George Osborne opens Bristol enterprise zone

The official opening of a multimillion-pound “enterprise zone” in Bristol is to take place later.

Firms in the zone, located near Temple Meads railway station, will have reduced business rates and simplified planning rules.

Bristol is one of four cities chosen by the government in June 2011 to try to boost economic growth.

But critics believe the zone will not create additional jobs, with super-fast broadband the only benefit to firms.

The leader of Liberal Democrat-run Bristol City Council, Barbara Janke, said the city had a huge amount to offer potential businesses wishing to invest.

“We are one of the most business friendly, green cities in Europe with a track record of supporting innovative companies to thrive and grow,” she said.


  • A 100% business rate discount worth up to £275,000 over a five-year period
  • “Radically simplified” planning approach
  • Super-fast broadband availability

“With its simplified planning and business rate discounts, the enterprise zone offers an exciting investment opportunity at the heart of the city and the South West region.”

BBC West Business Correspondent Dave Harvey said, as a symbol of recession-hit Britain, the area around Temple Meads was powerful.

“There is wasteland and derelict buildings on what should be prime real estate by Brunel’s famous station,” he said.

“Backers of the new enterprise zone hope to lure creative, digital, design companies with a tax break and super-fast broadband.

“Getting similar firms next to set up in a new ‘creative quarter’ can boost productivity, and so create more jobs but critics worry the tax breaks just distort the market.”

Scottish businesses benefit from £420m rate relief

A business rates relief scheme has paid out around £420m to Scottish firms since it was introduced four years ago.

The Scottish Government published a regional breakdown of the figures across the country which shows that firms in Glasgow accounted for the largest share of the savings, taking £44.9m.

CBI Scotland welcomed the announcement, but added it was “bewildering” that the SNP administration is planning to impose £131m in taxes on larger retailers and companies with empty premises.

Assistant director David Lonsdale said: “CBI Scotland has previously warmly applauded the rates discount for small firms, as it is welcome recognition that keeping taxes down aids cash flow and helps firms fund their investment plans.

“It is, therefore, bewildering and disappointing that the Scottish Government is pressing ahead with its plans for £131m of new business rate taxes on companies – on larger retailers and on firms with empty premises – which will simply increase the cost of doing business in Scotland.”

Enterprise minister Fergus Ewing said: “The Small Business Bonus Scheme and other reliefs combined give Scottish business a real competitive edge.

“When we look at the number of recipients by local authority area, this shows the significant benefits recorded in local economies in areas including Glasgow, Edinburgh, Highland, Fife, South Lanarkshire and North Lanarkshire.

“We have committed to continue the bonus scheme for the life of the Parliament, providing long-term stability to Scottish small and medium enterprises, so that they can contribute to Scotland’s economic success and growth. Businesses could save up to £4,500 this year.”

The figures showed companies in Edinburgh saved £41m £27.1m in Highland region, £26.4m in Fife, £21.3m in South Lanarkshire and £20.6m in Aberdeenshire.

Bristol commercial property gets a boost

Have you considered adding to your portfolio by becoming the owner of a commercial property in Bristol?

It could be a profitable move, as a new study by Colliers International has found that take-up of office space in the city increased by 44 per cent in the first three months of 2012 when compared with the previous quarter.

This is despite Knight Frank’s Darren Yates recently saying that property owners may have to offer incentives to draw in cautious tenants.

A total of 117,000 sq ft was accepted in the centre of Bristol by firms looking for new premises or start-ups, while the rest was made up of leases being signed for out-of-town locations.

Colliers spokesperson James Preece said he expects more transactions on grade A offices in the coming quarters as a result of recent interest in such premises.

“Although it is too early to attribute this to a sea change in business trends it does underline the fact firms are actively looking around for the best value deals available,” he added.

Telford offer discounted business rate scheme

Firms could get business rate discounts of up to £55,000 a year under plans to lure more companies to Telford.

Telford & Wrekin Council is proposing a raft of incentives for new businesses following the opening of the new Jaguar Land Rover i54 plant.

Officials say that the borough is ideally placed to benefit from the new plant, which is being constructed just off the M54 motorway.

The i54 plant will create 750 jobs directly and a further 2,200 in its supply chain.

In addition to the borough’s readily available development land, lower house prices and excellent rail and road links, the council is looking at a range of further incentives for new businesses.

They include deferring business rates to help start-up firms which will be considered by the council’s cabinet on Thursday.

There are already many major automotive suppliers based in the borough. The borough also has 167 hectares of development land, more commercial land than in any other major West Midlands employment area and much of it is on commercial areas such as Hortonwood or the Nedge.

