#UK Government and councillors need to realise how special Cambridge is

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The Chancellor’s Autumn Statement, as with the Budget, is always eagerly anticipated by the property industry, particularly among our residential colleagues.

In recent years respective governments have exerted further pressure on residential landlords as well as homeowners and this year’s Autumn Statement was no exception. 

Amongst these headline grabbing and consumer focused announcements some of the finer points can be overlooked. For those of us working in commercial property, whilst the impact and content of such statements might be less direct, it is no less integral.

The commercial team at Carter Jonas used the Autumn Statement as a chance to take stock and ask what we would like to see from Philip Hammond. How could Mr Hammond confirm his commitment and support to the commercial property market? Of course, the market is only as strong as the wider business environment in which we work and are dependant; we concluded that we needed to see signals that the Government is taking steps to safeguard companies committed to the UK.

Addressing the House, the Chancellor reconfirmed the Prime Minister’s announcement of significant investment into research and development. This is a welcome move – particularly in Cambridge where we are famed for our top-end science and technology occupiers and, increasingly, for attracting small startups – as it is vital for the UK’s economy and the wider property market.

However, what the Government gives with one hand! The Government has reiterated that it will not discuss plans for Brexit until it is ready. 
The problem is that companies – from startups to multinationals – have been looking for and need specific reassurances that the UK can retain its position as a global business hub.

Some organisations have been deferring their decisions on expansions and new openings, due to this lack of clarity. The migration of people – of a business’s ‘talent’ – is particularly important as the retention and attraction of people is often the number one priority for any business.

Access to talent is also one of the single biggest drivers of commercial real estate decision making. It is a simple fact that uncertainty is rarely good for business and the Government’s continuing reluctance to share their Brexit proposals are certainly not helping.

Closer to home, a controversial levy being considered by councillors on workplace car parking has been greeted with little enthusiasm from some in our business community.

The scheme, an attempt to cut road congestion in Cambridge, would be similar to a levy in Nottingham which charges firms a fee per employee car parking space. 

Whilst some argue for the benefits of such schemes, many have suggested that rather than supporting business it would effectively be a tax in disguise and simply another cost for firms that will already be paying for their parking spaces because they are subject to business rates.

Of course, it is not all doom and gloom. Office rents in the city are currently at £36.50 per sq ft – as of Q3 2016. This is up from £28 per sq ft in 2010, an increase in part driven by occupier demand.

But the Government and our councillors must realise what we have in Cambridge. Our reputation as a leading business hub, one which supports innovation and business growth and development, has not been easily won. Other locations in the UK as well as Europe are desperate to attract the calibre of occupier that we boast and are looking for any opportunity to do so.

Cambridge city centre is already suffering from long-term supply issues with many of the new developments already pre-let. This, combined with a planning system which is still not working in an optimal way to enable sites to be brought forward, leaves me struggling to see how this shortfall will be addressed.

As such we need to look at every policy announcement with additional scrutiny and ask: is this truly supportive of the business that our city relies upon?

from Business Weekly http://ift.tt/2h3wNkI

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