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Charnwood is optimistic as office lettings figure for city improves; GROUP HAS STARTED BUILDING VENTURE IN HEART OF CENTRE.

Byline: GRAHAM HENRY

OFFICE lettings in greater Cardiff have improved this year, but the outlook remains uncertain, according to latest figures.

The figures, produced by Bridgend chartered surveyors Cooke & Arkwright's office agency, showed that take-up was about 208,000 sq ft in the first half of 2010, although this does include about 10% of lease renewals.

Projecting similar levels for the remainder of the year would see 420,000 sq ft let compared to last year's 380,000 sq ft, against a long-term average of 500,000 sq ft a year.

"Importantly, the trend of transactions shows amore even spread of activity, both location-wise and across the standard of accommodation," associate director Ben Bolton said. "Cardiff's best buildings are still attracting interest from companies who can identify genuine benefits from moving to a better environment to improve efficiencies and reduce occupational costs.

"The city has also fared reasonably well in comparison to other regional towns and cities, with the majority of prime deals being in the professional sector, although the market remains subdued. At the same time, there is becoming a scarcity at the top end of the market with many developers remaining cautious to build new stock or finding it difficult to financenew development."

One developer who is pushing ahead in these testing times however is the Charnwood Group, which has started construction on the only speculative new office development in Cardiff city centre this year.

It started construction on a new 2,800-sq ft Grade A office building in St Andrew's Place in the heart of one of Cardiff's prime professional areas in July and aims to complete in time for Christmas. Cooke & Arkwright and Savills were appointed as joint letting agents on the scheme, which is also the first new development in the vicinity for more than 15 years.

Henry Best of Charnwood said: "We are effectively posting a vote of confidence in the future, in a challenging market. We believe this is a great location to take advantage of - and if you don't build, you can't let it. It's a city-centre location that attracts professional occupiers, but all the existing premises here are mainly period converted houses. This development will provide statement office accommodation of a type and quality that is not presently available in the locality."

Gary Carver of property firm Savills said that the development was a "welcome facelift" for St Andrew's Place given that the previous building had been dilapidated.

He said: "The new offices will provide attractive and flexible accommodation with energy saving and sustainable features, as well as on-site parking.

"This is a welcome development in a difficult market. Charnwood's decision to build at this time should prove correct as there is a definite drive by companies to improve the quality of their space."

The start of construction comes after the group announced the letting of another unit at their development on Ocean Way in the capital.

Charnwood confirmed the latest deal at Cook Court with the Cardiff Vineyard Church, following on from deals with both the NSPCC and Stride Treglown at the development. Henry Best, director for The Charnwood Group, said the deal with the church in Ocean Park provided evidence that the group continued to dominate the development market within this area.

CAPTION(S):

Henry Best, left, of Charnwood Group, Ben Bolton, centre, of Cooke & Arkwright, and Gary Carver, Savills
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Title Annotation:Business
Publication:Western Mail (Cardiff, Wales)
Geographic Code:4EUUK
Date:Aug 18, 2010
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