One of the UK’s biggest providers of serviced office space has torn up plans for two speculative developments, blaming the decision on the government’s policy to scrap empty rate relief.
Evans Easyspace, the joint venture between the Evans Family Trust and the £100m Kodak Pension Plan, has abandoned plans for a serviced office scheme in Speke, Merseyside, and an office and workshop scheme in Cannock, Staffordshire.
The two schemes would have been added to Evans Easyspace’s £130m portfolio of 50 business centres across the UK.
Evans Easyspace managing director Tom Stokes said the removal of rate relief would cost the Leeds-based company around £500,000 next year and, based on that budget forecast, it had decided to pull out of the two schemes where it said 400 jobs would have been created.
Stokes said: ‘As a business, clearly we do not choose to have empty units, but it does happen in almost all our 50 Evans Business Centres in the UK. Once construction of a centre is completed, it can take up to two years to reach maximum occupancy resulting in two years of empty space. Why should we be penalised for offering space on the terms small businesses want and which allows them to grow and prosper?
‘For our 1,500 clients flexibility is essential. We always maintain a vacancy rate of around 10%, which the government now wants to charge us for.’
Stokes added: ‘Worst of all, the areas likely to be most affected by these changes will be those that most need the seeds of new business and entrepreneurialism our most deprived areas.’
Stokes said Evans Easyspace still planned to proceed with developments to which it was already committed. A further 300,000 sq ft is planned next year, enough for 350 businesses.
‘Were it not for the new legislation, that figure could have been significantly higher,’ said Stokes, adding that if the government did not backtrack on key points of the legislation, such as increasing exemption periods or raising the threshold for rates from £2,200 to £10,000, it would ‘slow’ the expansion plans of the company.
By Deirdre Hipwell, Property Week, 30.11.07
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