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Eight residential investment blocks in Cheltenham and Gloucester have been snapped up for in excess of £10 million in three transactions.

Of particular interest is a portfolio of six Regency buildings in Cheltenham, owned by Lansdown Estates. These include tenanted properties in Clarence Square, Suffolk Square, Lansdown Terrace, Bath Road and Wellington Street. The properties, comprising six prestigious unbroken freehold regency blocks in the town, contain a total of 68 apartments.

William Matthews MRICS, a Senior Surveyor in Bruton Knowles’ Gloucester office, who acted on behalf of the vendors, said: “The Lansdown Estates portfolio disposal, undertaken on behalf of two private investors, is believed to be the largest openly marketed single portfolio of residential investment properties sold in Cheltenham in recent years.” Allsop was joint agent on the disposal.

Bruton Knowles also secured buyers for a block of 27 newly converted apartments, Beatrice Webb House in Eastgate Street, Gloucester, as well a block of 14 flats in St George’s Street, Cheltenham.

William said: “We have seen significant investment into the region from both investors based in London and from overseas. Investors see the potential for capital growth in the Gloucestershire region and they recognise that apartment block investments are a relatively secure asset.”

In total the disposals contained some 109 residential apartments, the majority of which were tenanted.

William believes that interest in the three investment portfolios was buoyed by the scarcity of such investments coupled with the fact that all three are in “very prestigious locations.”

He said: “Investments of this nature are very rarely available – especially in this quantum. Most Regency apartments are sold individually. Substantial Freehold blocks only come onto the market very rarely. While Cheltenham has long been a very sought-after location, Gloucester is moving up the ranks because significant regeneration is taking place in the city. We are now seeing strong growth in values in the city.”

William works in the development team across all sectors including commercial, land and residential investment sales. Bruton Knowles has a pipeline of further residential investment assets coming to the market shortly in 2022

Bruton Knowles’ ambition is to create a one-stop-shop for clients, with its National Teams providing a point of contact to deliver an entire project to the exacting standards required by each client.

Business Consultancy is the fourth National Bruton Knowles Team to be introduced to the UK market in 2021. It sits alongside Utilities & Infrastructure, Valuations, and Commercial within the business portfolio. National Teams have been significant for the business, and there are plans to launch more over the coming year.

An 84-year-old Warwickshire rugby club has taken the first big step in securing its long-term future with the acquisition of a new site, after its current ground was secured by HS2 for the planned London to Birmingham route.

The Old Saltleians, more widely known as The Old Salts, will move from their current but temporary site near Shard End to a new purpose-built ground at Water Orton in time for the new season start in September 2022 – with contractors just about to break ground.

This will be the third time that the Club has had to move. Previously the construction of the M42 and M6 Toll Road enforced a relocation, and now the planned HS2 route has meant that yet another move has had to be negotiated – causing some disruption and anxiety for this heritage sports club.

Ian Mercer, Partner at Chartered Surveyor firm, Bruton Knowles, has been representing the club since 2011 and throughout: “It has been a difficult time for Old Salts but with work starting on site we can now look forward to a more secure future and an opportunity for the club to set down permanent roots and ensure that its presence in the local community provides real value. Complex negotiations with HS2 have taken us a little longer than anticipated but all parties can now be genuinely delighted with the end result. 

“This has been a truly memorable and challenging development, given the need to ensure uninterrupted play, whilst waiting for the new permanent site to be completed.”

The Club’s Design Team, alongside an independent project manager, has worked with HS2 to ensure that initial site preparations and planning progressed well with ecological surveys conducted and mains services all now in place.

Once complete, The Old Salts new home will cover some 17 acres, boast a new clubhouse equivalent in modern standards of significant size (with facilities planned for use by the local community as well as the club) extensive car and coach parking to serve the entire site, 3 senior pitches with state-of-the-art floodlighting to one, 3 junior and 2 dedicated mini-rugby pitches. 

