Rochdale Exchange

My 2009. My 2010

Ken Bishop / Mike Ingall / Nick Rice / Matt Crompton / Mike Walker / Peter Linford / Stephen Chalcraft / Phil Basten / David Partridge / John Walley / Les Brown / Chris Lloyd / David Swaffield / David Porter / Ian Butler / Mike Horner / John Cosgrave/ Jonathan Pochin / Andrew Hamilton / Simon Parker / John Sutcliffe

Survivors reflect on a year in recession and look ahead to next year.

Mike Ingall, chief executive of Allied London Properties: In November 2008 the prognosis for 2009 looked bleak and many feared that the world economies would enter further unchartered waters. There may still be some big seas, but often when everybody paints the same picture, a different picture emerges, and so it has been in 2009.

There may be some surprises left, Mike Ingall

I still have my newspaper clippings from 1990 to 1994 in my desk drawer and I have been drawing on these very real memories over the past 11 months. We spent a lot of time in August 2008 preparing for the worst and that put us in good stead. However, I still think there may be some surprises left.

We will only return to truly stable times when businesses can balance their books and begin to rebuild trade and that means the dynamics of the debt days have been re-written and that takes time to change. Some investment markets are improving but the core base of the economy and consumers will not be so quick to respond to the bomb shell witnessed in autumn 2008, will need more time than some people think.

We fared well in 2009 and were very well supported by our investors and banks. Our assets are recovering well and in Manchester we continue to enjoy some success from a truly world class asset – Spinningfields. We look forward to 2010 but don't expect it to be plain sailing.

Nick Rice, managing director, CB Richard Ellis Liverpool: There are definitely positive signs within the market, although I expect that 2010 will remain a difficult year with transactional markets remaining hesitant.

John Walley, partner, Drivers Jonas Manchester: The financial climate is still tricky, with bank borrowing to fund commercial development remaining a problem. Businesses also remain cautious about taking additional space. But the surplus of Grade A office space we identified in last year's crane survey is slowly starting to get whittled away. When financial conditions permit, supply and demand should rebalance.

Manchester's long-term outlook remains very good, John Walley

Manchester remains a strong regional capital and the first choice for many businesses looking for a city centre headquarters outside of London. Its inherent qualities and excellent infrastructure will continue to help it fare better than many other cities have done through this recession.

The size and scale of the plans to regenerate the area around Mayfield station demonstrate how there is a great deal of positive sentiment about the role Manchester can play.

While we may see a low number of new starts again in 2010, there is no doubt that the strength of demand for Manchester means the long-term outlook remains very good.

John Sutcliffe, managing director of structural engineers Sutcliffe, said: We are unlikely to see any city centre development for some time. Many developers are now re-applying for hotel planning permission on previous residential sites. There is still a strong demand for hotels and a number of planning permissions and jobs are in prospect. Sutcliffe has recently started work on the El Layla, the first 5-star hotel in Liverpool city centre. Building work on this project had come to a halt, but has recently recommenced on site.

There is still a demand for residential development in the suburbs, however, a reappraisal of previous Local Authority planning guidance will be needed. There continues to be high demand for student accommodation, but developers are not finding funding easy. Developers are struggling to get the necessary finance to, once again, commence with construction on particular sites.

Private health is a growing market, which includes both work from the PCT on LIFT projects and a number of proposed private developer. We feel that this market is likely to continue expanding.

Phil Basten, head of property finance unit, the Co-Operative Bank: I'll remember 2009 as being the year the Co-operative movement started to co-operate and to move (well really motor). The completion of the group's acquisition of Somerfield and the CFS merger with Britannia offer some really exciting opportunities for 2010 and beyond. Oh and a year in the sun for the Wolves.

John Cosgrave, managing director, Arley Homes: For me the last year can be characterised by two things, the contraction in bank lending which has had such huge ramifications for the residential property market, and the success of Arley Homes. No one can argue the economic crisis has hit the industry hard. We have all had to respond in one way or another. I am pleased that Arley was not forced to offload land and slash budgets to survive, in fact quite the opposite, we have bought new sites and launched new developments and continued to thrive. Our secret has been a relatively simple policy. We decided in 2005 to focus on providing good quality family homes in locations that people wanted to live and steered clear of the high density apartment market which has suffered more than most in the downturn.

I don't believe in complaining or making excuses, Jonathan Pochin

We all want to see the banks rethink their reluctance to lend on mortgages but, should the situation remain as it has been, we know there is a market for Arley properties and I am committed to bringing new developments to buyers in 2010.

