Tom Watkinson is managing director of Leicester-based developer Raynsway Properties. The private company was founded in 1977 by entrepreneur Charlie Rayns and now owns 60 commercial properties in Leicester with a 98% occupancy rate, including the mixed-use Watermead Business Park. Former lawyer Watkinson shares his view on the Leicester market below.
It might be said of Leicester that it is parochial, piecemeal, disjointed and without focus. Just like the real market place.
What I might say is that in fact it is healthy, a true reflection on the market and as a result Leicester finds itself in an extremely good position following the recession.
Alternative cities have perhaps had far more developer and public sector involvement forcing them away from the market's natural direction.We have seen the public sector dabbling in areas which really they shouldn't in trying to achieve political or idealistic objectives, sometimes without any real democratic basis. On the other hand we might have developers which again try to force up yields and rental, through the so called creation of over supply of grade A space.
There is nothing wrong with either of these but where is the city left when the market collapses? The public sector no longer has the strength or financial resources and a developer is potentially left with an awful lot of un-let property.
I don't believe that Leicester has suffered from either of these influences and as result has a more natural and well positioned market place.
Perhaps the one area that Leicester suffers is a shortage of Grade A Class space availability. But I would suggest that is more of an opportunity than a problem!
Therefore if Leicester was to continue responding directly to the market without any strong developer or public sector interference it should in my humble opinion be well positioned.
What we do have in Leicester is a subtle but very strong entrepreneurial spirit. There are a lot of smaller businesses, Leicester is not dominated by a single industry or employer and therefore can better ride the recession wave.
Picture via Flickr.com courtesy of Minnie Vuong/ Xvolution Media