Head of Agency Paul Williams said a combination of factors was severely limiting choice – and in some cases may be prompting businesses to consider moving further afield to find the right premises.
“Although to the casual observer there are still plenty of ‘To Let’ signs up in the city centre, the reality is that the ‘squeezed middle’ is finding it an increasing struggle to find the right premises in the 1,500-5,000 sq ft bracket.
“Following the temporary relaxation of Permitted Development Rights which the Government introduced to help boost the economy, a great many suitable buildings have been converted to residential and student accommodation.
“Although developers have now begun speculative office development, to date these have all been of larger floorplates above 10,000 sq ft, which although welcome, don’t address the needs of the SME sector looking to increase their office space as the recovery continues to gather pace.
“This is exactly what we predicted might happen and the problem has been exacerbated in Bristol because it is such an attractive place to both live and work. Ironically, the city is in danger of becoming a victim of its own success.
“An awful lot of space has gone which is now affecting the market and could stifle business growth. Other policies being pursued by the elected mayor such as Resident’s Parking Zones, while laudable in their aim, risk alienating businesses who may start to give serious thought to relocating away from the centre of Bristol as a result.”
He added: “This is an issue for the planning authorities as ‘squeezed middle’ businesses makes up a large proportion of the city office market and is very much the engine room which drives growth in the economy.”
Paul Williams compared the problems facing the city office market to those facing the housing sector.
“The housing market is dependent upon first time buyers – if they can’t afford to move the whole system stagnates. It’s just the same with the office sector - if the ‘squeezed middle’ can’t find the accommodation they need the whole lot grinds to a halt.
“We are talking about bread and butter space which agents would expect to be seeing their clients refurbishing in order to re-let as offices but is simply not there anymore as so many buildings have been sold for conversion to alternative uses over the past couple of years since PDR’s were relaxed.”
Paul Williams said: “It is great news that Bristol is European Green Capital this year, but I would urge the mayor and city council not to lose sight of the needs of the business community whilst pursuing their wider strategic agenda.”