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Thames Valley Commercial Property News - Saturday, February 4, 2017

Issue #56

Investment SOARS

Thames Valley News

Given the extent of the market fall following the Brexit vote last year, the question will be to what extent a recovery occurs.

The advantage for the Thames Valley is that it is the main area for technology companies and this is the sector that is making most progress, particularly in the property industry, because of new systems coming with digitisation.

Another positive factor is that the decline in the international value of Sterling is bringing in more foreign investment to commercial property as part of a widening of the investor base and its shift more broadly throughout the UK away from London.

In the case of the Thames Valley, performance will be enhanced by transport improvements, notably Crossrail where there is political pressure to start services earlier than the due date of 2018. It is not widely known that the construction side, particularly the tunnels, is well ahead of schedule and the government wants to see action.

Unfortunately, testing of the new trains has proved that they are not yet up to scratch.

The reality of the market was, said Lambert Smith Hampton, that the third quarter in the Thames Valley was quiet. Nick Coote commented: “Given the referendum ghost quarter (the third) the office market has coped well. Not only was the fourth quarter transactional activity up 49% on Q3, but it was also 37% higher than the same period of 2015”.

This supports LSH’s view of a healthy 2017.

Also, investment has been close to the record year of 2015 so there is still confidence in the long term. Taking the broader UK view, Colliers International believes investment volumes will recover slightly this year and the investor base will widen with new entrants, particularly from Asia.

Mark Charlton of Colliers said: “US foreign and economic policies will cause substantial shifts in global capital flows with considerable capital flight from emerging markets. The UK will see increased inflows as global instability enhances the UK’s safe haven status”.

That is at the centre of the investment debate; the safe haven status versus the uncertainty of the Brexit negotiations. Colliers is betting on a modest improvement in investment returns this year.

For its part, Savills notes that 30% of the investment from the Middle East since the referendum has been outside London. In total, Middle Eastern investors spent £1,431 billion in the UK in 2016.

CHARGING CHINEHAM

Thames Valley News

The innovative rapid electric charging company, InstaVolt, has taken a 10 year lease on 466.8 metres (5,025 sq.ft.) at Patrizia’s Unit 6 Cedarwood on Chineham Park in Basingstoke at a headline rent of £16.00 psf.

The company aims to improve air quality and reduce carbon emissions by establishing a network of vehicle charging points across the UK. CEO, Tim Payne, said: “Basingstoke is the perfect place for our headquarters with the town being one of the fastest growing in the UK and with excellent access to the motorway network”.

Andrew Newman of Hollis Hockley, joint agents with Strutt & Parker, said: “As well as benefiting from the connectivity and on site amenities offered by Chineham Park, InstaVolt has chosen a location which provides a prestigious headquarters building in a naturally landscaped environment”.

Regus REVS UP

Thames Valley News

If the expansion of Regus is a guide, the economy is moving along at a reasonable pace in the Thames Valley.

The serviced office provider has opened its second facility in High Wycombe at Stokenchurch, which is only 35 minutes from Heathrow and close to the A40.

Richard Morris of Regus said: “The new location is a testament to the region’s ongoing need for workspace available on flexible terms”.

This centre adds to the existing Regus operations at Kingsmead Business Park, High Wycombe and Beaconsfield Motor Services.

Regus has also opened two new facilities at Heathrow. Regus Express at Terminals 2 and 3 join the existing Regus Express at Terminal 5. It now has 3,000 serviced office centres across the world with the Express brand concentrated in transport hubs such as airports.

SCIENCE AND MORE science in Oxfordshire

Thames Valley News

Oxfordshire is one of the areas benefiting from the increased emphasis on technology.

This accounts for the success of MEPC’s Milton Park where work will be commencing on three new high tech buildings totalling 10,219 sq.metres (110,000 sq.ft.) at 141, 142 and 143 Park Drive East. These can be built on a fast track basis because of the high level of demand for expanding companies at the park.

It continues the 30 years of growth through MEPC, who manage Milton Park for Hermes. Indeed, the new scheme is the largest ever speculative development at the park and is designed to appeal to science and technology companieswho concentrate on research and development.

The £25 million project follows the pre letting of 15,607 sq.metres (168,000 sq.ft.), with two units completed and the others due later this year.

James Dipple of MEPC said: “We are confident that the economic drivers for this region are strong despite some uncertainty post referendum and the scheme will let very well due to the acute shortage of the right type of floor space in Oxfordshire”.

Oxford Science Park is also a great success and is to be the home of Oxford Genetics, a DNA specialist company. It needs the extra laboratory space because of its growth developing cancer treatments. The healthy lifestyle needs of the people who work in the park are recognised by the opening of a new Deli in the Sadler Building, offering fresh, healthy, soups, salads and panninis.

The importance of technology is recognised by a new organisation bringing together Legal & General, Woodford Investment Management and the British Business Bank called Accelerated Digital Venture, an innovative venture platform funding digital businesses across all stages of the funding cycle, from entry to exit.

