With much negativity in the press currently, we feel we need to make the point that there is actually much to be positive about currently, as evidenced by the level of development and regeneration across Northamptonshire.
The Rushden Lakes scheme is perhaps one of the most visible signs of the level of development, currently underway across the county, with approaching 400,000 sq ft of retail space set to open from Spring 2017, including occupiers such as M&S and House of Fraser.
There are many who feel that this will have a negative impact on our existing retail centres, including Northampton town centre, however we take the view that new development such as this invigorates the County and that the changes we see in all town centres has far more to do with a fundamental shift in the way we are now shopping in the UK, rather than the effects of any one single development. Needless to say there are many who take delight in blaming the local authorities for the spread of ‘£1 shops’ up and down our high streets but they are wrong to do so. Northampton town centre in particular is now home to far more local and boutique businesses than it arguably ever has been and let us not forget that St Giles Street won High Street of the year just 12 months ago. Northampton town centre is not without its faults of course and we are a long way from matching the likes of York and Bath, but I don’t suppose anyone has ever visited these locations and complained that there wasn’t a large enough Primark. The shopping experience has changed and town centres need to evolve with it.
Turning to a more traditional development in the county, namely industrial/warehousing and business space, our clients Hereford Storage are well advance with the latest phase of new commercial development at Manor Business Park, Woodford Halse near Daventry. Current occupiers include Frost EV Systems, Bullworthy and Hambleside Danelaw. This latest phase, which will provide over 40,000 sq ft of new warehouse/production space, was nearly all pre-let well ahead of completion which takes place later this month. This level of interest is indicative of the current level of demand, in a location that has not been traditionally favoured by occupiers and yet again emphasises the lack of supply across the market. There is strong interest in the remaining 5,000 sq ft which is available at a rental of £6.25 per sq ft.
Of course development in its broadest sense does not have to be about brand new buildings. The refurbishment and regeneration of residential property is commonplace and well publicised but there are also interesting opportunities in the commercial market for both investors and occupiers alike, if you know where to look. Following an ‘off-market’ transaction, Drake Commercial have been instructed to market six warehouse/industrial units on Brackmills, Northampton. Originally developed by the Northampton Development Corporation in the late 1970’s our clients are planning a phased refurbishment of the units at Osyth Close, as and when they become vacant. With a lack of smaller schemes being developed, overhauling older units creates good interest from occupiers and adds value for owners. We have already seen the benefits on this scheme, selling one unit to a private investor, and in turn agreeing a new lease to Sofa Success, who are adding to the ten operations they have already around the UK. Another unit to have come available and been refurbished is already under offer to an owner occupier. A further 5,000 sq ft is expected to be available before the end of the year.
We finish this article with the news that last month saw the demise of the Northamptonshire Enterprise Partnership, which was the County’s economic development vehicle promoting inward investment. The NEP was not without its critics but it did wave the flag for Northamptonshire throughout the UK. We are now part of the South East Midlands Local Enterprise Partnership which uses the nifty acronym ‘SEMLEP’. They obviously cover a wider area and we therefore hope that Northamptonshire does not lose its identity amongst the other counties falling under the same SEMLEP banner. There is a lot of good news coming out of Northamptonshire at the moment and with lots more to come, we in the business community may need to start shouting about it more, rather than relying on our ‘NEP’s’ and ‘SEMLEPS’ to do it for us!
Nicholas Roberts, Partner, Drake Commercial – November 2016.