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Demand drives up rents ahead of completed developments releasing new stock into the South

Strong demand for prime industrial and office space continued to drive up rents in the Solent region in the last quarter of 2017, according to the latest market reports by commercial property specialist Lambert Smith Hampton (LSH). 

The Q4 Industrial and Office Market Pulse reports, unveiled by LSH at a breakfast briefing today (Wednesday, February 7), also predict that 2018 will be a key year for occupiers, thanks to an increase in availability resulting from the completion of several speculative developments in the area.

For its Industrial specialism, LSH reports a consistently high level of enquiries – up 15% on the same period the previous year. 

Notably, the number of enquiries for units in the 10,000 – 20,000 sq ft category overtook those in the smaller 5,000 – 10,000 sq ft category by 20% during the quarter. LSH attributes this shift, the first of its kind in five years, to two factors – a lack of stock in the smaller category combined with occupiers’ confidence in their plans for future growth. 

Take-up of prime stock remains strong, with 551,981 sq ft transacted in 2017, an increase of 65% on the previous year, continuing a steady increase over the last five years. 

The report cites developments at Solent Airport at Daedalus, Lee-on-the-Solent, Alpha Park at Chandlers Ford, the South Central development at Nursling – where John Lewis has pre-let one of the three units – and Harts Farm Way in Havant as key developments that are contributing new supply.

Adrian Whitfield, Director, Industrial and Logistics at the South Coast offices of LSH, said: “While demand still far outstrips supply, contributing to ongoing rent increases, the rise in take-up aligns with the increased availability of prime stock thanks to the completion of several speculative developments along the South Coast. 

“We expect to see the supply continue to increase throughout 2017 as the current pipeline of development schemes such as Merlin Park in Portsmouth come out of the ground. We previously predicted that rental levels could reach £10 per sq ft this year, and nothing in this report has led us to change that view.” 

LSH’s Office Market Pulse for Q4 also reports a lack of supply, with the amount of office space available sinking below 1,000,000 sq ft for the first time in over a decade. Enquiry levels during the quarter were 36% higher than those received in Q3.

Total take-up for 2017 finished at 295,577 sq ft, with the out of town market along the M27/A27 corridor seeing the greatest take-up. The most active sectors were technology, media and telecoms (47%) and finance, banking and insurance (37%). 

New headline rents were achieved in a number of markets across the South Coast region during 2017, with Trafalgar House in Winchester city centre setting a new high for the city, achieving £29.25 per sq ft. The highest rent in Southampton City Centre was achieved at the White Building at £22 per sq ft. In Portsmouth, £21.50 per sq ft was achieved at 1000 Lakeside, while rents hit £25 per sq ft at Southampton Science Park’s new build office on the Benham Campus. 

Andy Hodgkinson, Director, Office Advisory at LSH, said: “The record levels of rent for office space are being driven by a chronic lack of supply – there were no new offices at all built in 2017, with a 20,850 sq ft development at Chilcomb Park, Winchester, the only major development on the horizon for 2018.

“In contrast to the Industrial sector, offices, particularly ‘out of town’ ones along the South Coast, are viewed more cautiously and carefully by investors. Our recent experience has highlighted that robust interest exists for long and secure income type product – demand does exist for those ‘value add’ opportunities within the city centre and out of town, but interest here tends to be from investors that have strong knowledge and experience of the local market dynamics.”

Lambert Smith Hampton, with offices in Fareham and Southampton, is a multi-award-winning commercial property specialist and a leader on the South Coast in the industrial property, office space, retail and investment markets. 

For the full South Coast Industrial Market Pulse reports for Q4 2017, visit www.lsh.co.uk