Commercial market overview
Over the past year, like all businesses, Fenn Wright have had to adapt as the first lockdown brought about big changes to our daily working lives. With the vast majority of us leaving our desks behind and working remotely, the process of decamping from our 10 offices went remarkably well. With investment in technology which allowed for agile working and the addition of Zoom and Teams, we have been able to function effectively throughout the pandemic. Alistair Mitchell, Partner, provides an update on the commercial property sector in our region.
The warehouse market has certainly been the most robust sector and as we went into the pandemic there was huge demand for storage of PPE equipment. With the closure of non-essential shops, there was a surge in online shopping and demand for logistics space became insatiable. At one time we were receiving enquiries literally on a daily basis for warehouse requirements for anything between 10,000 and 200,000 sq ft. and the demand is most definitely still there. Fulfilling all of these requirements has been impossible – if only there was enough available shed space in the region!
The demise of high street retail is well publicised and dealing with lease negotiations under CVAs has often been a depressing experience. However, we have seen a number of smaller retail units being taken up by start-up businesses or those seeking to upgrade their premises from home working.
Changes in planning have also assisted and the new Class E use, combining offices, retail, restaurants as well as parts of D1 and D2 uses, has opened the door for some interesting opportunities. For example, we are dealing with a variety of enquiries for the former Mothercare premises at the Copdock interchange for a number of uses including a regional clinic, out-of-town call centre and various leisure concepts – all of which are now within Class E and therefore permitted without the need for a further planning permission. We are also in the process of letting a 7,000 sq ft office building in Ipswich for conversion to a specialist medical facility without the usual delays and costs associated with obtaining planning.
My colleague, Jeremy Newman, has written about the changes in working practices and how this will impact on the demand and use of offices in the future. ‘Hub and Spoke’, ‘Hub and Club’ and ‘Telecommuting’ are all new concepts we have got used to over the past year but the extent to which they will impact the office market remains to be seen. You can read the article here.
We will continue to be faced with restrictions and challenges until the pandemic is behind us and how much this will affect working practices in the future and what new markets will emerge remains to be seen. However, the commercial property market is known for its resilience and adaptability and those that adapt with it will always succeed.