Barker Storey Matthews – now part of Eddisons (BSM) report that Industrial and investment moves have dominated the commercial property market in the Eastern region in 2019, with other sectors holding their own to a greater or lesser extent.

BSM say that this is the experience of the past twelve months by leading chartered surveyors and commercial property experts, Barker Storey Matthews – whose own business offering in Huntingdon was boosted in 2019 by becoming part of Eddisons.

In reviewing the activities of its agency office locations’ reach across the Eastern region including Huntingdon, Cambridge, Peterborough and Bury St Edmunds, BSM points to the leading role the industrial sector, in which logistics sit, has been fuelled by good occupier demand as well as investor appetite.  

Once again, the industrial sector is the market sector in which investors, seeking freehold opportunities, have focused their attentions in 2019.

Huntingdon is second only to Peterborough in the agent’s operational areas for being an industrial hub and this extends to the market towns of St Neots and St Ives as locations who have benefitted from ‘the A14 upgrade effect’ this past year.

By November 2019, deals concluded with occupiers by the agency operation this year are similar in number to 2018.  

However, its agents share a view that the anticipation of BREXIT has put the brakes on some occupiers’ moves.  

This BSM believe has affected the volume of deals which, this year, would have exceeded last year in transactional terms.

While many occupiers were reluctant to cite BREXIT as an explicit reason to abort a move, it has been and looks set to remain as an influence on some business occupiers’ decision making process.  

The agency reports that BREXIT in all its spectral forms, has been less of a presence for investors in the Eastern region as a whole.

The chorus of high street chain failures has dwindled retail property fortunes.  

Across the piece, this sector continued to underperform, yet with the odd exception in the right location, in Barker Storey Matthews’ experience.

In general, the office market has turned in a ‘patchy’ performance in part, but not wholly, due to shifting patterns of work.  

The lack of supply of available quality office stock remains an ongoing issue too, alongside development costs.

The experience of the micro-markets of BSM’s individual agency teams reflected the wider regional picture, with the odd exception attributable to the particular characteristics of any one micro-market in a specific location.

For the agency, the significance of the A14 upgrade on the commercial property market in the Huntingdon to Cambridge corridor cannot be overstated and its positive influence is rippling out to what were once secondary locations.

Occupiers follow in the footsteps where investors have already trodden and speculative phases of new build developments at Eagle Business Park in Yaxley and Lakes Business Park in St Ives have built out this year, with occupiers in situ at the year’s end.  

Many occupants having relocated from older, poorer quality industrial, trade or showroom stock which no longer met their requirements.  

In a similar vein, construction of a speculative scheme, Woodlands Estate in Biggleswade, got underway this autumn.  

BSM report that road transport connectivity has been key to these new developments’ success.

The Ellington to Swavesey stretch of the A14 set to open on 9 December 2019, the engineering focus has already shifted to the local roads serving the villages, ahead of the whole infrastructure project’s completion in next year.

The much improved A14 sees agents’ eyes focused on the potential for new market sector profiles in the Huntingdon to Cambridge corridor.  

This spine now affords the opportunity to attract a genre of business occupier such as scientific and technology R&D or high profile office operators, who, historically, may have looked to Cambridge and its satellite business parks, more than to Huntingdon, to satisfy their property requirements.

In summarising Barker Storey Matthews’ 2019 market view and looking ahead to the coming twelve months, Stephen Hawkins, Partner at Eddisons, said, “At this time last year, we said that 2019 was going to be a bit of rollercoaster and, on a macro-level, we weren’t wrong.  

“However, we also affirmed our view that the fundamentals for a sound commercial property market remained and this has been the case in the Eastern region.

“This view endures as we face 2020, in spite of the same economic and geopolitical forces set to still be in play in the coming year as much as they have been in the past twelve months.”

Mr Hawkins concluded: “While no agent will admit to having a perfect 2020 vision, we’ll surely all agree that the steadiness of an investment in bricks and mortar retains its long term investment appeal, no matter how much of another rollercoaster ride the month to month experience of the coming year is sure to be.”

Image: Stephen Hawkins, Partner at Eddisons