South East most popular region outside of London
In order to break down the number of UK office space enquiries we received, we categorized each UK location into a region*. Behind London, the most popular region for office space enquiries is the South-East.
The below graph shows the most popular regions for officebroker.com enquiries, for the first two quarters of 2009:
The South-East’s proximity to London is an important factor in the region’s success, particularly with the London 2012 Olympic Games just around the corner. In fact, as reported in June on Property Week, the South-East is a major competitor in the office space and commercial property market for London:
“The outer London boroughs compete with towns in the surrounding counties like Guildford and Reading more than they compete with businesses in the City and Canary Wharf,” said Will McKee, Chairman of the Outer London Commission.
Regarding interest in office space, our regional figures show that the South-East was actually tougher against Central London than the outer boroughs. At the end of January 2009, the South-East had overtaken Central London for serviced office space enquiries, and finished just short of the region by the conclusion of Q2.
However, in support of McKee’s statement, when breaking down the enquiry levels by city, we found that Reading – the most popular location by enquiry level in the South-East – had significantly more enquiries over Q1 and Q2 than many eastern London boroughs including Twickenham, Southall and Sutton.
This demonstrates that many businesses are actively considering the South-East as an alternative to areas of Central and Greater London.
The popularity of the South-East is also shown in its letting figures. When breaking down office space take-up figures for the first half of 2009, the South-East brought in an impressive 11.6% of lettings. Outside of London, the only other region to compete with this was the North-West, including the major cities of Manchester and Liverpool, which came in slightly ahead of the South-East with 15.1%.
So what makes the South-East such a desirable location for businesses?
As the second richest region, and with the largest regional economy in the UK (behind London), the South-East already has a list of prestigious companies to its name. Global technology companies including Microsoft, Oracle and Symantec have locations here, while the region’s excellent transport links serve commuters getting to or from London and other areas in the south of England.
The M4, M3, M40, M1 and M25 are all easily accessible from different parts of the region, along with numerous rail links and proximity to high major airports, including Heathrow and Gatwick.
According to the South East England Development Agency (SEEDA), the region offers excellent transport facilities:
“With three international airports, 11 sea ports, 108 motorway junctions, 77 train stations and access to the Channel Tunnel, the South East has one of the most developed infrastructures in Europe.” In addition, SEEDA reports that most major towns in the South East are connected by rail to central London with a journey time of under an hour.
The economic decline has seen many businesses seeking relocation by means of cutting costs, and for some, relocation is an option that is helping to keep overheads low whilst still maintaining productivity. With its proximity to London, the South-East is an obvious choice – in fact according to research by SEEDA, during 2008/09 the region saw a 17% increase in the number of companies relocating to the area.
Pam Alexander, SEEDA’s Chief Executive, stated in a press release in June 2009: “The South-East remains one of the most attractive locations for the world’s leading companies even in such a difficult operating climate. These excellent results highlight the unique strength of our region for successful businesses.”
However, office take-up in the South-East is not just confined to UK businesses. As reported by ukinvest.gov.uk, in the last five years over 100 international companies have relocated to Reading, or opened additional centres there, with more set to join them over the coming years. The source states that Reading has also been identified by an inward investment report as the top investment location in the South East.
Furthermore, Aengus Murray, former inward investment manager at TVEP, stated: “The Thames Valley is a destination of choice for international business and over the past few years Reading has got the lion’s share. Reading’s major business locations… and planned improvements to Reading station, make it a huge attraction to new investors.”
This is backed up by our Q1 and Q2 South-East enquiry levels. When breaking down all cities within the region, we found that Reading was the most popular choice, followed by Guildford and Milton Keynes.
The graph below shows the most popular cities in terms of enquiries for the South-East, over the first two quarters of 2009:
Finally, where the recession is concerned, the South-East is showing positive signs of recovery. In fact, according to an article by the BBC, the region has been “cushioned” from the worst of its effects, thanks to a “high concentration of financial and business services, and a low level of production and construction firms.”
According to the article, Paul Lovejoy, executive director of SEEDA, said that the rate of decline had slowed significantly in recent months and confidence was returning. “We are seeing bank lending return to normal”, he says, “and that means we are starting to see some stabilization in economic activity.”
For more details relating to office space in the South-East, including cities such as Reading, Guildford and Milton Keynes, visit officebroker.com to find and compare offices, and for free expert advice.
*Regions include the following: Central and Greater London, East Midlands, East of England, Ireland, North East, North West, South East, South West, Scotland, West Midlands, Wales, and finally Yorkshire & Humberside.