BRIGHTON has been tipped as a potential new home for businesses considering a move out of London in the wake of the coronavirus pandemic.
Hundreds of global companies are currently squeezed into one square mile in the capital’s city centre, where it is only possible to build up rather than out.
But many companies are beginning to wonder whether business in a skyscraper is really the future in a post-pandemic world.
Phil Oram, regional director at national workplace and commercial relocations experts Crown Workspace, believes Brighton will be one of the cities to benefit as businesses opt to move out of London.
He said: “We are currently seeing a lot of businesses, especially those whose leases are coming to an end, actively looking to move out of city centres.
“Companies in London in particular have found it difficult to tempt people back into the office, even before the current lockdown, and especially to high-rise buildings in which the only way to reach the top is in a lift in which social distancing is problematic.
“Having big city centre offices was fantastic when people were happy to jump on the Tube and loved the buzz of the capital, but what happens now?
“A lot of companies are telling us they are seriously considering out-of-town office space and thinking about decentralisation.
“And the most popular areas are the outskirts of London, including vibrant coastal cities such as Brighton and Hove.”
Mr Oram added that workers in the UK currently have the longest commute in Europe, at 54 minutes per day.
He said: “This is bad news for employee health and work-life balance.
“Moving out of big city centres can make journey times shorter and the active travel trend, encouraging people to cycle or walk to work, is more achievable.
“Employee wellbeing, and even productivity, can also be improved by looking out over nature – such as the sea or Downs in Brighton – especially if there is also outdoor space to use.
“We don’t think London’s city centre is going to be empty any time soon as there are too many businesses on long leases and there is still a considerable prestige to having a city centre location.
“But businesses are certainly looking at options and it will be interesting to see how many take the leap.”
Mr Oram believes that even businesses which do not decide to leave the big city – or can’t because of long leases – could look to develop a “hub and spokes” model, in which new regional spokes are developed to reduce the pressure on head office.
The demand for office space in Brighton is already high, with a number of developments already in progress.
Edward Street Quarter, which is the redevelopment of the old Amex House site, is set to be completed next year.
The complex, designed by First Base, will provide 110,000 sq ft of office space as well as apartments and retail, food and leisure units.
It is the largest development in Brighton for 25 years.
Barry Jessup, director of First Base, believes the trend of decentralisation began even before Covid-19 arrived.
He said: “For millennials a long commute is anathema, so
this decentralisation trend is not new.
“In fact, office demand in regional cities and towns has increased rapidly over the last few years, especially in cities such as Brighton and Bristol which offer high-quality lifestyles.
“It is now likely to accelerate as large businesses realise they can both cater to their employees’ wishes to reduce the commute and save money by adopting a ‘hub-and-spokes’ office strategy.
“We’re not talking about moving to any old space because it won’t be acceptable for the offices at the end of the spokes to be seen as second rate.
“They will need to provide all the flexibility, wellbeing and sustainability that employees and employers expect.
“Hopefully, at the end of this global upheaval we may end up with better workspace spread more evenly around.”