What are the biggest challenges for Lancashire’s property sector in the next 12 months (excluding Brexit)?
For residential, Lancashire must compete with the Merseyside and Greater Manchester markets, which are attracting more and more buyers that would otherwise buy and invest in Lancashire. Land availability in connected, sustainable locations is key, alongside the delivery of employment and leisure opportunities that support residential.
For commercial property, to continue evolving to incorporate technology is a challenge. Focus is on how the high street is affected by online retail, but B8 buildings and locations also need to be adaptable to enable automation, which will be essential to meet internet-based demand, whilst office-work patterns are also changing rapidly.
What is the sector’s biggest opportunity?
Over 2018, awareness of the regional markets across the UK has been growing – both with residential owners, buy-to-let investors and commercial entities. It’s reasonable to assume that the London market will be challenging during 2019, so investors and businesses will continue to look to the likes of the North West. Lancashire’s cities and larger towns need to ensure that they are open to such investment.
What help or support would assist in driving the success of the sector over the next 12 months?
The availability of infrastructure is hugely important. Local Authorities have a key role to play here; removing obstacles relating to infrastructure will enable development to come forward. Building on the work of the LEP is a key part of this.
Local Authorities who are looking at reviewing their Local Plans need to acknowledge that development and investment needs to continue and they have to be proactive in making this happen.
What do you predict the sector and economy be at the end of the year?
Brexit, and the form of it, will play a critical role. If there’s significant uncertainty on what happens next, we could well find businesses battening down the hatches and looking to ride it out.
However, a clearer outcome would bring relief, but also potentially some real impetus. Companies who have paused investment pending the Brexit outcome may have the confidence to push forward.