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Paul Bagust, Associate Director at the RICS provides his overview

wantspacegotspace.co.uk - Paul Bagust, Associate Director at the RICS provides his overviewHigh streets in the South West have been suffering from high vacancy rates and an uncertain market throughout the economic downturn. The latest data from RICS’ UK Commercial Market Survey confirms this gloomy picture for the region, with demand for retail space continuing to fall in the three months to September.

These concerning figures are coupled with a rise in available floor space across the region. This in turn has led to a continued fall in rental expectations, with surveyors predicting further rental declines to the end of the year.  

Demand for retail premises in the region’s high streets has now dropped for five consecutive quarters with rental expectations remaining negative since the end of 2007. If we do not support the South West’s high streets now we risk losing their individual character forever. As a leading industry body we recognise these issues and the support needed for our members. It is therefore vital that we at RICS play our part in stimulating the region’s high streets.

Much of the fall in demand can be attributed to small and independent businesses that are, understandably, nervous to take on a complicated property lease in the current climate. If these retailers can be enticed back on to the high street they will not only fill landlord’s vacant floor space but reinvigorate the identity, appeal and vibrancy of high streets in the South West.

To effectively support these retailers, and offer landlords a life line in letting their properties, we must address the issue of inflexible long-term leases that are keeping SMEs away. Therefore, we have therefore launched RICS’ Small Business Retail Lease to get these retailers back onto the high street and fill landlords’ empty shops.

Developed in collaboration with the British Retail Consortium, the lease has been specifically designed to provide an easy to understand, flexible contract. It is being offered free to all and is applicable for leases up to five years. It is laid out in a simple format, clearly identifying the tenant’s fixed property costs and responsibilities. This will save time and money for both the landlord and occupier, thereby encouraging start-up businesses back into vacant high street space.

The lease is also being endorsed by the British Property Federation, which has recently launched their Short Term Commercial Lease for larger retailers. Together, these two complimentary leases address the need for flexible leases across the South West.

We believe RICS’ Small Business Lease is a crucial part of what should be an industry-wide effort to raise demand and improve vacancy rates in the region and throughout the UK. We hope that alongside the British Property Federations’ lease, we can begin to reverse the negative picture of the South West’s retail sector and ensure its character and vitality for generations to come.

To ensure the lease is understood and used correctly explanatory notes for occupiers, surveyors, lawyers and landlords have also been published. To download the lease and explanatory notes for free please visit www.rics.org/smallbusinesslease.

Posted by The Editor (wantspacegotspace) on 13th November 2012

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