UK Triggers Article 50 – What Does This Mean For Your Business?

On 29 March 2017, the British Prime Minister officially initiated the Brexit process by triggering Article 50. This was surrounded by much speculation and uncertainty about the impact it would have on the country’s economy and at a smaller scale, on the day-to-day of UK businesses. Although according to EU legislation, many things could still change during the upcoming negotiation process, the general consensus is that the implications of Article 50 will mainly affect trading relationships, access to human capital and to funding, and the free movement of services.

Article 50 and the UK-EU Trade Deal

The EU is the UK’s main trading partner, so determining the future terms of the trading relationship between both parties is paramount to many business groups in the UK. The negotiations could take up to 5 years to be finalised, and in the meantime, a temporary or transitional arrangement may be needed.

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How Large Corporations Are Changing The Way They Think About Flexible Workspaces

Until very recently, the concept of flexible workspace was perceived as a niche sector of the commercial property market that mainly catered to freelancers, remote workers, and small start-ups. However, this understanding of flexible workspace seems no longer accurate in view of recent trends that show how this type of office space is becoming increasingly attractive to large corporations.

In a relatively short period of time, we have witnessed how blue-chip corporations like HSBC, KPGM, and Microsoft have acquired flexible workspace in London and incorporated it into an important part of their corporate culture. Since 2012, more than 4.5 million square feet of flexible office space have been taken up across the city. Other reports confirm the unstoppable growth of this type of commercial real estate in the British capital, as some of the main providers are already worth millions of dollars, and flexible workspace now accounts for 25 per cent of the portfolio of some traditional office space providers.

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Is Dublin Becoming a Serious Challenger to London in Regards to Office Space?

Dublin City Centre SkylineSoon after the EU referendum vote, the Irish capital began making headlines as eyes turned westwards and Dublin emerged as a potential prime destination for companies considering relocating their London offices elsewhere in the EU. In fact, Dublin is already home to some large corporates in many high-value sectors, such as Citibank, Bank of America, JP Morgan, Google, LinkedIn, and Facebook.

Many of these companies (and others who are contemplating a possible relocation to Dublin) have chosen to be based here given key benefits like low corporation rates, a transparent and highly competitive tax structure, and flexible labour laws. Moreover, the Irish executive has recently introduced a tax relief scheme available to US investors looking to relocate their offices to Dublin and other Irish cities, and campaigns like TechLife Ireland are positioning the country high up in the global tech scene. Lastly, Dublin is experiencing a commercial construction boom, which will result in over 12 million square feet of new office space added by 2021. In the minds of office occupiers and investors, all these factors converge into one question: Is there any truth to Dublin becoming a serious challenger to London in regards to office space?

If we look at recent facts and figures, we can spot many similarities between both capitals:

- There are currently 39 office buildings under construction in Dublin, 33 per cent of which are pre-let, and developers have planning consent for an additional 97 office buildings. London also has a high number of high rises in its development pipeline – 199 to be exact.

- Strong demand for office space in Dublin is causing vacancy rates to decline steadily and rental values to increase. Vacancy rates currently average 9 per cent, but are forecast to drop to 7.9 per cent by the end of the year. A similar trend has been observed in London, where availability remains tight.

- Demand for flexible and shared office space is on the rise with occupancy levels at 90 per cent. At 900 Euro / workstation, prices in Dublin are already on par with those in London, which is considered the world’s largest co-working market.

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The UK Office Market Forecast for 2017

Map of United KingdomDuring 2016, the UK’s office market experienced a few ups and downs linked to political uncertainty and decreased consumer and investor confidence. In spite of this, the overall market performance did not stray far from what was expected: strong levels of leasing activity in the Big 6 office markets (namely Birmingham, Bristol, Edinburgh, Glasgow, Leeds and Manchester), sustained rental growth due to the limited availability of Grade A space in cities like Birmingham, Bristol, Leeds, Manchester, London, Cardiff, Edinburgh, and Glasgow, and a notable surge in the number of lettings closed in London towards the end of the year. Are these trends expected to continue during 2017?

