Leafy Weybridge – the office hotspot

Steve New, Partner based in the Woking office of property consultancy Vail Williams’s Surrey region
August 1, 2022
Weybridge has become Surrey’s office hotspot but dwindling space and little new development is set to leave demand outstripping supply, says an industry expert.

Agency specialist Steve New, Partner based in the Woking office of property consultancy Vail Williams’s Surrey region, said the firm had transacted more than 100,000 sq. ft. of office deals for occupiers and landlords in Weybridge over the past 18 months.

He said: “Weybridge is a typical leafy Surrey town with parks, golf clubs and private gated communities are the norm, but, just 17 miles from central London, it also has immense appeal as a business location.

“Over the last three years, office activity has steadily increased in Weybridge from a variety of sectors, with major deals completed for Wilmott Dixon, Astellas Pharma and Page Group.

“Unlike other towns in the area, Weybridge’s office market is centred primarily out of town. Business park locations with good access to the M25 are attracting major corporates from Samsung and Sony to P&G and Michael Page Group.

“As business emerged from the pandemic they reconsidered their future office needs with quality and amenity rich office space in mind, to offer more lifestyle benefits for their workforces – an important factor amid the continued war for talent.

“This is where Weybridge has been able to excel, with business parks, particularly those under single ownership, creating a unique offer for occupiers, whilst benefitting from fantastic access to transport infrastructure.”

However, Steve, with 32 years’ south east commercial property experience, said although there was around 244,000 sq. ft. of quality office space available in and around Weybridge. Oven-ready Grade A office space was dwindling, leading some occupiers to leave the town.

Office space was also being lost through various means, with at least one business park sold for redevelopment into an industrial/logistics hub, ongoing conversion to residential under permitted development rights and little or no new office development in the pipeline.

Rents were therefore increasing with between £35.50 £36 per square foot the norm, and north of this at prestigious locations such as The Heights, Brooklands.

Steve said Weybridge still represented a competitive alternative to more expensive surrounding towns such as Staines and Windsor which have experienced record office rents in recent months.

He added: “We need to see more supply come to market to meet rising demand. We expect much of this to come via the return of grey space or tenant space to the market over the next 12 months.

“Grey space is office space which has become surplus to requirement for the original tenant, but where the lease is yet to expire, in some instances for many years.

“Having spent the last 12 months fully understanding how their employees will use their office space, some businesses are now concluding that they have too much space.”

He cited the example of one major employer which was marketing its 50,000-plus sq. ft. space as it embraced a new workplace strategy.

As businesses reassess their future office needs and examine their leases to explore the potential of sub-letting space, Steve is predicting that more such space will come to market over the coming months.

Vail Williams is currently marketing 7,732 sq. ft. of such space on behalf of Knights plc at Bourne Business Park, just to the east of junction 11 on the M25, with a shuttle bus to the nearby railway station for occupiers.

Steve added: “Options such as this represent a good opportunity for businesses seeking to locate to Weybridge, who will now actually benefit from more choice of Grade A space in the market, at competitive rates.

“Of course, when it comes to sub-letting or leasing of grey space, it is important for occupiers and landlords to get representation and carefully assess their office needs and the flexibility around the agreement they are entering.

“Amid such strong demand and the critical lack of office mass within its town centre, landlords/investors of office assets in Weybridge would be wise to invest in getting them refurbished.

“This would enable them to deliver a high-quality, sought-after product to market, boasting leading ESG and energy efficiency credentials, whilst providing a good range of amenities.

It is what we know occupiers want – as our recent deals have shown.”

Vail Williams’ full-service property advice includes commercial agency, investment and development advice, building consultancy, property valuation, planning, lease advisory, property asset management, business rates and occupier consultancy.