According to a recent and somewhat concerning new report, Newbury could completely run out of available office space in as little as 18 months, which will likely cause problems for new and existing businesses in the area.

According to commercial property consultants Lambert Smith Hampton, just 2% of Newbury’s office space is currently on the market; this stands as the lowest availability rate throughout the Thames Valley. If take-up rates remain as they are at present, this supply could sink to nothing within the next 1.5 years. This is backed up by the Thames Valley Office Market Report, which calculates that just 76,000 sq ft of space remains on the market today, equating to a drop of 75% since 2010.

West Berkshire Council have expressed concern over these figures, which reportedly stem from a combination of insufficient development and overuse of Permitted Development Rights (PDR), which allow for the conversion of offices to residential units without the need for planning permission. PDR legislation has been in effect since 2013.

Conversions carried out under PDR legislation have resulted in the loss of more than 100,000 sq ft of office space from the commercial market in just the past year; a clear signal that something needs to change before the market is depleted entirely. With developers now looking towards the conversion of premises within larger business parks such as the Newbury and Square Bridge Business Parks, the council is expressing growing trepidation.

Council spokeswoman Peta Stoddart-Crompton said of the ongoing issue, “Diminishing office space is a concern for West Berkshire. In part, this could be due to the Government directive to convert office space to residential, which does not require planning permission.  

“However, the council has written to the DCLG (Department for Communities and Local Government) to express those concerns and introducing Article 4 (which would give the council power to restrict PDR) to prevent too much of this kind of development could be an option we consider for the future.”

A lack of development in general is also adding to the issue, with the construction of new office premises in Newbury being stalled since 2011. Hannah Bennett, senior surveyor at Lambert Smith Hampton and author of the Thames Valley Office Market Report, believes that if development practices were improved, the use of PDR legislation to convert inferior office space could actually prove beneficial to the region and its business prospects by improving the quality of existing stock. Of course for this to work, converted stock must be replaced.

Ms Bennett is quoted as saying, “A large number of buildings that have been converted are of poorer quality and that is a good thing. That stock being taken out of the market is the poorer stock.

“The changing requirements of businesses has meant that a lot of the current offices aren’t suitable.  

“The point is occupiers are seeking higher quality stock and that’s why you need that new stock coming through – or refurbishments of existing stock.”

Sam Bonson

Sam is an aspiring novelist with a passion for fantasy and crime thrillers. He is currently working as a content writer, journalist & editor as he continues to expand his horizons.
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