2017 UK Office Market Forecast

Some of the trends affecting the British real estate market in general are expected to have an impact in the performance of the country’s office market too. The most notable of these include:

- Generalised market volatility linked to the political and economic ramifications of the Brexit process

- A low GDP growth index (currently set at 1.4 per cent) may result in a tight job market and increased inflation, which in turn may cause business owners and investors to postpone the acquisition of new office properties or to downsize

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The Titanic Quarter – Future Projects

Titanic Quarter image courtesy of titanic-quarter.comThe Titanic Quarter involves a master plan that will see the development of 185 acres of waterfront land in Belfast over the next three decades. With planning permission in place for some four million square feet, the development project will see new spaces for work and living emerge in coming years. In addition to developing a Media Campus and extending the Financial Services Campus, the site will see new leisure and tourism projects that will draw residents and visitors to the city.

Home to over a hundred companies and more than 4,000 workers, the Titanic Quarter continues to grow in order to attract more businesses. Among the main commercial development projects planned for the Titanic Quarter is the Financial Services Campus, which sits next to Belfast Metropolitan College, the Public Record Office of Northern Ireland (PRONI) Building and the Gateway Offices that is occupied by Citi. The campus will feature four buildings with six to 12 storeys overlooking a raised courtyard. The development will also include an underground car park with more than 300 spaces. When completed, it will provide more than 550,000 square feet of Grade A office space.

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How to get your Business Ready for Christmas

Christmas    Image: zazzle.co.ukPreparing for Christmas entails a lot of planning to ensure offices are not short-staffed or important documents delayed because of the holiday. The season is a busy time of the year, when businesses experience changes to their own operations, from upticks in activity to significant slowdowns due to clients and others taking time off to enjoy the holiday.

Office Closures during Christmas

Many employees ask for time off around Christmas to spend time with their family and friends, go on a holiday, or attend religious services. At the same time, Christmas can pose several unique challenges including increased or decreased demand depending on the nature of the business. The holiday season can also leave offices with fewer staff due to a slow-down from clients, suppliers and other stakeholders. This affects work patterns and schedules in different ways.

Christmas Day (25 December) and Boxing Day (26 December) are recognised as bank holidays in England, Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland. For 2016, Christmas Day falls on a Sunday. The substitute day for the holiday is 27 December. Boxing Day on 26 December is also a bank holiday. Bank holidays, including Christmas, do not have to be given as paid lead to employees. There is no legal right for employees to have either Christmas Day or Boxing Day off as paid or unpaid, unless this is stated in an employment contract. Employers can decide to include bank holidays as part of statutory annual holiday leave.

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Heart of Slough Regeneration Project

Heart of Slough Regeneration Project

For several years, the town of Slough has been one of the most productive and dynamic business hubs in the South of England. This Berkshire town boasts higher-than-average business birth rates and benefits from as strategic location along the M4 corridor and within easy reach of London (1).

What is the Heart of Slough Regeneration Project?

The Heart of Slough Regeneration Project is a large-scale urban development plan that was created to capitalise on the town’s strengths and to attract higher levels of investment to this part of Berkshire (2).

Overview of the Heart of Slough Project: Rationale and Context

The Heart of Slough regeneration project builds on a number of existing and future opportunities taking place in this Berkshire town. In terms of the existing opportunities, we must mention the town’s key role in the Thames Valley economy, given Slough’s high concentration of businesses in high-value sectors (3).

Barnsley Regeneration Project

Barnsley Regeneration ProjectBarnsley was once an industrial town with thriving coal mining and glassmaking industries. The South Yorkshire town is now at the centre of regeneration efforts. In 2002, Barnsley Metropolitan Borough Council launched a regeneration programme designed to revitalise the town centre with an improved transport interchange, a new digital media centre, along with new offices and apartments. With its strategic location along the M1 corridor, the town’s business parks have also spurred job growth.

In an effort to further develop the local economy, the Barnsley Town Centre Regeneration Project will add approximately 35,000 square metres of new retail and leisure space. This will include new shops, restaurants and cafes as well as a family entertainment centre and cinema. Led by the Barnsley Council, the project involves £50 million in government funding and significant investment opportunities. The project’s Gross Development Value (GDV) is estimated at £100 million and it will help create an estimated 300 temporary and 700 permanent jobs according to the UK government’s Regeneration Investment Organisation (RIO).

The project continues previous investments in the town centre, including the £8.2-million digital media centre. The centre offers incubator space for start-up businesses in the high tech sector. Barnsley’s new transport interchange sits next to the 3.81-hectare site being developed under the Barnsley Town Centre Regeneration Project. Completed in 2007, the redeveloped Barnsley Interchange combines the town’s main rail and bus stations and handles about 4.5 million passengers each year. New office and residential development in the town centre will also complement the town’s latest regeneration effort.