The council also has an agreement with the Homes & Communities Agency which allows it to offer flexible development packages to help new firms grow.

The report says that with the M54 running through the borough and a dedicated railfreight terminal at Donnington, the area has very good transport links.

Training is also being developed involving Telford College of Arts and Technology and the universities of Wolverhampton and Warwick to ensure people have the skills needed.

Council leader Kuldip Sahota said: “We need to make it as attractive and easy as possible for new businesses to come here and we as a council have a key part to play in making this happen to ensure that we win this business for the borough.”


2012 set to be a big year for London office space

2012 is set to be a momentous year for London as the Queen’s Diamond Jubilee and the Olympic Games put the capital under the world’s gaze.

With such widespread attention comes huge pressure as organisers hope that both events pass without a hitch and leave people with a positive impression of the UK and its capital city.

So a huge year indeed and, even before a flag has been waved or a medal won, demand for businesses to set up shop in a location expected to go from strength to strength is already proving problematic.

Along with New York and Tokyo, London is an important financial centre for international business and commerce and has the sixth largest city economy in the world. It has five major business districts – the City, Westminster, Canary Wharf, Camden & Islington and Lambeth & Southwark – accounting for some 26,721,000m2 of office space in total.

The capital’s largest industry is finance, with the City being home to banks, brokers, insurers and legal and accounting firms, and the nearby Canary Wharf is dominated by two of the world’s largest banks, HSBC and Barclays. Over 100 of Europe’s 500 largest companies are also based here, so, it’s clear that competition for commercial property is intense.

Indeed, according to commercial property consultants Jones Lang LaSalle (JLL), the demand far exceeds the supply with many areas of the city expected to run out of available serviced office space by the end of the year.

The main mitigating circumstance for such a dearth of space for businesses to move into, particularly SMEs, is the uncertainty of the national economy which has led to few new developments being built. Such a shortfall will lead to an increase in rental prices in the region of 3% in the City and 3.5% in the West End against a 1.7% increase across the UK.

Further research from DTZ reveals that, in London, poor grade C rated office space exceeds the amount of grade A and B space on the market. In fact, grade C office is set to increase which may be more than adequate for some businesses but not for those who prefer a fully serviced and convenient office space.

Serviced offices are very popular with business start-ups and companies with limited trading histories as they provide an instant, flexible office space solution, often coming fully equipped with furniture, telephone lines, internet access, a reception and kitchen facilities. Serviced offices also offer flexibility of tenure, minimal capital outlay, minimal rental deposits and limited need for directors/bank guarantees.

Business rate relief DENIED for children’s charity

COUNCIL bosses have defended their decision to refuse an application for business rate relief that would have saved a children’s charity thousands of pounds every year.

Shooting Star CHASE moved into new fundraising offices in Weybridge Road, Addlestone, in February as a base to generate cash to fund the work carried out at Shooting Star House in Hampton and Christopher’s hospice in Guildford.

The charity applied to Runnymede Borough Council for discretionary business rate relief which, if granted, would have effectively given it exemption from paying rates on its new premises.

All charities receive mandatory relief of 80% of the total payment due every 12 months, but Shooting Star CHASE asked to have relief on the remaining 20% as well.

Councillors decided to refuse the application during a corporate management committee meeting, leaving the charity needing to pay just over £14,000 a year.

A spokesman for the borough council said it would not have been fair on council tax payers to be made responsible for paying the difference.

He said: “Shooting Star CHASE has already been given 80% relief on its business rates. As the government will only pay 25% of any additional relief the council may grant, the balance of £10,000 in this case would fall on the council tax payer.

“The council considers all applications on an individual basis and on this occasion, the decision was taken not to grant any additional relief.”

Shooting Star CHASE provides palliative care to young people in the region with life-limiting illnesses and conditions.

The business rateable value of the charity’s newly occupied building in Bridge Street is £149,000.

The business rate liability for the property in the year 2012/13 is £70,206, with mandatory relief accounting for £56,165 of that sum.

This leaves a balance of £14,041 to be paid by the charity.

UK commercial property values continue to fall

U.K. commercial real estate values fell for the fifth straight month in March as the country’s economic woes crimped returns, Investment Property Databank Ltd. said.

The average value of stores, offices and warehouses declined 0.3 percent last month from February, IPD said in a statement today. Retail properties led the drop, declining 0.5 percent. Total return, which combines the change in property values and rental income, rose 0.2 percent from a month ago.

The U.K. economy probably just avoided a technical recession of two consecutive quarters of falling economic output by growing 0.1 percent in the first quarter, the National Institute of Economic and Social Research said on April 5. Lenders are reluctant to provide loans for real estate purchases and have been selling assets to shrink their balance sheets amid stricter capital standards.

