Property and Construction
March 9, 2017
As has been the case with recent UK Government Budget announcements, Chancellor Philip Hammond’s first Budget addressed a number of issues related to the workplace, technology and infrastructure. It was the first Budget delivered in the post Brexit era and this clearly informed many of the announcements made. While most of the headlines over the past 24 hours have related to the changes to the tax status of the self-employed as a way of raising around £2 billion, the announcements also covered a broad range of topics related to the workplace, HR, technology and property sectors and have drawn an immediate response from key figures in the sector. These include nearly half a billion pounds relief on the vexed question of business rates reforms, a new focus on technical qualifications and a greater investment in 5G and other forms of digital infrastructure. We’ll be having our own say about the implications of the Budget in the near future, but in the meantime, here’s a rundown of the key announcements and the reaction of industry experts.
March 9, 2017
London has been named the third most expensive city in the world for office space, behind New York and Hong Kong, according to an analysis by Kit Out My Office on office rental prices. The analysis mirrors many similar studies that identify these cities as the most expensive on the planet in which to do business. The report looked at the cost of leasing office space of 10,000 square foot and associated business costs, such as property tax, service charges, and Internet access. However, all is not doom-and-gloom for businesses looking to relocate or start-up in London. Initiatives and grants are available for businesses, such as Enterprise Investment Schemes and R&D tax credits. The report claims that alongside being named the third most expensive city for office space, the decision by the UK to leave the EU has caused an air of uncertainty and posed many questions that are still unanswered. For example, how will EU workers be treated and will there be levies for companies that trade with Europe.
March 7, 2017
London firms’ optimism has rebounded since a poll taken just after the EU Referendum, according to the latest CBI/CBRE London Business Survey; as its the most recent data reveals that a fifth of companies (19 percent) feel more positive about the economy over the next six months, compared to 4 percent in the last Survey. Firms are also more optimistic about their own businesses over the next half year, with over a quarter (26 percent) feeling positive (compared to 8 percent in the last Survey). Over eight in ten (84 percent) of London’s companies see Crossrail 2 as being central to the capital’s successful expansion. Meanwhile, a similar number of firms (80 percent) think sticking to the Government’s current timetables for building Heathrow’s third runway is vital to London’s attractiveness as a place to invest. As the city continues to expand eastwards, businesses recognise the importance of developing the right infrastructure to support growth in the area, especially in the Docklands. Four fifths of firms (84 percent) think that river crossings in East London are essential for boosting the city’s growth.
March 3, 2017
Demand for construction workers in London looks set to grow due to the completion of Crossrail and the extension of the Northern Line alongside other infrastructure projects. But a new analysis reveals the Capital is struggling to attract and train the workforce needed; with London and the South East having a shortfall of 60,000 people in the construction industry. This is according to a first of its kind analysis of the role of migration on London’s economy by London First and PwC. ‘Facing Facts: the impact of migrants on London, its workforce and economy’ argues that London’s growing workforce is significantly contributing to economic growth and helping to create more jobs in the capital. The report, which draws on a comprehensive range of information, including detailed ONS Labour Force Survey data shows how London’s total workforce has grown from 4.3 million people in 2005 to just under 5.2 million, made up of people from around the UK, the EU and the rest of the world.
March 2, 2017
In the two years running up to the Brexit vote, London vied with New York and Hong Kong for the title of most expensive world city to accommodate employees and last year it was crowned the most expensive world class city for international businesses to rent office and living space for their employees. Now Brexit’s impact has made the UK look much better value on a world stage as the devaluation of sterling means it now ranks closer to Paris and Tokyo, leaving New York and Hong Kong in a league of their own with much higher accommodation costs. It now costs an average of US$88,800 per person to rent office and housing space in London, well below the price tag of June 2014 of US$124,500, according to the latest Savills Live-Work Index which measures annual accommodation costs per worker in leading world cities. By this measure, London is now 10 per cent cheaper in these terms than it was in December 2008.
March 1, 2017
Entrepreneur and inventor Sir James Dyson is to create a 517 acre campus in the Cotswolds as part of a £2.5 billion investment to establish a robotics and artificial intelligence firm capable of taking on the likes of Google, Amazon and Facebook. Although Dyson has previously come under fire for his decision to site parts of his operation overseas, the creation of the facility is the biggest investment in the UK’s technology since the Brexit vote. The firm has consistently increased its headcount in the UK in recent years and now employs around 3,500 people in its home market. The latest announcement is expected to see that increase that to 14,000, many of them highly skilled engineers and scientists. The location is a former RAF base in Hullavington, Wiltshire, and will aim to significantly shift the perception of the firm as primarily a vendor of vacuum cleaners to become a pioneer of AI, robotics and high density power systems.
