HUDDERSFIELD is badly-placed to meet demand for high-quality office space when the recovery takes hold, property experts in the town have warned.
A meeting of the Commercial Property Forum run by law firm Baxter Caulfield heard that the town could lose out to neighbour Leeds – where rental values have been hit by a glut of office accommodation in the face of the recession.
Matthew Scholey, of Eddisons, said the success of the Bradley Business Park development showed there was a need for high-quality office space which was easy to use and boasted on-site car parking.
However, he said Huddersfield town centre still lacked good quality office accommodation – despite the fact that many firms would prefer to locate there because of its close links to the bus and rail stations and for the convenience of its employees.
Tony Jones, manager of Handelsbanken, which opened offices at Bradley, added: “We took a leap of faith when we moved to Bradley and we haven’t regretted it.
“We were the first bank to open in Huddersfield for 250 years – and we did so out-of-town.”
Jason Metcalfe, of Hanson Chartered Surveyors said developments such as Bradley led to a migration of businesses out of the town centre as well as attracting regional companies to Huddersfield.
But he said high quality accommodation close to the town centre was in short supply. The much-admired Folly Hall Mills development had been quickly filled – leaving a dearth of good office space until such time as the neighbouring Waterfront Quarter was completed.
“There are a number of buildings in the town centre that need refurbishing,” he said. “If they were, the market would pick up. At the moment, there is a glut of offices available in Leeds, which is driving down the rental prices there.”
Mr Scholey said: “During the biggest property boom in many years, the town centre did not change very much – apart from the Kingsgate development.
“When we needed some attractive and viable office space, it did not happen. Now the market is down, there is no private money to do it.”
Mr Scholey said Kirklees College’s move to the Waterfront site provided the prospect of re-developing the college’s old location.
The forum, held at Baxter Caulfield’s Station Street offices and chaired by Richard Gillatt, head of property at the law firm, also heard from Greg Jennings, assistant director for regeneration and economic development at Kirklees Council.
Mr Jennings updated forum members on moves to bring together regeneration and economic development services at the council and the operations of the local authority’s nine business centres – which provide industrial and commercial space for small and medium-sized firms.
The centres provide 250 units in total and have 170 businesses renting space at sites in areas such as Lockwood, Clayton West, Batley and Heckmondwike.
Kirklees is also looking to set up two smaller business “generators” in Dewsbury as well as a third focusing on “green” businesses.