Mick Lee, Club Chairman at The Old Saltleians explains: “Old Salts has always been a community rugby club, providing a strong, vibrant identity in the local area for youth and adult players and spectators. The intention now is to break out of ‘survival mode’ and kick on, provide a home that we can all grow into, open the doors wide, inviting players of all ages and all skill levels to enjoy, whilst developing the women’s and girls’ section. Thus, continuing to introduce new generations to the sport and to the family environment it offers.”

“We also believe that investment made at our temporary home in Shard End will leave a useful legacy for another club to use, expand into or relocate to. We are grateful to Birmingham City Council for their support, in our exile, since 2018. 

"We must thank the club members, partners and professional advisors RLF, the RFU for their guidance, North Warwickshire Borough Council for their governance and O'Brien Contractors for their support, hard work and belief in the project. This will mark a new era for the club, its players, supporters and the community. Rugby! A game for life!"

The CGI overview of the proposed plans for the new ground can be found here.

Bruton Knowles is an independently owned chartered surveyor firm with 10 offices across the UK. The team is highly knowledgeable in sale and purchase, valuation, leasing and strategy, providing specialist insightful advice across commercial property, infrastructure, utilities, public sector and social housing sectors, helping clients to achieve more from land and property.

Bruton Knowles has extensive expertise and in-depth market knowledge of local and national property markets throughout the UK. Utilising its team of motivated resourceful surveyors, the firm can provide the very best commercial property advice.

Much was pledged at COP26. Promises were made to end deforestation, reduce methane levels and shift to more sustainable ways of farming. Coal is also set for burn out. Some described the occasion as pure ‘greenwash,’ others felt it marked a step in the right direction. 

What is clear is that actions speak louder than words. The hard work must now start in earnest. Delivering the Glasgow Climate Pact will require immense global political leadership. Countries need to stand and deliver on their commitments. So too does industry.

  Ian Mulvaney, Partner and Head of Building Consultancy at National Chartered Surveying firm, Bruton Knowles, says stakeholders in the built environment are becoming more demanding. When it comes to sustainability, they are holding businesses to account.

He believes this approach is exactly what is needed. Positive change arising from groundswell within the sector needs to be harnessed. Government incentives to speed up that process will be key. Ian shares his reactions to recent climate change pledges, and discusses the challenges for real estate asset owners.

“COP26 represented a global platform to shine a spotlight on the climate crisis. The eyes of the world were on the UK, as nations looked to their leaders to stimulate meaningful change. What emerged following the two weeks of intense negotiations were some important high-level points, but just not enough detail.

“Property owners across the UK wanted to see the vision translated into practical action with the publication of clear guidance soon thereafter. Such an approach would maintain momentum, and secure collective buy-in to what the country was seeking to achieve.

“The UK’s built environment is undoubtedly world-leading in many ways, but it has yet to demonstrate this properly in the Environmental, Social and Governance (ESG) sphere. If there is any hope of the 1.5ºC pathway to reaching net zero by 2050 being achieved, the sector’s ambitions must be turbo-charged.

“The Glasgow Pact is fragile and relies on the G7 countries to coordinate global policy, stick to the commitments made, whilst also pressing ahead with bolder and better plans. The UK’s Climate Change Committee (CCC) has already warned Britain is lagging on the target trajectory to reduce greenhouse gases due to the lack of robust policy.

“Rather than wait for guidance to land piece by piece, those operating in the built environment sector must take decisive action. They need to think creatively, because it could be some time before the sustainability incentives - and indeed carbon penalties - come to the fore.

“Boards must put green governance at the heart of their processes, whilst encouraging staff to produce practical ideas for improvement. Good data will play a vital part in this process, enabling a better understanding of the problems faced. Quantifying poor energy performance and the carbon footprint of buildings will lead to more meaningful environmental strategies.

“The retrofit issue remains a real concern. Apart from the logistical and fiscal challenges of temporarily rehousing tenants from their dwellings or offices, it seems clear that without a national scheme, action will only come from property owners with social consciences and sufficiently large bank balances.

