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Cumbria – businesses must ‘stay focused’

A leading property expert has reported that Cumbria is seeing higher levels of property activity across various sectors – but urged the business community to ‘stay focused.’

Jamie Allison, head of the Real Estate division for Cumbria and Lancashire law firm Napthens, reports that his teams are seeing both option agreements and promotion agreements signed between landowners and developers in Cumbria – further signs of confidence in the property sector.

Key developments and the commitment of local politicians is giving real local stimulus for the property community. In Cumbria, consents have been granted for an increase in housing and the area is benefiting from various agencies selling the county as the place to live and work.

The planned Enterprise Zone at Carlisle’s Kingmoor Park is one more example of the way growth is being sustained in the county. An estimated 3,000 jobs could be brought to the area as a result.

Jamie said: “It is not surprising that retailers and housebuilders want to put their flags in the ground in Cumbria.

“One trend which is prevalent in our teams is the level of activity in the Leisure sector too, which invariably goes unnoticed in terms of its net economic contribution.

“Outlets opening, independent chains growing and the refurbishment of sites with fantastic provenance are pieces of work we are regularly asked to transact. This then filters down to the need to buy local produce – markets for beer, cheese, vegetables, fruit, meat, poultry and eggs.

“The net effect is growth planning, which habitually requires a change to the property owning and occupying landscape.

“There are more occupiers buying the properties they occupy as tenants, there are site enhancements on pre-existing sites involving key contractors and advisory teams and there is a need for high grade commercial space which is becoming harder to source as demand increases.”

Jamie added that funding and the approach of banks has changed too, as they demonstrate and follow through on their ‘open for business’ mantras.

He said: “We see businesses being sustainably supported in property investment and the building of quality portfolios – particularly in healthcare and leisure. We are seeing banks being pro-active, more up-front and solution-focused than before and, consequently, clients having their facilities reviewed or new facilities being granted for expansion capital purposes.

“There are new entrants in the market too, such as, secured lenders from the P2P market, and we are seeing more blended finance arrangements where funding can be multi-layered. This all helps drive progress.”

Jamie admitted there is still some way to go, with the secondary retail market in Cumbria sometimes struggling. Some areas, including South Cumbria, have continued strong demand from industrial and trade occupiers tempered by fewer new developments available due to lack of employment allocated space.

These trends have been backed up by Napthens’ own experiences. The Rural team, which plays a major role in the development of Napthens’ business in Cumbria, has seen an 11 per cent increase in growth.

Napthens’ offices in Kendal and Penrith are now also approaching their 1,000th new matter and the appointment of Kate Mallaband, in Cumbria last year, to head the commercial property expertise in the county, has been another real driver for growth.

Jamie added: “We need to remain focused, keep things simple and deliver a fair deal and one which is tenable in an environment where interest rates are low, the equity markets are buoyant and where imports are becoming high-priced.

“Sustainable growth and development needs to be maintained and with the funders playing a part in that and local authorities continuing to be strategic we need to keep supporting that cause.”

 

Real Estate - head of Real Estate - James Allison