We have recently signed two new land deals and secured planning permission on the first at Coppull, which we plan to launch to buyers by spring next year. Recent times have proved challenging and the coming year will remain so, but that simply makes us more determined to succeed.

Andrew Hamilton, director, BNP Paribas Real Estate, Manchester: There are signs that we are at the bottom of a very painful cycle, with some improvement in yields for prime property. Funding remains a significant issue though and there are concerns over both rental prospects and the sustainability of the significant improvement in yields seen in the last few months. I therefore see a steady improvement over the next couple of years, perhaps with a couple of hiccups along the way, but the worst is hopefully over.

In the development market, the supply of completed units in some sectors, together with funding and empty rates issues mean that speculative development is not going to be viable in the short term. Development will need to go hand in hand with an occupier, with Peel's Media City and the BBC being a good exemplar.

Jonathan Pochin, managing director, Pochin Construction: 2009 has been a challenging year. The difficulties within our economy have impacted massively on the property and construction markets in which we operate.

I don't believe in complaining or making excuses and therefore the message to the team at Pochin's has been that we need to work harder and be better than the competition in order to secure the opportunities that still exist. We have achieved our goals in 2009 and are now looking ahead to next year and hoping that the prospects of a recovery are real and not too distant.

Simon Parker, managing director, UK Land & Property: There is no doubt that we are in extremely difficult times and predicting anything at the moment is far from easy. Access to funding will remain challenging and by definition any new development activity the same. We are fortunate in having created a strong tenant base within our portfolio; however my concerns would centre around the overall health of the occupier market and the fundamentals which underpin it. The globalisation of business over the last ten years means we are no longer immune to any world crisis. Another tough year!

Les Brown, regional project director for Countryside Properties: I am optimistic and confident that 2010 is going to be a more positive and certain year for construction and the housebuilding industry.

Not as tough as it might have been, Ken Bishop

Although I envisage it will certainly be another challenging year financially for everyone, funding mechanisms such as the Homes and Communities Agency's Kickstart programme will result in many projects across the North West, including a number of our own, being brought back to life – all encouraging signs for the year ahead.

It will be a busy but exciting year for me as the next phases of the New Broughton regeneration development re-starts on site. We'll deliver 135 new affordable family houses this year and as part of the overall regeneration project, our development partner, Salford City Council will start construction of the new Wheatersfield primary school which will be a really important benefit to the whole community.

Ken Bishop, office agency director, DTZ: 2009 was a tough year but not as tough as it might have been. This bodes well for 2010 when I expect we will see a gradual recovery towards more normal market conditions.

Mike Horner, regional director at Muse Developments: Muse is a long term player and I am optimistic about the future having a good breadth of portfolio in strong locations. There are some excellent opportunities out there and as the banks begin to grapple with their commercial loan books we are keen to secure more schemes in the North West of similar quality.

Chris Lloyd, office agency associate director, DTZ: Yes, 2009 has been tough but there has been a marked increase in activity and confidence in the final quarter. It is anticipated that this will continue into 2010 and key cities like Manchester and Liverpool will lead the region out of recession.

Peter Linford, director of Nobles Construction: Our order book remains strong, turnover was up last year, and we're on target for another record year. Make no mistake, our growth rate would be far greater without the credit crunch, but in difficult times it's no small feat to say we grew, secured jobs and won new business.

It's not easy going up against the big boys, Peter Linford

That said, margins are being squeezed and the competitive tendering process is increasingly difficult for a business of our size. Suddenly everyone is an expert in the health and education field and the top 10 contractors are competing for work they previously wouldn't have looked at.

It's not easy going up against the 'big boys,' but while we can't buy at their prices, we're more than capable of delivering the same, if not better, quality of work. The three directors at Nobles have come from top 10 construction firms, working at a senior level and have more than 80 years experience of working on big £20m plus projects.

However, the public sector procurement process remains a source of frustration, a box ticking exercise that doesn't provide a level playing field when competing against the big contractors.

Currently, we are looking at acquiring businesses that are similar to ours in ethos and management which will complement our skills and expertise, give us more buying power and add more weight strategically in the public sector market place.

David Partridge, joint chief executive officer, Argent: 2009 has been a highly productive year for Argent in the North West, with over 100,000 sq ft of lettings at Three Piccadilly Place and the completion of Four Piccadilly Place. The recent launch event marked the completion of the entire development, which has become a new gateway to the city, created from what was previously a disused piece of land opposite Piccadilly Station.

