London, 16 February 2023 – New data from real estate services firm Cushman & Wakefield reveals that regional office leasing activity is following the trends seen in London and is demonstrating structural shifts in office demand.
The ‘Big Six’ markets of Birmingham, Bristol, Edinburgh, Glasgow, Leeds and Manchester reported strong leasing activity in Q4 amounting to 1.29 million sq ft, 17% above the 10-year average. Full year 2022 take-up was up 4% on 2021 figures.
In Q4 2022, the availability rate in the ‘Big Six’ stood at 8.2%, equating to 7.52 million sq ft – a 5% quarterly decease. Secondary stock formed the majority of available space, amounting to 75% of total supply, with occupiers seeking smaller, higher quality spaces as offices evolve to better support collaboration, employee wellbeing and net zero carbon goals. Cushman & Wakefield expects that the flight to quality will continue to place upward pressure on prime rental values, which are forecast to remain broadly stable in 2023 before rising, albeit at a slower pace than in previous years.
Larger spaces were less popular over 2022 as a whole. Deals in excess of 50,000 sq ft accounted for only 11% of ‘Big Six’ take-up, below the 27% five-year average. Additionally, the bifurcation of the market is becoming even more evident, with grade A performing exceptionally well. In 2022, grade A take-up was 4% above its 10-year average, while secondary take-up was 18% below its 10-year average.
Key Q4 deals in the ‘Big Six’ included, BlackRock Inc taking 139,000 sq ft at 20 Brandon Street, Edinburgh; Deloitte taking 63,000 sq ft at 100 Embankment in Manchester; and Global Banking School taking 43,800 sq ft at Norfolk House, Birmingham.
Charles Dady, Head of National Office Leasing, UK at Cushman & Wakefield, said: “The outcome of the pandemic on the office market and the resulting impact of changing work practices are still evolving. Hybrid working models are now commonplace, as is the drive by most occupiers to improve the quality and sustainability of their working environment. Birmingham and Manchester are leading this trend regionally and reported particularly strong leasing activity in the fourth quarter.
“The lack of grade A supply and absence of speculative development activity across the UK is a very different backdrop to previous downturns, supporting headline rents and encouraging occupiers to secure the best space while it’s still available.
“However, economic confidence has weakened significantly over the last 12 months and the pressure for occupiers to control or reduce their cost base is challenging those push factors. We are therefore expecting the markets to be quieter in H1 2023 with activity stepping up again in the second half when confidence is expected to improve.”
The development pipeline will be the biggest challenge for the ‘Big Six’ in 2023. Build cost inflation and the rising cost of debt has led to a pause in the majority of speculative development schemes which will have a significant impact on supply, and rental growth, in the medium term.