As you would expect the different sectors of the commercial market in the Central Belt have faced a variety of challenges over the last few years however it is encouraging to see signs of improvement across the board as we enter 2018.
DM Halls Falkirk office has also seen the start of a fresh chapter with a move at the end of 2017 to Callendar Business Park which is set in the grounds of Callendar House.
Although the relocation brought its challenges, the team of four professionals and two support staff are now settled into our new home and are looking forward to what we hope will be a busy year ahead.
As is to be expected in an area dominated by Scotland’s largest container port at Grangemouth and the country’s only petrochemical complex, the industrial sector continues to be a strong performer, a position which is unlikely to change in the foreseeable future.
After the impact of the credit crunch, the industrial sector in Falkirk and the wider surrounding area undoubtedly benefited from the fact that availability remained comparatively limited, placing less pressure on underlying rental and capital values than in comparison to other areas such as Cumbernauld and Livingston, where supply is much greater.
The Falkirk and Stirling areas also undoubtedly benefit from their positions within the heart of the central belt with the motorway triangle of the M876, M80 and M9 making them perfectly placed from a logistics/distribution point of view. This accessibility often attracts companies seeking a centrally positioned location which allows them to readily cover the entire country.
While the retail sector in the Central Belt continues to face a number of significant challenges it has undoubtedly benefitted from the 2017 rates revaluation which has seen significant reductions in many Rateable Values.
This realignment, coupled with an increase the threshold for 100% Small Business Rates Relief, has stimulated demand and market activity with purchasers now seeking to acquire “affordable” units as tenant demand has increased for appropriately priced premises.
While this trend is to be wholly welcomed the retail sector undoubtedly faces further significant challenges, particular in relation to the high street/town centre, a position which is by no means unique to the Falkirk/Stirling areas.
When I came to Falkirk in 1995, the town did not have a retail park whereas now it accommodates such occupiers as Next and M&S, names which would historically have been positioned on the high street. These changing shopping patterns towards retail parks and the internet will continue to bring challenges to the traditional town centre however it is pleasing to see the sector benefitting from an upturn in its fortunes.
Turning finally to the office sector, while this continues to be affected by modest demand, there have been heartening signs at the end of 2017 that enquiries and activity have started to pick up.
In this regard we completed two lettings at Callendar Park in the last quarter of 2017 with a third letting of 2,800 ft² having completed last week. At the same time we also let a ground floor suite at Earls Court in Grangemouth with a number of other active enquiries ongoing.
This increase in enquiries and activity may be partly down to improved business confidence although it is hard to say whether people really are confident or are just seeking to get on with their lives and businesses while Brexit and all the other upheavals rumble on in the background.
As such, on both the valuation and agency sides of the business, the first few weeks of 2018 have shown positive signs and it is to be hoped that these have set the tone for the rest of the year.
Amid all the uncertainty, what can be confidently said is that there is a discernible appetite for the right premises at the right price and that’s a market we can all be happy with.
Michael McIntyre is an Associate in the Falkirk/Stirling offices of DM Hall Chartered Surveyors.