Barry Jessup says 'the loss of this mostly tertiary space should come as no surprise'

Property Week, 14 January 2022

Barry Jessup, managing director of developer Socius, which separated from First Base in December to concentrate on its £1bn pipeline of urban regeneration schemes in locations such as Brighton, Bristol, Cambridge and Milton Keynes, agrees.

“The loss of this mostly tertiary office space should come as no surprise,” he says. “A lack of investment in regional offices over the past couple of decades means that a lot of them are now obsolete. A lot will be converted to residential, but two wrongs don’t make a right. Creating poor-quality housing and losing crucial employment space is rarely a win for any town centre.”

Jessup adds: “There has to be a good reason to come into the office in the post-Covid world and few of the historic office buildings currently provide the flexibility, amenity, air quality and brand value that will resonate with the occupier market.”

“In addition to the Covid-19 effect, the rising importance of zero carbon corporate pledges mean that a number of these buildings are also not occupiable from a sustainability perspective,” says Jessup. “The answer, of course, is wholesale refurbishment, but ideally retaining as much of the existing buildings as possible to ensure maximum carbon retention.”

As Jessup notes, there is actually no shortage of demand for high-end stock in more marginal locations; the issue is that supply has yet to catch up with demand.

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