ADV plans to invest £150 million in digital start ups through the platform offering acccess to capital coaching, customers and corporates. Interestingly, Legal & General, a major player in property investment, is concentrating on funding infrastructure improvements in cities combined with putting money into digital businesses in the belief that this will raise Britain’s economic performance. Apart from the strong performance of the technology and science sectors, Oxfordshire also has a thriving car industry centred on Cowley and the BMW Mini plant.

Now the centre of Cowley is to get a £60 million regeneration of Templars Square by New River to transform the shopping centre and its immediate area.

The main changes are the building of a hotel and new restaurants units as well as an improved streetscape. The mixed use scheme includes 200 units of new residential accommodation.

Allan Lockhart of New River commented: “The case for regeneration is absolutely clear and this is an excellent opportunity to reinvigorate the heart of the town centre”.

AEWHEAD TO THEALE

Thames Valley News

AEW South East Office Fund has bought Commercial Park and Merlin House in Theale, a total of 6,224 sq.metres (67,000 sq.ft.).

Commercial Park has 10 units and Haslams’ Roger Reid, who acted for AEW, said that the properties had always been popular because of car parking and their proximity to the railway station.

FASTER AT Silverstone

Thames Valley News

After a slow process of moving new development along, Silverstone Park, part of the Grand Prix circuit, is making substantial progress.

The latest deal by MEPC is for 11,613 sq.metres (125,000 sq.ft.) of speculative industrial units ranging in size up to 2,787 sq.metres (30,000 sq.ft.) and MEPC already have 50% of the units under offer.

Roz Bird of MEPC said: “This is the latest stage in our plans to create a global destination for high tech engineering innovation and business development at the park. We are aware that there is a reducing supply of accommodation of this size in the area”. What is important is that MEPC is negotiating to get Enterprise Zone status for the park, which will give substantial rating relief to occupiers.

BUILDING IN Basingstoke

Thames Valley News

A cautious assessment of the M3/M27 commercial property market has come from London Clancy but they note continued confidence from occupiers and investors in the region .

Mark Clancy said: “In 2017, the industrial and warehouse sector is likely to perform the strongest with steady demand from the increasingly varied logistics business and improving demand from manufacturers”.

In contrast, he notes the problems of offices as the supply shrinks due residential conversion.

“The exception will be new builds”, said Clancy, “where the continuing shortage of stock will push rents forward”.

This augurs well for the 5,574 sq.metres (60,000 sq.ft.) Florence office building being built speculatively at Basing View in Basingstoke and Kier Property’s 10,033 sq.metres (108,000 sq.ft.) Logistics City, also in Basingstoke.

As far as small properties are concerned, demand for freeholds from private investors and owner occupiers are keeping prices up.

An example of the success of smaller out of town schemes is Faraday Office Park, where Eskmuir Properties have agreed two lettings following their investment in 2016.

Richard Thomas of BDT incorporating Woodford & Co, joint agents on Faraday with Hollis Hockley, reported a strong start to the year in the office market, particularly for properties between 92.9 sq.metres (1,000 sq.ft.) and 464.5 sq.metres (5,000 sq.ft.).

Demolition has now started on the office building where Kier is developing Logistics City, which will have three warehouse/industrial units. The units, ranging in size from 2,050 sq.metres (22,064 sq.ft.) to 4,600 sq.metres (49,514 sq.ft.) will be available for sale or pre let in Q4 2017.

Kier’s Managing Director (South), Pip Prongué said: “This demolition shows our commitment to push forwardwith speculative development and provide new space in key locations. We continue to seek new opportunities in this market”.

Other deals recently in Basingstoke saw BDT incorporating Woodford & Co let three units in the Rutherford Centre and the same agent, together with Hollis Hockley, let 1,138 sq.metres (12,250 sq.ft.) in Hermes’ Loddon Centre to Loddon Power.

Green Park FOR U.S.

Thames Valley News

Green Park in Reading has made a strong return to popularity with six new lettings in autumn 2016.

The new occupiers, five of which have taken space totalling 2,092 sq.metres (22,518 sq.ft.), range from a law firm to a cyber security company. What is interesting is that three of the new occupiers are from the US, one from Denmark and another from France, proving the international attractions of the park and the Thames Valley in general.

Rory Carson, Director/Asset Manager of Green Park said: “We have always known that the park is the best place in the Thames Valley for fast growing, entrepreneurial businesses, and we are not alone”.

STEADY IN Bracknell

Thames Valley News

The rapid letting of units at Kier Property’s Trade City in Bracknell has led to its sale to Standard Life.

Neil Seager of Haslams, who acted for Standard Life, commented: “Trade occupiers continue to seek out prominent units and are no longer content to lease an industrial unit tucked at the back of an industrial estate”.

He added that the attractions of the Trade City were clear because of the number of pre lets.

Simon Fryer of Fryer Commercial said: “The office market in Bracknell is steady, but demand is better than that. We have 4,647 sq.metres (50,022 sq.ft.) under offer in three deals and last year’s total was marginally ahead of the five year average at 14,864 sq.metres (160,000 sq.ft.).

InBrief #1

Thames Valley News

The Self Storage Company, through JLL, have purchased a site for a 4,645 sq.metres (50,000 sq.ft.) scheme in Hampton. JLL have indicated that there is rising demand for such sites.

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