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Commercial Energy Performance Certificates

Since their introduction back in 2008-9, these have in my experience started to influence property owners and investors in Bradford and West Yorkshire. Yes they are rather flawed due to the criteria used in making the assessment, but there is no doubt that awareness of them has increased, especially since many commercial agents now display the header graph rating on their marketing particulars.
Poor ratings can be a contributory factor in investors and their advisers down-valuing properties that have received no investment in energy saving measures in recent years. Under current Government proposals, buildings that are rated at the bottom of the scale e.g. F and G could not be placed on the market after 2017 without improvements being carried out. This has come at a bad time for many investors who have had to contend with falling values, unoccupied rates and tenants ceasing trading during the long and deep recession of 2008-12. Now that the economy is gathering steam after this difficult period, some commercial property owners will be more inclined to invest in their buildings.
Surely there is something to be gained by achieving reductions in energy bills as these can be passed onto tenants and thereby make the enlightened landlord’s premises more attractive for letting or sale purposes.
Areas that are commonly cited for improvements include space heating boilers, thermostatic controls, more efficient lighting fittings and better insulation of windows, walls and roof space. Andrew Idle Associates have recently been investigating the potential of biomass boilers as an alternative to gas-fired conventional space heating systems. Some building owners are cautious of them because they do no have a long track record, but savings in bills can be attractive thanks to the Government’s Renewable Heat Incentive.
We can arrange Energy Performance Certificates for Clients’ commercial properties in Bradford and beyond that we market on their behalf.
Andrew Idle


Government rate-free allowance on new-build

Last month (June 2013), the Government launched its six-week consultation period into the proposed short-term empty property rates (EPR) exemption of all new build commercial property developments completed between 1 October 2013 and 30 September 2016, following the Chancellor’s original announcement in his 2012 Autumn Statement.

How will this benefit a provincial City such as Bradford?

The relief is proposed to be available for an 18 month period only and the maximum relif is said to be around £55,000 pa.

The scheme is subject to the normal European State Aid rules (€200,000) limiting each company to a total of £165,000 over three years or £55,000 per year. This is nowhere near enough to encourage significant sized new developments.
As an example, a 20,000 sq ft new build flexible office space centre in Bradford will have an annual rates bill of circa £90,000. The proposed relief will not make a huge difference to the prospects of the development taking place.

The proposals do nothing to stimulate the market for the large number of empty offices in places such as Bradford, which are proving very hard to let due to lack of demand. However, these same properties could be converted into flexible space locations, let on easy in easy out flexible terms and geared specifically towards creating space for the growing number of small and start up businesses.

It would be good if the Government could be peruaded to reinstate the £18,000 Rateable Value threshold below which no rates were payable on vacant commercial premises which was reduced to £2,600 back in 2009-2010.

Andrew Idle

Retail opportunities in Bradford

The publication of research revealing that Bradford has one of the highest opportunities for retail expansion in the UK is a helpful pointer for the City, which has suffered a steady decline in its traditional retail heart over the past few decades.
The figures produced by C A C I, one of the largest independent research advisers in the UK, indicates that Bradford is 8th out of the top 10 towns and cities in terms of scope for additional shops, other towns including Milton Keynes and Lancaster.
It would appear that many retailers have not latched onto Bradford’s potential, as we have found that nationwide requirements flyers from a variety of retailers rarely include Bradford as a target location.
It is to be hoped that this perception will change after the publication of the above work, and that retailers will be able to identify suitable units in Bradford.
Work on the delayed Westfield Shopping Centre is apparently scheduled to resume later this year, and that coupled with the C A C I findings should surely cause the tide to start turning in Bradford’s favour.
The fact that Bradford’s Forster Square Retail Park is so busy and seems to trade well with much of its huge car park often near full, adds weight to the argument that if there is a strong cluster of retail units with convenient parking, consumers will flock to them.

Andrew Idle


Welcome to Andrew Idle Associates first Commercial Property


Welcome to Andrew Idle Associates first Commercial Property Bradford blog.

Bradford is the UK’s 6th largest City by population and has been the home of my commercial property consultancy, Andrew Idle Associates since 1991.

I decided to start the blog because nothing like it exists at present – there is no commentary on topical commercial property issues of the day.

I was pleased to note the reported sale by auction in spring 2013 of the historic and distinctive Connaught Rooms near to Bradford City Centre. There seems to be a gathering feeling amongst Investors that I come into contact with that Bradford’s commercial property market is turning the corner. Entry prices in many cases are presently at an attractive level for the buyer.

Will the eventual completion of the Westfield Shopping Centre be the catalyst for further recovery of Bradford’s property market? Time will tell, but confidence does seem to be slowly returning.    Andrew Idle

Use Classes Order – 2013 relaxations

Will the recent relaxations in the Use Classes Order help commercial agents such as my firm Andrew Idle Associates to let vacant space in Bradford?

Despite the Coalition Government’s pledge to cut red tape, the revisions to the Use Classes Order as just published still give too little flexibility I feel, with regard to the re-letting of vacant commercial premises.
Why for example can you only utilise 500 sq metres for storage within a 5000 sq metre light industrial building, without needing to apply for B8 planning? Why couldn’t it have been expressed as a maximum of say 35% of the floor area so as to give some consideration to larger units?

Another example is that although there is no need for planning consent to create a single flat above a shop, you still require planning for two flats.

Given that some shops have in excess of 100 sq metres ground floor area, this again seems to be needlessly restrictive.

On the positive side, it is good to see licensed establishments (A4) being permitted to change to retail (A1)or sales office (A2)  or restaurant (A3) without planning. With so many pubs closing down, this is welcome news for those agents who are tasked with disposing of them.

Investors need to bear in mind however that building regulations approval may still be required for some of these changes and it is prudent to seek advice.

Andrew Idle

Office to resi conversions

Image It is encouraging to see that the Coalition Government are putting in place measures to enable the conversion of aging office blocks into residential. This is especially so around London and S E England. It takes the form of by way of permitted development rights.

This is very relevant to Bradford. My firm Andrew Idle Associates welcome any such initiatives which could lead to the early re-use of our commercial building stock.

What is the potential for such conversions in a City like Bradford?

Bradford has many characterful buildings that are ripe for redevelopment. A recent excellent example being the conversion of the Grade II Listed former wool warehouse in Little Germany into the new Head Office of Freemans Grattan Holdings. This now houses approximately 300 staff.

Another example is the proposed conversion and start of work on site of a former office building in the Goitside area of the City to student pods. Let us hope that this Government initiative gives rise to more examples, seeing that there is a considerable stock of large former office buildings here.

We have also to consider the impact of smart phones and hot desking on the demand for office space, coupled with increasingly congested main routes and the need to work from home as a consequence. The City is not unusual in that respect.

I for one would like to think that a good proportion of these buildings will be re-used and that City Living here will be revived. It would be pleasing to think that demolition and redevelopment can be avoided in most cases.

Andrew Idle

Bradford – City of Dreams

Having watched part 1 of the BBC2 documentary, Bradford-City of Dreams,

I have recently experienced at first hand the desire of migrant communities to build a better life here in Bradford.

Andrew Idle Associates has just let some retail premises in the area to a couple of young businessmen  who plan to establish a specialist grocery shop catering for the East European sector.

It is inspiring to see this entrepreneurial spirit flourishing in the City.

The new tenant as mentioned above is the first I have encountered who gained funding through the Government’s Funding for Lending Scheme. They had to go through a lot of hoops to obtain it, but their perseverance has paid off.

Andrew Idle