Plant on property: Lack of suitable offices risks suffocating regeneration

by Richard Plant, chairman of the Develop Croydon Forum and a partner of Stiles Harold Williams

The recent Develop Croydon Conference, with its placemaking theme, was arguably a landmark moment. The borough has hit or exceeded many key indicators set five years ago. In fact, it was jokingly acknowledged it may be time to change the name of the organisation which I am chair to ‘Deliver Croydon’.

Aside from tackling out-of-date assumptions and clichés, one of the biggest challenges we face is the chronic lack of modern office space for companies to relocate and grow.

Availability is at the lowest for over 25 years’ with under 240,000 sq ft of office space currently with a vacancy rate of under 4%. The reduced stock is due to improved market conditions and the sale of over 1.7m sq ft of office space for conversion to residential under Permitted Development Rights. Much of this stock was nearing the end of its economic life as office space in any event.

If Croydon is to be a go-to place for national and global business we desperately need fit-for-purpose speculative development.

Locations such as Brighton are suffering a similar shortage, but the few brand new office developments built there are achieving record rents and providing highly conducive working environment.