“The demand for secondary quality U.K. commercial property is greatly hampered because of a lack of debt to fund acquisitions,” Deutsche Bank said in a note today. “We expect the current two-tier market to continue with the valuation of secondary quality property continuing to deteriorate.”

The outcome for retail in March was the worst since May 2009 as “poor performance and yet more administrations impacted on values,” Phil Tily, a managing director at London-based IPD, said in the statement.

“Only Central London standard retail and London retail warehouses saw any positive growth,” Tily said. “Regional shopping centers and high street retail saw the steepest falls in value.”

Source: Business Week

Luton firms in business rate crisis

BUSINESS growth in Luton and Dunstable is being stifled by high rates bills.

That’s the warning from a national advice service that says 608 firms in Luton are waiting on the result of appeals.

This, says CVS, could mean that £3,439,022 of savings could be due back to local firms.

Mark Rigby, chief executive of CVS, said: “There are 608 rate appeals sat with the Valuation Office Agency from businesses in Luton.

“This could mean that £3,439,022 of savings is due back to local businesses.”

And, from April 1, CVS said business rates rose by an average of 5.77 per cent – the biggest increase in 20 years

Mr Rigby added: “This rise in rates also means that the average retail space can now expect a yearly rates bill in excess of £10,000. This figure is to be paid on top of rent and wages. Imagine the amount of trade your local newsagent would have to do to cover that cost.

“Exorbitant business rates undermine the profitability of companies in Luton and detract from their capacity to invest and grow. At best this impacts on their ability to create new jobs and at worst forces companies to close, contributing to further unemployment and stifling the UK economy.”

Annette White, of PC Help Centre in High Street South, Dunstable, said many small/new businesses have found it very difficult over the last year or so to maintain payments and even stay in business

She said: “I think it is fundamental that business rates are looked at.”

But it is worth contacting councils which may be able to help by deferring payments.

Business rates often represent the third biggest overhead after rent and wages and the fear is that increases will see a number of already struggling businesses go to the wall.

The appeals process itself can take up to 18 months to process, says CVS, too slow for some.

Damian Cummins of the Luton and South Beds branch of the Federation of Small Businesses said: “When is the government going to realise that small businesses are the hub of the economy?

“Business rates are stifling small businesses. If they want increased unemployment and more bankrupts carry on, if they want to stimulate growth, stop, look and listen – they need a business Green Cross Code!”

Tax specialist Dave Masterson, of TaxAssist in High Street North, Dunstable, said local businesses should make sure they get full rate relief entitlement. He said: “Charities and amateur sports clubs, for example, could have their rate bills reduced by 80 per cent or more. Small businesses should ensure they are receiving everything they are entitled to.”

 Source: Luton Today

UK Government opens 24 business rate exempt ‘Enterprise Zones’

Businesses based at a former Naval base can now benefit from low business rates in an attempt to kick start regeneration, ministers said yesterday.

The Government declared Britain’s 24 ‘enterprise zones’ to be open for Business, meaning up to 100 per cent rate discounts for new businesses for five years.

They include the HMS Daedalus site in Gosport, where Hampshire leaders hope to see 650 new jobs created with tax breaks totalling £2.7m.

Planning rules will also be relaxed. A new order is being prepared for the Daedalus site is being prepared, which will grant automatic planning permission for certain development, like new industrial buildings, with the enterprise zone boundary.

High-speed broadband is also made available.

The government is meeting the cost of the business rate discount, which is in place as of this week.

The Daedalus site was finally given the green light to become an enterprise zone in August 2011 after a campaign by MPs and business leaders.

Critics say the zones simply displace existing business rather than stimulate growth in the economy.

Source: Daily Echo

UK commercial property sees increased activity in March

The latest research performed by Markit for Savill’s, the results of which were published on Friday April 13th, suggests that activity on the UK commercial property market increased last month.

In fact, March 2012 was the busiest period for commercial property developers in the past 2 years. 25% of respondents in the Markit research said they have seen improved activity on the property market, while only 12% reported a fall.

Commenting on the findings, Michael Pillow of Savill’s, said: “Encouragingly, this recovery appears to be broad-based and not just London-focused.” Growth was seen in both public and private sector works. “Developers are becoming slightly more optimistic about the prospects for economic growth, people are beginning to embrace the idea that a double-dip recession isn’t inevitable,” – added Matt Oakley.

Let us remind that earlier this month, Land Securities reported growth in the retail sector, which, according to the company’s chief executive, Francis Salway, positively affected the “best cities in the UK.”