Champions Round Table
Property and Construction
Chesterfield’s property and construction scene is booming. There are £1billion of developments currently underway that will bring homes, businesses and jobs to the the area.
The £400 million Peak Resort in Unstone puts the town on the map for having the biggest leisure development in the UK, while the £320million Chesterfield Waterside scheme is one of the biggest regeneration projects in the country.
This month’s round table, organised in conjunction with Destination Chesterfield, brought together key figures from Chesterfield’s property and construction scene, to learn what’s next for Chesterfield and, more importantly, how the momentum of the construction wave the town is currently on can be maintained.
The panel met at one of the UK’s premier business parks, Markham Vale, which is home to industrial, warehouse and office accommodation and is helping attract major employers and investors to the area.
AB: Ashley Booker – Head of Content at the Derbyshire Times
IL: Ian Limb – Project Manager, Bolsterstone Group Plc
JJ: Jason Jacques – Temple Safety
DA: David Anderson, Managing Director, Henry Boot
CC Claire Cunningham, Business Enquiries and Marketing Officer, Chesterfield Borough Council Economic Development Department
JS: John Short, Managing Director at JAB Short and Chairman of S E Redfern Limited
How is the property and construction market in Chesterfield performing?
CC: The commercial property market in Chesterfield is really strong. We have massive demand at the moment for industrial units. We’ve not had a demand like this for the last 13 years. We own 26 industrial estates and they’re all full, with people waiting. We’re now encouraging local land-owners to bring sites forward at the minute.
DA: I would agree. There is a lack of industrial space and not much speculative building going on, probably because building costs are about 34% more expensive than they were 2-3 years ago.
IL: It is a difficult environment. Deals take 12-18 months to happen so when you come to build, the costs have crept up over that time.
DA: We have found that the costs have levelled off now though, which I think is maybe to do with the Brexit shock and the nervousness around longer term projects. On the occupiers’ side of things, they want it now, they’re not interested if it’s going to be a year or two down the line.
DA: If people have to wait 12 months for work to start work, they will just go somewhere else because they want the space quickly.
IL: Chesterfield Waterside is coming along well. We’ve just completed the enabling works at Basin Square and are now in negotiations for the lets down there, which include private apartments, housing, multi-story car parks, offices and a leisure scheme. We’re also seeing big signs of movement in the right direction in terms of the commercial side of the development, the housing.
DA: The demand for office space isn’t great in Chesterfield and, being right next door to Sheffield, will it ever be?
IL: Office accommodation is key for us. We’ve got two firm enquiries for office space at Chesterfield Waterside at the minute.
JS: Is there the option to build smaller office units on Markham Vale? I’m on an office site up at Dunston and I’m always amazed at how quickly the offices go there.
IL: What Chesterfield does need is some grade A commercial office space now. Chesterfield Waterside does have 300,000 sq. ft of grade A office space in the whole masterplan.
CC: Northern Gateway will provide office space. We’re looking at building a business centre where the Donut roundabout is, which will have offices ranging from around 200 – 1200 sq. ft for rent.
IL: Our key enquiries are from Chesterfield businesses who require around 7,500 sq. ft, of office space, which is fairly big but not huge office block.
DA: More people want to buy them than rent offices, but I suppose that comes with a whole load of other issues.
JJ: The majority of work that our clients are doing in Chesterfield is residential. A lot of the work we do is house building north of Chesterfield and the two big clients that we’ve got probably don’t look at houses under half a million pounds.
JS: The problem is that it is generally the Brownfield sites that need major investment so it prohibits the small developers such as ourselves from working with it. There are some encouraging signs for smaller developers because there is an acknowledgement from the government that if they want to create 200,000-300,000 homes per year they will have to regenerate the SME market. The volume builders are building as many as they can, but the SME market has diminished incredibly over the last few years. If we had the support from the government then small developers could really make an impact on the housing shortage locally and nationally.
How do we maintain the momentum in the town and attract further commercial and property investment into Chesterfield?
CC: From a local authority point of view, I think we’re quite good at attracting commercial and property investment into the town. We offer a free service to local agents and property owners to market their premises for free, to make sure that we don’t have many empty ones.
We work quite closely with Chesterfield Waterside and Peak Resort trying to help with planning and funding. We also work very closely with Destination Chesterfield trying to talk the town up. We do a quarterly health check on the shops in the town centre to see how many shops are full. Currently around 8% of the shops are empty, which is far better than the national shop vacancy rate of 12%.
IL: Chesterfield has a vibrant town centre. I know that my wife would much rather go to Chesterfield than Sheffield when going out shopping, because you’ve got Debenhams and lots of other stores.
JJ: There are also independent retailers in Chesterfield and that’s good to see.
JS: We own the Shambles and most of our tenants are independent. The occupancy rate is great. One thing we could improve on is the night time economy. Also, the main leisure offer in Chesterfield is not in the town centre, which could definitely be changed.
CC: Hopefully the redevelopment of the Co-op will help with that, as it includes six high quality restaurants.
IL: Phase two of Basin Square will focus more on leisure and it will have walkways and links to the town centre.
DA: Industrial occupancy, although not seen as very sexy, underpins the Chesterfield economy as it employs a lot of people so we need to build on this.
JS: Chesterfield has some iconic buildings, you’ve got the market, the spire and the town hall. It has all the ingredients for being a great place to visit.
How can the town support investment and development?
IL: We’ve come across a lot of people that are pessimistic about the future and the town growing. But, why should Chesterfield miss out on developments and growth?
DA: People don’t understand that developments of the scale we are talking about do not happen overnight. Because people are not prepared to wait eight weeks and it kills a lot of investment.
DA: The issue we’re seeing at the minute is with the resources in the planning authority in this area. The lack of resources means that there is a delay in planning applications going through which is slowing things down no end.
CC: What the council is doing at the moment is working with the private sector to get planning on board from an early stage for the sites that are being developed.
JS: The house building industry, for years, has said that the thing that prevents progress the most is planning. However, my experience with Chesterfield planners has been positive for the most part compared to planners in other areas.
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