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The South West Swindon Office Market Jeremy Sutton, Partner Keningtons LLP

There is no doubt that 2019 will be remembered as a year of uncertainty with both 31st March and 31st October coming and going without any Brexit deal, and with no sign that Parliament were going to reach any agreement. We then had further uncertainty with a General Election as the year drew to a close. There is no doubt that the political arena and the uncertainty it causes having a major influence on the office market.

More specific to Swindon, we also had the announcement that Honda will be closing their UK manufacturing plant in 2021 and whilst this is likely to have a greater impact on the industrial market, we could start to see some knock on effects for the office market, which could be positive.

Although these factors resulted in subdued market activity the overall Swindon office take up saw an increase of some 70% on the 2018 figure and stood at 177,856 sq ft. This figure is however distorted by the purchase of the 76,000 sq ft Trilogy building by Nationwide during the first quarter. This single transaction accounts for 43% of the total take up.

The split between in town and out of town looks remarkably familiar with the out of town market accounting for some 76 % of the total take up.

The split is as follows: In town

Out of town TOTAL

42,133 sq. ft. 135,723 sq. ft. 177,856 sq. ft.

Removing the Trilogy transaction from the out of town figures shows that the Town Centre market in 2019 actually accounted for 41% of the take up which is higher than normal with the majority of this taking place in 3 Newbridge Square where a certain level of refurbishment had taken place, albeit the landlords were required to undertake further refurbishment of the M&E as part of the deals.


As the year ended, we had the announcement that the first pre commitment deal at Kimmerfields has been signed. It is understood that Swindon Borough Council have agreed the sale of a site to Zurich who will be developing to an agreed specification, a new 96,500 sq ft HQ office building which will then be purchased on completion by the Council, subject to a pre agreed occupational lease back to Zurich. The figures have not yet been released but we would expect that for the deal to work for both parties, a record high headline rent for the town centre has been achieved, which can only be a boost for the market.

Looking ahead, 2020 appears as if it will be a significant year for the long awaited town centre regeneration with cranes appearing on the skyline for the Zurich building along with the commencement of infra-structure works, including the new bus interchange on Fleming Way. We will also see the speculative redevelopment/refurbishment work at the Carriage Works where The Borough Council have committed to phase 2. This follows on from the success of the shared workspace accommodation known as The Workshed and consists of the 4,618 sq ft pre let to The Royal Agricultural University and units 7 and 9 which can provide from 3,928 to 11,000 sq ft of self contained space within the historic Railway buildings. The fact that works are commencing and tenants can see the quality of the finishes in Workshed is already generating early interest. This again demonstrates that having quality accommodation immediately available in either the in town or out of town market, is key in attracting tenants.

In my opinion, demand follows supply and we somehow need to escape the vicious circle of the view that there is no demand and rents are too low and therefore why should developers provide the product, whereas on the other hand there is no high quality product immediately available for tenants to consider and create the demand and rental levels. I also see demand for smaller freehold properties continuing with the re- emergence of SIPP purchasers. A potential positive from the Honda closure could be an increase in the labour supply assisting companies with indigenous growth or attracting new employers to the town. If these are office occupiers, generating increasing demand, then we will need to address the quality of the immediately available stock.

There could also be a potential increase in the demand for small office suites and serviced offices if some of the former Honda employees look to set up new businesses.

First industrial units now available at Bridgwater Gateway

The landscape near J24 of the M5 in Somerset is being transformed, with new Grade A industrial units now ready for occupancy at the £150 million Bridgwater Gateway business park.

Phil Wade, Development Manager,

comments: “These five new industrial units are the latest success at Bridgwater Gateway and were built using the same fast-track approach that saw an impressive 38-week completion of a Premier Inn that is located near the new industrial units. They are the first industrial units to be built speculatively in Bridgwater for over a decade, and we believe they will meet demand for high quality industrial space with good access to the M5 and Hinkley Point C. Already our decision to go ahead and build has been justified by the level of interest received by our agents Colliers International."

The new units are the smallest that will be developed at the 90-acre Bridgwater Gateway site, and start at 5,381 sq ft. Each features a large open plan warehouse with first floor offices, dedicated car parking at the front, separately-accessed loading doors and parking for delivery vehicles at the rear.

They are part of the first phase of development at Bridgwater Gateway, which also includes a Premier Inn, and a range of new roadside, industrial and office buildings. Phil Wade added: “One of the advantages for occupiers of these new industrial units is that they offer occupiers the flexibility to either lease them as individual units or consolidate them to provide more space. We are also offering design and build opportunities of up to 300,000 sq ft for businesses that want to create bespoke space suited to their requirements.”

All plots at Bridgwater Gateway are available for immediate development and have detailed planning permission already in place, as well as full infrastructure on site and fibre optic connectivity. Bridgwater Gateway business park is a mixed-use scheme that will be fully landscaped to maximise its idyllic position overlooking the Quantock Hills Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty. When Bridgwater Gateway is completed, employees of businesses based there will benefit from picnic areas and a wildlife pond, as well as a fitness trail and facilities for boules and outdoor table tennis. There will also be parcel collection and mailing points, and vehicle charging points, cycle storage, workplace showers and a regular bus service.


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