InStaffs positive about commercial property

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Inward investment agency InStaffs has revealed that while the commercial property sector has been depressed, activity is still taking place in Stoke-on-Trent and Staffordshire.

Recent investment in the region has also helped create around 1,000 jobs and safeguarded an additional 600, InStaffs revealed in its 2008/09 Annual Review.

John de Kanter, InStaffs chief executive, said: “Nearly 1,000 jobs were created last year and, while this is down on previous years, it is still pleasing to see that investment is taking place and employment opportunities are being created.

“It shouldn’t be forgotten either, that a further 31 businesses were successfully retained in the area, which safeguarded an additional 600 jobs.”

The review shows that the number of enquiries received have held up well despite the recession and that 36 new investments took place.

The biggest change on last year has been the decline in the number of speculative build projects.

De Kanter added: “Speculative build activity is an important part of inward investment, but this faded away last year largely due to the recession, difficulty in obtaining finance and the levy of the Empty Building rating on premises with a rateable value of more than £15,000.

“The latter has had an extremely negative effect on ‘design and build’ decisions by a developer.”

The recession has left the area with a surplus of unoccupied large warehouses and distribution hubs. Within Stoke-on-Trent and Staffordshire 53 per cent of the available square footage is in buildings of more than 100,000 sq ft, which represents eight per cent of the entire building stock.

In a bid to ease the situation and attract potential occupiers, InStaffs has lobbied the government to try and amend the rating policy, but so far there has been no change.

“It is unfortunate that we are in this situation because Stoke-on-Trent and Staffordshire boasts some impressive buildings which would be an asset to any firm,” he added.

“For example, this year saw the completion of the spectacular Blue Planet development in North Staffordshire – the first industrial building in the world to be awarded an excellent rating by BREEAM.”

He concluded: “Next year promises to be just as tough, but we refuse to let the recession beat us and we retain confidence in our portfolio and our ability to attract high profile investors to the area.”

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