivated by the concept of culture and the digital sector, leading the regeneration of the town centre by developing Colonnade House.

It has proved to be a success in its four years of operation as a gallery for local artists and designers and now the council wants to expand this into adjacent buildings. The result will be a prominent building in the centre.

It will provide a home for a range of businesses and Bob Lanzer of West Sussex County Council said: “The aims of the ‘Space to Make‘ programme (a national programme) is closely aligned with our ambitions to grow the creative and digital sector along the south coast”.

Meanwhile, the recent closure of the landmark Beales store in the town centre has put pressure on the local economy. However, Councillor Kevin Jenkins said: “We’re encouraged about the future of our town centre” arguing that low vacancy rates, a growing food and drink offer and thriving theatres and cinemas gave it an edge.

The council will bring in citizen WiFi, new pedestrianised areas and other regeneration projects (such as the redevelopment of Union Square and current schemes on the site adjacent to the railway station) with Jenkins saying: “Worthing town centre is “holding its own’ compared with other UK towns”.

BOOST FOR Strood

Kent, Surrey & Sussex News

A plan for a mixed use scheme as part of a wider waterfront regeneration project in Strood, Kent has been boosted by Carter Jonas marketing the former Civic Centre.

The masterplan for the site envisages 550 residential units with community facilities and commercial space use together with leisure and retail units adjacent to the High Street and Rochester Bridge.

Jon Pinkerton of Carter Jonas commented: “Medway Council has already delivered significant improvements in Strood town centre and is now turning its attention to the ambitious vision for the waterfront.

We anticipate strong demand for this well located opportunity”.

Also in Kent, Barwood Capital has bought the 4.2 acre plot 3 at the Eurolink Business Park, Sittingbourne for its Regional Property Growth Fund IV from Trenport Investments.

Barwood aims to build 7,804 sq.metres (84,000 sq.ft.) in three units on a speculative basis with Tavis House Properties as the development manager. Eurolink is a 28 acre site that Swale Borough Council has zoned for R&D, light industrial, manufacturing and warehousing.

Trenport’s Richard Hall said: “Eurolink continues to have success along with the performance of all our projects in Kent and we are looking for more opportunities”.

Ed Henson of Barwood said: “Sittingbourne’s location in the Thames Gateway, with good access to the M2 and M20 and links into London’s south east and south coast ports, means it is in a great location for logistics and manufacturing companies. There is currently a lack of supply in the area”.

Vibrant small businesses

Kent, Surrey & Sussex News

The south east is in line to benefit from the growth of the small and medium sized companies that are predicted to drive the commercial property market over the next two years.

This emerges from a survey by the finance group Together, which found that six out of ten SMEs intend to boost their business by extending their existing sites for additional staff.

Among firms with property plans, 30% are looking to move to bigger premises, while one in six intends to extend their existing premises. Others will buy additional buildings or construct from scratch.

Andrew Charnley of Together said: “There is real evidence of a property boom getting underway as business owners finally feel assured enough to commit investment into a move or extend where they are”.

In the south east, 52% of the respondents plan to expand.

Interestingly, 29% of the respondents said there was a shortage of property in their areas, something that is certainly true of the south east and along the south coast.

Finance will be key for SMEs and Charnley said “Finance is also a concern for business owners, with around 200,000 SMEs saying they are worried about lenders not understanding their business”.

In a further useful analysis of the market, the specialist adviser on occupiers, DeVono Cresa, found that regional office markets are experiencing a renaissance in tenant demand.

A positive attitude from the local council is a key factor for SMEs in finding the space to expand. One of the best examples in the south east has to be Ashford where the council has been the major factor in the town’s renaissance.

The quality of the developments has also been important and two of them, the Curious Brewery and Elwick Place, designed by architect Guy Hollaway, have been recognised with listings for awards.

The Curious Brewery was shortlisted for an AJ (Architects Journal) award.

