Chamber Members Hear How Work Is Changing In South Dorset

Mickey Jones

Published at 9:10am 5th November 2015.

Weymouth & Portland Chamber of Commerce members have heard how the workspace is changing in South Dorset at a business breakfast this week.

Weymouth & Portland Chamber of Commerce members have heard how the workspace is changing in South Dorset at a business breakfast this week.

Mickey Jones of DJ Property presented the historic position, 15 years ago when the town centre was typically mixed retail with lots of pubs, quite a few restaurants and the growth of cafes was in its early stages.  Many business premises had upper floor offices, limited residential on upper floors and many upper floors not used at all.

Fifteen years ago industrial estates still accommodated quite a bit of heavy industry (engineering, manufacturing etc), light industry (electronics, design & precision engineering) and a scattering of offices.    Out of Town Retail was reserved for mainly major supermarket groups, some bulky goods and small convenience stores.

Mr Jones, Chief Executive of DJ Property said "Factors leading to the change in the demand of the type of commercial property required included the Internet which has allowed flexible working, where internet speed is key, and home working becomes a real possibility.   Small business rates relief has been a welcome introduction for smaller businesses but business rates continue to rise as businesses expand with no direct benefit.  Other factors include regulations such as the registration of leases, EPCs, DDA, environmental legislation and health & safety guidelines."

Mr Jones went on to say "With the decline of UK manufacturing and engineering it has led to a decreasing demand for buildings over 15,000 sq ft, however, there has been a growth of the service sector where there has been a demand for trade counters and online retailing.  New tourism in the form of cruises and mass participation events such as Weymouth based Triathlons has all boosted the local economy.   Another factor has been the use of mezzanine floors in buildings where it can be cheaper to go up than out."

Today businesses are making their choice on commercial property from several factors which include value in price per sq ft, business rates & insurance costs.  However, connectivity is vital many businesses ask "do you have fibre & how fast is it?"  Another factor is environmental credentials of new property, not because businesses want to save the planet but to combat high utility bills.  Quality, flexibility of the lease and accessibility of the unit are also very important decision factors when selecting new commercial property.

In today's commercial market the town centre has changed significantly we now see a mixture of retail units but less of them.  Estimates suggest that town centres now have 30% too many shops in the average UK high street.  The café culture has swept the UK and the increase of charity shops is noticeable.  First floor offices are disappearing due to poor disabled access and the limitations and expense of old buildings.  The upper floors and secondary ground floor locations are being converted and used as residential premises and generally buildings are too old, limited in use and require redevelopment

The industrial estates in south Dorset have seen heavy industry diminishing fast with niche light industry emerging as a healthy alternative.  Offices are now often found in flexible business units and not dedicated office buildings.  Trade counter operators are now dominant on industrial estates in recent years and the introduction of serviced office facilities sitting adjacent to traditional tenants of industrial space.    The service sector continues to grow on industrial estates such as hair salons, dentists, vets, chiropractors, gyms all taking units.  These businesses require easy access, space, and car parking which cannot be found in town centres

Out of town retail has seen a rise of value food retailers where convenience is king and also an increase in the number of value hotels.

As a property development company DJ Property has changed with the times no longer investing in town centre retail as there is low demand and many properties are near the end of their life where substantial redevelopment is required.   The conversion of upper floors of town centre assets to residential is now an option for the company.

Link Park adjacent to the Granby Industrial Estate is growing and is now in its 3rd phase of development with the 4th phase planned for next year.  The success has been mainly due to its roadside location, high quality buildings with environmental attributes, high eaves, at least 6m clear inside to allow businesses to fit out as appropriate for their business needs.  Link park also offers covered cycle parking, cheaper PV power and a greater flexibility of lease terms

Mr Jones concluded the talk by saying " The government have committed to a business rates review.  Many believe this will lift small properties out of business rates completely.  This will accelerate the progression to more flexible, smaller workspaces and could be another nail in the coffin for large industrial and retail properties."

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