“There have been many failed attempts - most recently via the Green Homes Grant - to incentivise energy efficiency improvements. The shortage of adequately qualified people to deliver retrofit activity was a real oversight. So too was the lack of clarity over how this intervention sat within the UK’s overarching plans for decarbonisation.

“Within social housing, the PAS 2035 scheme is pushing up retrofit standards which is encouraging. There are still barriers, such as excessive costs and the patchy supply chain, but local authorities are seeking to overcome this by focusing on the social and market benefits.

“There may also be an opportunity to scale this approach up for the private rental sector, but it would require a significant push, as well as the political and commercial will to deliver it. Older stock is often just put in the ‘too hard to tackle’ box, but greater clarity, policy emphasis and investment would be a start.

“For new builds, there is an easy win, which is the forcing through of building regulations that make the energy efficiency and sustainability requirements ever more stringent. Mandating the transition is a crucial step towards Net Zero, but it is also important for the market to deliver its own solutions in parallel.

“Green finance has a role to play in this space. Government’s new Framework to facilitate more environmentally friendly activity across the wider property sector is welcomed. But to make it meaningful, the addition of grants and tax breaks, in line with the wider strategic vision, would incentivise behaviour change and stimulate action.

“So too would greater intermediary intervention. Property professionals are pivotal in challenging clients on disclosure and steering them towards better environmental compliance, resource use and social impact. Consultancy stewardship is an important aspect of a transparent property management approach.

“COP26 has not yet made any distinct difference to what the built environment industry is already trying to do. Reversing the climate change trend depends entirely on innovative leadership combined with more legislation and policy levers.

“The sector must think more radically about how it can capitalise on green finance and technology to deliver environmental, economic and social transformation. Building the foundations for a greener future will depend entirely on the appetite of constructors and future investors to assess climate change risks.

“Scientists have warned flash floods will become more frequent because of the climate emergency. Builders, investors, and property owners must, as a matter of urgency, determine whether current and future stock can withstand extreme weather or is green enough in its performance.

“Risk is the best way to incentivise, so the industry must lead by example and find that unique selling point which will make development stand out for all the right reasons. Organisations like UK Green Building Council are working hard to guide stakeholders through the muddy floodwaters on the journey to Net Zero.

“By plugging the strategic gaps with key information and guidance, these think-tanks are crucial in advocating for change and inspiring built environment partners to pull together as they strive for a more sustainable future. We all have a role to play in this transformation, and it is no longer acceptable to shift responsibility to generations further down the line.”

With small glimmers of economic growth, the coming year will no doubt bring opportunities and challenges for those operating in the property sector.

James Bailey, Managing Partner at Bruton Knowles, gives his views on the prospects for 2022.

“General business growth across UK PLC seems sluggish at present, and it’s hard to see how this will accelerate significantly in 2022. Despite the levelling up rhetoric, Government does not seem to have really worked out how it will mitigate the fact that people are generally worse off.

“Rising inflation and possible tax changes are likely to mean more operational difficulties for firms across the Midlands, particularly when pitching for work and trying to deliver it profitably whilst fighting increasing costs.

“The implications from Brexit will also continue to play out. The loss of significant numbers of Europeans from the UK workforce continues to impact on over-stretched supply chains. Coupled with this, the continued challenge across all sectors, but particularly within professional services, to find the right people with the right skills to fill vacancies, will impact.

“In all of this, technology has to be seen as an enabler. If used in the right way, it can support business infrastructures as they look to deliver services more creatively to respond to ongoing economic challenges whilst building up resilience.”

Government has set tough targets for new dwellings to be built across the South-West of England, which is challenging given there are so many green belt, costal and areas of outstanding natural beauty. Harry Breakwell, Partner at Bruton Knowles, and located at the firm’s Gloucester office, discusses the opportunities and challenges this poses when it comes to finding suitable plots.


