Focus on: The changing face of the office sector

Where office sector uncertainty is concerned, Kent has mirrored the rest of the UK
While business parks have seen some significant lettings, there has been limited take-up in Kent’s town centre office sector with most demand for floorplates of less than 3,000 sq ft. However, a shortage of quality office space means it is still at a premium, keeping rental values steady. The result is a five-year annualised average growth rate of more than 3% across the county.

Radio House John Wilson Business Park (credit: George Wilson Holdings)

Sevenoaks, Tunbridge Wells, Dartford and Maidstone are driving rental growth, and demand in Gravesend continues to rise resulting in an 85% increase in the average prime office rent across the last 5 years.

Many businesses are adopting a ‘wait and see’ approach, rather than committing to office space. If appropriate, and a mix of homeworking / office commute becomes the norm, the focus may be quality rather than size, in order to aid collaboration, creativity, training and underpin the culture of organisations.

Serviced offices provide ideal co-working facilities
Serviced offices such as BizSpace’s mix of co-working includes hot desking and private offices, and is a welcome addition in both Maidstone and Ashford and fits the bill for many businesses – at least for now.

Refurbishment of the former Customs House in Gravesend includes around 9,000 sq ft of high spec office space with views out over the Thames.

A recent survey revealed 50 co-working facilities currently operating across the county, boasting more than 60% occupancy for hot desking and 80% private offices. In addition, there are another ten such facilities in the pipeline.

The arts on the move
Office space in the pipeline and under construction includes a film studio complex and business space in the Grade II Listed former engine sheds by Ashford International Station – given a £14.7m boost in the Autumn budget – and Tunbridge Wells BC has granted outline planning consent to U+I to provide 74,000 m2 of warehouse and offices at Kingstanding Way, on the edge of the town.

Cultural and creative production is at heart of the Thames Estuary Production Corridor where the vision is to develop a world-class hub for this specialist sector of the arts. Whilst it has been difficult to operate during the pandemic, this area of business is identified as a high growth sector over the coming 10 years, with the added knock-on for both professional and business services companies.

Whitehall Place Biz Centre, ex Customs House (credit: Gravesham Borough Council)

Investment continues
While there is uncertainty, investment sales proceed with substantial deals in Dover and Tonbridge completing. The office sector is identified as a high growth area over the next decade where quality of stock will be paramount.

For more detailed information follow this link to the Office sector data extract from this year’s Kent Property Market.

To view the full report visit the 2021 Kent Market Property Report or download the pdf here.

Caxtons recently won the EGi Most Active Agent in Kent award for commercial property transactions.

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