February 27, 2017
Small businesses are poorly served by London’s current commercial property market, claims a new report from the think tank Future of London. The Workspace That Works report calls for local government, developers and landlords to address the threats this poses to the capital’s economy. The report claims that SMEs make up 99 per cent of all businesses and 41 per cent of employment in the capital, in line with the rest of the UK, but London faces a number of unique structural challenges such as the growing number of offices being converted to residential use, high rents and a general lack of suitable development sites. The report highlights the growth of shared spaces as a key factor in providing dedicated space for niche firms with significantly reduced costs for small businesses and start-ups.
February 21, 2017
Business rates are a substantial overhead for many businesses, and therefore those occupying a property need to be aware of the impact of the 1 April rates revaluation and the forthcoming changes to the rates valuation appeals process. The revaluation may affect the level of compensation payable to some business tenants seeking to renew their leases. Current business rateable values took effect in England and Wales on 1 April 2010, based on rateable values on 1 April 2008. However, the Valuation Office Agency (VOA) is revising rateable values on 1 April 2017. While the rateable value of some properties is reducing, others (for example many London retail and restaurant premises) face a significant increase. You can check the draft values on the VOA website to see whether your property is due to change.
February 8, 2017
The ‘gig economy’ continues to drive London’s thriving flexible workplace sector which accounted for 8.8 percent of total office take-up in 2016, according to a new study from Cushman & Wakefield. The report claims that the pace of development will continue for the foreseeable future, not least because of the number of corporate occupiers taking on coworking space. Flexible office space accounted for more than 4.5m sq ft of take up in London over the past five years as the capital has cemented its place as the leading global market for coworking, according to the research. In 2016, flexible office take-up amounted to 842,888 sq ft across Central London, representing 8.8 percent of total take-up – slightly above the five-year average of 8.4 percent.
February 4, 2017
The UK government has reduced the public sector property estate by over 300,000 square metres delivering savings of £176 million in the last financial year, according to the latest State of the Estate report from the Cabinet Office. Speaking yesterday at the 2017 Government Property Conference, Minister for the Constitution Chris Skidmore announced that since 2010, rationalisation of the estate has reduced its size by a quarter, delivering over £1 billion in running costs. The sale of surplus properties, including Admiralty Arch (pictured) and the Old War Office, resulted in a further £1 billion in capital receipts in 2015-16 – a notable step towards the pledge to deliver £5 billion in receipts by 2020. The report shows that vacant space within the central government estate now only represents 1.4 percent – well below the average in the private sector of 8.9 percent.
February 3, 2017
Developers Knight Dragon have unveiled the details of a landmark £1 billion project as part of the Greenwich Peninsula regeneration in East London. Designed by architect and engineering firm Santiago Calatrava, the Peninsula Place development marks the latest shift in London’s shift eastwards. The scheme will total 1.4 million sq ft including a new tube and bus station, theatre, cinema and performance venue, bars, shops and a wellbeing hub. Above this will rise three office towers, apartments and hotels, all connected to the Thames by a new land bridge. The developers claim that Greenwich Peninsula is London’s largest single regeneration project. Over the coming years, the £8.4 billion transformation of the Peninsula will provide 15,720 new homes in seven new neighbourhoods: home to central London’s first major film studio, a new design district, schools, offices, health services and public spaces.
February 3, 2017
Commercial construction activity in the UK for the 12 months to the end of 2016 fell to £16.7 billion, down 14.1 percent on the previous quarter, according to JLL and Glenigan’s Q4 2016 UK Commercial Construction Activity Index. In London, activity declined in a quarterly comparison but increased 2.7 percent compared to the same period a year ago. Construction started at 22 Bishopsgate in London City which will provide a total of 1.3 million sq ft of office space, and is scheduled to complete in 2019. The 70,000 sq ft office refurbishment of 33 Gutter Lane also commenced in Q4 with completion scheduled for the second half of the year. Elsewhere it was a mixed picture across the regions with commercial construction activity increasing in the North East, South West and Wales, albeit from a relatively low base; but activity was more subdued in other regions, particularly in Yorkshire and the Humber were the level of construction activity fell 22.0 percent y-o-y.