The benefits of ‘mixed use’ developments which combine residential, commercial and leisure facilities within one area are well known. People who live and work in these areas enjoy the benefits of a much better work/life balance with reduced reliance on their cars, improved public transport links and excellent community facilities.
The need for additional housing in our region is well documented - for example the current Poole Local Plan Review has identified the need for 14,200 new homes by 2033. However, the lack of accompanying commercial/industrial land is not so well publicised, and one of the area’s leading commercial property agents is warning of a serious shortage of deliverable employment sites within the South East Dorset conurbation.
Simon West, a founding partner of Cowling & West, says that the limited supply of available land for industrial and warehouse development has become a major issue and could stifle economic growth in the region.
“Although there would appear to be a reasonable number of sites which have been allocated as employment land, the reality is that many of them are not actually available,” he says. “For example, we can’t show a prospective client a parcel of land without any infrastructure in place. As a minimum, they want to see the main services - electricity, water and communications – together with a good road network. And those type of sites are very limited.
“Around 80% of our enquiries are from local companies who want to expand. They are medium/large business which are typically looking for a 20,000 sq ft building or larger. If you look across the whole conurbation and try to identify sites to meet this need, there are probably only five or six realistic possibilities.
“We have also identified 12 other businesses that are potentially looking for even larger premises (around 40,000 sq ft) and these are equally difficult to find. The costs of failing to address this shortage will be far reaching in the long term.
“Not providing enough land, in the right location and at the right time, will inevitably force companies to make compromises to meet their needs. We recently acted for a Poole-based company which has now moved into Hampshire in order to find a suitable site. They didn’t want to move out of the town but they simply couldn’t find anything to accommodate their requirements.
“All this, of course, leads to further problems. If companies had a good supply of suitable land or buildings, this would free up their existing premises for smaller businesses who want to expand and move up the commercial property ladder.
“Nor does it help with inward investment. Companies looking to move into our area want to have a good selection of sites to consider. If we can only give them limited options, it sends out the wrong message about our commitment to growth and innovation.
In conclusion, he said: “The region is showing good growth but it is critical that we maintain a steady supply of employment land so that companies can expand and, in turn, deliver more employment and productivity to the whole conurbation.”