Hollaway commented: “Ashford Borough Council is one of the most forward thinking councils that we work with. They are prepared to invest in the town and for the future. This is exciting for architects and will make Ashford a great place for people to visit and live in”.

ON THE race track

Kent, Surrey & Sussex News

Another town with a vision of improvement and growth is Folkestone. Folkestone & Hythe District Council has bought the Folkestone Racecourse from Cozumel Estates for £25 million.

This provides 200 acres for development and there is the option of purchasing an adjacent 440 acres of farmland.

Known as Otterpool Park, the council has a masterplan to create a garden town with 50% green space and up to 10,000 residential units, together with community facilities and commercial space. The plan is to spread the construction over a 30 year period.

Cllr David Monk said: “We have worked with Cozumel Estates in an innovative public/private sector partnership and have advanced the project to a stage where the council will now take the lead. Otterpool Park is an opportunity for us to deliver an exemplar garden town, bringing homes across a range of tenures, employment opportunities, leisure facilities, green spaces and major infrastructure improvements”.

REIT flies in

Kent, Surrey & Sussex News

Even tiny Biggin Hill Airport is sharing in the favourable climate for commercial development at airports in the UK.

LXI REIT has acquired by way of a pre let forward funding, a new maintenance, repair and overhaul facility at the airport.

The 21,553 sq.metres (232,000 sq.ft.) industrial property is used by business jets and is let to an international aerospace group on a 35 year lease.

Simon Lee of LXI REIT said: “This property will provide a long term secure income, attractive levels of contractual annual rental growth and significant capital growth potential”.

InBrief #2

Kent, Surrey & Sussex News

Cairngorm Capital Partners has sold Unit 8, Courtlands Road, Eastbourne through Vail Williams to a private pension scheme for an undisclosed sum.

The building will be leased back to Sussex Turnery & Moulding. Toby Yates of Vail Williams said: “The transaction allows our client to release equity to enable further investments in their growth strategy, creating the largest builders’ merchants in the south east”.

NEW TO Bromley

Kent, Surrey & Sussex News

Bromley could be in for a major boost following the Commercial Group’s plans for a 13,006 sq.metres (140,000 sq.ft.) business park, the first office scheme in the town for 20 years.

This fits with the group’s plans for three business hubs in the south east, the others being at Crawley and Haywards Heath.

The aim for Bromley Park is for the design to maximise the working environment by providing such facilities as green terraces and communal garden features as well as gyms.

The group, which is a partnership of developer John Baker and Sir Robert McAlpine said that it “is responding to a trend where more talented professionals move to places like Bromley for a more flexible lifestyle and better commute.

In a recent survey from estate agent LiFE Residential, Bromley was one of only two boroughs outside London’s Zone 1 where more than two thirds of respondents reported being satisfied with their commute”.

John Baker commented: “We believe Bromley could be an extremely attractive location for major companies, especially if we are able to provide the kind of modern, green, high tech and well connected office space that they are looking for. Bromley has a growing professional workforce and is a prime destination for major companies to base their headquarters, but there is no office space”.

Philip Lapper of Baxter Philips said: “We have already concluded office lettings this year at Grade A buildings such as Hanover Place and Northside House of approximately 12,000 and 6000 sq.ft. respectively. Quoting rents remain firm at £27 psft - £32.50 psft. With vacant stock levels reducing we remain keen for new and existing investors to continue to commit to the town”.

HIGH FIVES FOR Croydon

Kent, Surrey & Sussex News

Once again culture figures in the projection of Croydon as a vibrant business centre now that it has been chosen to be London Borough of Culture in 2023.

This brings with it a £1.35 million funding package from City Hall to underpin the 10 flagship events which are expected to involve 20,000 participants.

Croydon has been through a period of substantial change in the past few years with a considerable number of new commercial developments, persuading Savills that “it has become a stronghold of the Greater London office market, offering good quality space at a considerable discount to nearby central London. Consequently the town’s popularity with occupiers has continued to grow”. In turn this has brought a sharp rise in rents.

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