One million square feet demolished and counting

These past few days I have been speaking to several “Big Hitters” in the Lancashire area.

By that I mean people who can make a difference to what happens, both in their own, and in other businesses, and the general consensus of opinion is that nothing much is going to change for the better during a period of settlement lasting anything up to 18 months from the General Election.

Most of them seem to have entrenched, but all said they had little confidence in investing until the ground rules become clear.

Talking of governments and the consequences of their decisions, I remain saddened by the effect of the recent policy on Empty Commercial Property Rates.

I know that I have commented on this before, but seeing over one million square feet of formerly useable commercial premises and mills having been knocked down in the M65 corridor since Christmas, cannot but cause you to wonder at the neo-vandalism.

The Chamber, by the way has a letter from the last Government, responding to a challenge, saying rather superiorly that the recession would be over by the middle of 2009 and that the markets would be functioning ‘normally’. If that’s the case it’s strange to think what some politicians think of as ‘normal’

Anyway, I know that not all of the demolitions may be directly because of the rates issue, but I am certain that each building owner had factored the new laws into their calculations when deciding what to do with older style properties.

The opinion of many professional property people I have spoken to, including landlords, estate agents and accountants, is that inevitably we will continue to lose more and more commercial land, and that eventually the shortage will lead to increased rentals as space becomes a premium.

That is exactly what the government said they were trying to avoid by dishing out the empty property rates bills, which were supposed to force landlords to take lower rents from businesses to keep the properties occupied.

Talk about backfiring.

On the optimistic side of business, we are slowly but steadily seeing more of our companies rising to the export challenge, aided by the favourable exchange rate.

Everyone also seems to be continuing to believe that manufacturing and engineering are ‘good things’. Perhaps the powers that be will listen to us on the other factors that affect the economy as well now…

Dream on John!

John Getty, president, Chamber of Commerce East Lancashire.