Other town centre investments in recent years include a new building for Barnsley College, which opened in September 2011. There has also been a £16 million investment on a 1,000-place sixth form college, which will accommodate the town’s growing student population. The college was built on the site of Barnsley former central library, which was demolished as part of the first phase of the town centre’s revamp. Improvements to the public realm in the town centre included Experience Barnsley, a project of the Barnsley People’s Museum and Archives Centre. The cultural and discovery centre at the old town hall boasts new museum galleries that attract approximately 250,000 visitors each year.

The latest phase of the Barnsley Town Centre Regeneration Project will involve the demolition and improvement of several buildings in the town centre by 2017. Demolition work started in late 2015 and construction of new leisure and retail facilities will begin in 2017. Construction is expected to continue into 2019.

Once complete, the site will feature a new landscaped public square that will link with main routes into the town centre. The square will be able to accommodate market stalls and events. It will also face the town’s indoor market, which will be refurbished as part of the project. Updates to the Metropolitan Centre and Market Hall are expected to be complete by 2017. The market will also be extended and the hope is to create an airy space that is integrated with the exterior square. A new shopping boulevard that will extend Lambra Road will also be ready by 2017, adding new commercial and leisure opportunities in the town centre. A new state-of-the-art central library on Mayday Green and additional car parking are also part of the regeneration project.

The site is being designed by the IBI Group, which was selected following a public tendering process. The international architecture and engineering firm’s Better Barnsley vision has already been recognised with the prestigious National Urban Design Award in 2016. For the management of the project, Turner & Townsend and Queensberry Real Estate were selected by the Barnsley Council.

Sources:

https://www.gov.uk/government/publications/regeneration-project-barnsley-town-centre-barnsley-gdv-100m/regeneration-project-barnsley-town-centre

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Midlands Engine Regeneration Project

Business people in an meetingThe Midlands in the heart of the UK represents an important economic region for future growth. From 2011 to 2015, there were 880 foreign direct investment projects in the region alone. This represents a quarter of foreign direct investment into the UK according to the Regeneration Investment Organisation (RIO), which is part of UK Trade & Investment (UKTI). International companies are investing in the Midlands thanks to excellent transport links that include three international airports (East Midlands, Birmingham and Luton). There are also no less than 27 universities in the region that offer businesses a strong talent pool and resources.

Besides being an attractive destination for foreign investment, there are a number of other reasons that make the Midlands a high-potential hub for economic growth. According to the RIO, the Midlands’ growing economy contributes £222 billion annual in Gross Value Added (GVA). Home to more than 11.5 million people, the region also offers a young and skilled population. Approximately 24 per cent of the population is under 25 and 38.8 per cent of workers are in knowledge intensive sectors. A third of all manufacturing jobs are also in the Midlands. The region also outperforms the national export growth average with a total export value of £50 billion, which represents 16 per cent of all exports from the UK. In fact, exports grew by 38 percent from 2010 to 2013.

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Health and Safety in the Workplace – New Regulations and Tougher Fines

In February 2016, the Health and Safety Executive announced that a series of changes had been made to health and safety law in the workplace. The new rules are mainly directed at business owners who fail to enforce the applicable health and safety standards in the workplace, and therefore have the objective of ensuring compliance across the board. In this post we take a look at the ins and outs of the new rules and at how business owners can ensure they comply with them and avoid penalties.

What do the recent HSE changes entail?

The main thing to note about the recent changes made to health and safety law is that offences and lack of compliance will now attract tougher fines. The objective is to offer higher protection levels to both employees and the general public, while ensuring that employers take their duty of care more seriously and that business owners use a consistent approach to risk management. Under the new rules, if a business is found guilty of corporate manslaughter, it can be fined with up to £20 million, whereas other serious (but not fatal) offences can attract fines of up to £10 million. Lack of compliance resulting in bodily harm can also be punished with imprisonment, and in some cases even continued exposure to risk could result in a prison sentence, irrespective of whether bodily harm was caused or not. Prison terms range between 26 weeks and 2 years depending on how the offence is categorised.

Offences related to food safety and hygiene will be punished with tougher fines too, starting at £100 and going up to £3 million. This type of offences will also be triable and could result in prison terms of up to 2 years. It has also been suggested that heavier fines (of up to £100 million) could be applied to large companies who fail to comply and whose annual turnover exceeds £50 million.

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