2010 promises to be another interesting year with many milestones on the horizon, including the imminent completion of our JV with the City Council, The Hive in Manchester's Northern Quarter, as well as the arrival of The Arts Council England there in the first quarter of the year. Argent, along with joint venture partner, the GMPVF, has also recently submitted a planning application for One St Peter's Square, which the Council should make a decision on in Spring 2010.

Stephen Chalcraft, head of real estate and public sector, Pannone: 2010 will not be so much about the big, sexy, glitzy deals but about making sure that a steady volume of work is maintained. It will be a challenging year but for the right team of people who can provide real value for money there will still be high profile opportunities.

Matt Crompton, joint managing director at Muse Developments: It's been a challenging year. Private sector occupiers have been thin on the ground, mainly because of a lack of confidence in the market. Our focus on only developing in prime locations has, and will continue to serve the business well. When investors have looked for opportunities to spend money they have only been interested in 'ultra prime' product which obviously suited our development pipeline.

Our model of working in partnership, alongside Morgan Sindall's balance sheet, has kept us in a great position in an unprecedentedly difficult market.

The next year will be just as challenging as 2009. There will hopefully be more opportunities for Muse to secure more business as banks begin to release some interesting, hitherto distressed, schemes. As the market breathes into life again it will be the prime schemes in their respective towns and cities that will return first. Muse is well placed in this regard. Business confidence fuelled by increased political stability post election will be tempered with potential tax increases and public spending cuts. 2010 will be the start of a slow but more predictable recovery and the best people , developers and schemes will prosper again.

David Swaffield, partner and head of practice group, Hill Dickinson: 2009 has obviously been a tough year for all, and we have worked hard to keep close to our clients through this difficult period. As to 2010, much depends on the speed / shape of the recovery of the economy from recession although I am concerned that at least the first quarter will be overshadowed by the looming election and uncertainty about what the post-election budget might hold.

It's over-optimistic to expect business as usual in 2010, David Swaffield

Subject to that, I would hope that a combination of an increasing willingness to lend on the part of the banks, coupled with the possibility of a better supply of quality investment properties coming onto the market should make for improvement in market volumes. Whilst it would almost certainly be over-optimistic to hope that 2010 will be back to business as usual, it is not unreasonable to believe that the year may see a significant move in that direction.

Mike Walker, director and head of Manchester office, Colliers CRE: At the beginning of 2009 the world was a very scary place. However from spring onwards we seemed to be returning to something closer to normality. I think 2010 will see the market continue to improve and it will become a year of design and builds in the industrial sector because of recent take up and improvement in the investment market.

David Porter, head of North West commercial, Knight Frank: Forecasting is always difficult, more so in the current market. However, it is generally regarded that 2010 will prove to be another tough year. Will the investment market suffer a dip? With no speculative development in any sector where will supply come from to assist take up? How will a general election affect the market? All we can do is continue to stay close to our clients and offer them sound and realistic advice.

Ian Butler, managing partner, Sheppard Robson Manchester office: 2009 has been a tough year for the property industry as a whole but, despite this, it has become clear that clients value good design and want to invest in sustainable solutions regardless of the wider economic situation.

I am looking forward to seeing the commercial world make further recovery in 2010, with the opening of Media City set to be a landmark moment for the region. However, with the election looming, and significant cuts to public spending on the horizon, the North-West will not escape unscathed from the challenges that 2010 will bring.

Your Comments

The highlight of 2009 was celebrating p3’s second birthday in October this year having managed, against all the odds, to keep the original start-up fee-earner team intact, taking the fee value of a diverse range of agency and acquisition instructions from a standing start to circa £1.5m, put in place a £4m+ fees pipeline of development consultancy led work for the future, achieving our target of building a client list of around 40 of the region’s heavyweight owners, users and investors, not owing the bank a penny, being on-track to make our first profit and last but not least still enjoying every day that comes along.
Bigger and better for 2010!

By Peter gallagher p3 property consultants

Most of what has been written above is just the same old marketing spiel and rubbish. “We’ve hit our targets”, “we’ve created jobs”, “we’ve had a record year”. “Next year will be….” Does anybody believe this? No? Thought not. For all you soothsayers how come you didn’t spot the world falling off a cliff scenario? The fact of the matter is none of us know what is going to happen next year and until credit is made more readily available for people who want to avail of it nothing will happen. One thing is certain, spec development will remain dead so it’s important the funders get their act together so realistic workable schemes can progress.

By Dave Ball

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