June 28, 2021
Resilience, flexibility and sustainability at the heart of commercial property success. James Crawford, Chief Executive Officer of Johnsey Estates.
One of the most common questions that I’ve had since the start of the Covid-19 pandemic has been around demand for office space.
The UK property market has seen peaks and troughs over many cycles but there really was no way of predicting what 2020/21 would bring. I remember the recession of the 1980’s and the 2008 financial crash sending shockwaves around the world. The combination of Covid-19 and Brexit meant that we spent much of 2020 in ‘wait and see mode’.
The impact upon certain sectors of the UK commercial property market from Covid-19 and Brexit has been well publicised by many commentators. However, in our case at Mamhilad Park Estate, we’ve seen an increase in headline rental income over the last 12 months and consistently high occupancy rates with new occupiers like Stephens Wilmot Solicitors and Curtis Legal LLP both acquiring office space. Existing public sector occupiers including Gwent Police and Monmouthshire County Council have also acquired additional space. Rent collection has also remained exceptionally strong.
High-quality and well-located assets will always be in demand, especially when offered with attractive and flexible terms. We are certainly seeing a significant increase in enquiry levels as the enforced work-from-home period comes to an end.
Hybrid working is definitely looking like the way forward with a more flexible approach to future working. The Welsh Government has a target of 30% of people working "at or near home" after the pandemic is over. This appears to be driving more interest in co-working offices where space is rented by the day or month but it is clear that for most of our occupiers the office will remain as a focal point to meet, train, collaborate and innovate. There are also those that are just desperate to get back to the office with better broadband and less disruption than working at home.
Meanwhile, demand for warehousing and industrial space continues to grow. The increase in ecommerce and massive growth in certain lifestyle sectors means that we have occupiers like Frog Bikes, Edward Davies Commercial Vehicles and Lebowke / E-Warehousing that have expanded over the last year. We are delighted to see how well they are all doing.
Here at Johnsey Estates, we are constantly seeking to improve and upgrade our investment portfolio to ensure that we maintain occupancy levels and continue to provide good quality space at affordable levels. Our occupiers are drawn from both the private and public sector. The common theme is that we are user friendly, straightforward and work with all our occupiers to provide the accommodation appropriate to their evolving business needs.
We know our market place and have historically acquired strategically located land with potential to enhance value through the planning and development process. Typically we buy green or brown field sites with potential to add value. We take the land through the planning process using both in house and external professional expertise with a view to either developing the sites ourselves against either pre-sales or pre-lettings or selling sites with planning consent to the national housebuilders with whom we work closely. We have a reputation for enhancing value through astute asset management and continuous investment based on detailed and informed knowledge.
With a focus on long-term sustainability, our strategy is clear. We will continue to work with our occupiers and stakeholders to invest in the future and create a vibrant, sustainable and distinctive place that people want to be a part of, whatever might come our way.
James Crawford was appointed Chief Executive Officer of Johnsey Estates UK Ltd in May 2012. He holds a degree in Urban Land Economics and is a chartered surveyor with over 35 years experience in the commercial property industry. He is a property investor and developer with detailed knowledge and understanding of property finance and banking. James has held Director positions in market leading private and publicly quoted property companies within the UK. James was awarded the Judges’ Special Award at the prestigious Institute of Directors (IOD) Wales Awards in 2019.