“One of the barriers to unlocking land for residential development sits within the cumbersome and outdated planning system. The lack of clarity around housing requirements, and delivery mechanisms exacerbates this. Since the pandemic there has been consequent delays to decision-making; both on major proposals and on the progress of emerging local plans. Additional resource for planning departments would help expedite this process.


“Times change and planning policy has to evolve to ensure a more streamlined, efficient service which is fit for purpose. It is evident that there is currently insufficient land to meet housing targets and demand from developers. A balance must be struck between the delivery of sustainable housing and sympathetic design to meet important climate change and environmental targets.


“The reality is that the more straightforward accessible sites have already been earmarked for development. Those remaining tend to be difficult to unlock. Many brownfield opportunities are located on the edge of industrial areas and can be undesirable places to live. Others pose too much of a risk due to contamination and depressed values, making them economically unviable.


“Some believe the 1,700 brownfield sites in the southwest region should be recycled to tackle the housing shortage.  Estimates indicate this could deliver 70,000 new homes. [1]

 

“It will be interesting to see how the proposed planning reforms play out and whether they will help simplify the planning system and change to meet the needs of the country.”

The climate emergency is here. Never before has it been so important for firms operating in the built environment sector to step up and demonstrate their green credentials. James Bailey, Managing Partner at Bruton Knowles, shares his thoughts on the challenges and opportunities of becoming more sustainable. 

“From a procurement perspective, bidders are increasingly being asked to demonstrate their carbon credentials when delivering a service, particularly to public sector clients. Whilst we all understand there is a compelling business case for this, it can be difficult to quantify. There is a growing expectation for firms like ours to be measured against social value and sustainability key performance indicators (KPIs), so we must find new and innovative ways as a business to highlight our carbon commitment.

“We always endeavour to be radical in our thinking, to challenge ourselves about our own sustainable working practices, so we can clearly demonstrate our approach to customers. For example, when we deliver asset valuations, we assess the extent to which cleaner modes of transport can be used by the delivery team. Planning in carbon efficiencies at the outset of a project means we can also help our public sector partners play their role in delivering Government’s 2050 Net Zero target.

“On the commercial side, there is a long way to go. Whilst there have been some flagship schemes across the region that have embraced sustainability, the average commercial entity still wants something made that recognises value for money. For them, green development continues to be cost prohibitive to deliver, because the pay-back comes too far down the line. Until the banks and other financiers facilitate change to encourage greener development by making fundamental structural reforms to lending, it is hard to see how this situation will improve.”

Commercial property is changing following Covid. More firms are shifting to hybrid working, and inevitably, there has been a reduction in city centre footfall. Industrial and office markets have had to adjust to the need for socially distanced space. Many places are having to think again about the role in which commercial property plays in local economies and how this might change in 2022.

James Bailey, Managing Partner at Bruton Knowles, shares his thoughts.

“According to the Centre for Cities, weekday footfall levels in key locations across the Midlands remain down on pre-pandemic levels. This reflects the ongoing reluctance of employees to return fully to workplaces, rather than the requirement by firms to reduce staffing densities to stop Covid spreading.

“A quick walk around Nottingham or Birmingham nowadays leaves you in no doubt that many of the once bustling commercial offices and industrial spaces have lost the buzz of human activity. That’s hardly surprising, as more firms embrace hybrid working practices. But for central business districts to prosper once again, these empty places need a renewed purpose.

“And although the UK housing shortage remains chronic, it would not be right to turn every unused office block into student accommodation or high-rise living. Houses need to be in close proximity to economic hubs, they should not replace them in their entirety.

“Communities are changing, and working practices are adjusting, but there is still an appetite for employees to engage - for at least part of the working week - in person, rather than via screens.

“So, before businesses start to move away from these economic centres to the suburbs, where commercial properties are cheaper to rent or buy, local authorities need to provide an added impetus to encourage people back.

“It is still too early to write city centres off, but action is needed sooner rather than later to incentivise employees and kickstart business performance to ensure cities can revive and thrive.”

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