There has been plenty of speculation on the future shape of cities in the wake of the pandemic. What will need to be in place to facilitate new ways of working? How can they be re-engineered to be cleaner and greener? Bristol’s redevelopment drive may provide a template for the post-COVID city.
Bristol has long had a thriving business community, with specialisms in areas such as education, media and aerospace. It has two universities with close ties to local industries. It has become a regional powerhouse, a hub for innovation and skills.
This has created plenty of opportunities for development, amply demonstrated by the cranes that currently loom over the city’s skyline. The city has had a shortage of quality office space and, in spite of the changes seen in the office market today, there appears to be no let-up in demand. A recent report from Colliers1 showed robust investment volumes for the first quarter of 2021 and constrained supply, particularly for grade A property with bigger floor prints and more modern spaces.
This is led by companies such as BT. The group used to have its offices in a business park, but is now moving back to the city centre. This highlights an important post-COVID trend. In the new world, work will be a ‘destination’, a place to collaborate, meet colleagues, be creative.
As such, companies have to ensure their offices offer more than just space. They need to bring people together in a convenient location, which allows for effective co-operation and innovation. They need restaurants, bars to meet after work. In this respect, a city centre location is far better than a business park.
In this way, COVID-19 could be a catalyst for further regeneration of regional city centres. Bristol is already ahead of the curve on this. Broadmead, the retail quarter, has seen significant change and modernisation. The Bristol Temple Quarter Enterprise Zone is one of the largest urban regeneration projects in the UK, with spaces for people to live, work, study and relax2.
It has been designed to appeal to creative, high tech, low carbon industries. The university has developed a significant site there, forging all-important links between academia and business. It is a 25-year project, started before the pandemic, but if anything, it has become more relevant post-pandemic as work and living patterns shift.
Bristol has also been careful to ensure sustainable development, an increasingly important criteria for businesses. In the Enterprise Zone, there are roof terraces, cycle spaces, ‘green’ buildings. It is designed to make public transport, walking and cycling easier, unclogging the city centre and allowing a better working and living environment.
This sustainability impetus has also been seen in the Halo development. This has been developed by Cubex on the site of the old fire station. The whole building is ‘intelligent’, with smart access, electric car charging, automated air quality controls. It is this type of building that is likely to draw in a new generation of high quality tenants.
The pandemic has given new momentum to many of the development projects in Bristol. A changing workplace requires a different kind of space, while the push for sustainable has created new demands from clients. Bristol is already forging a new path as the modern regional city of the future.
For all those involved in developing or converting buildings, it is worth considering the planning and tax opportunities before you start. This can range from maximising R&D tax credits, capital allowances including the structures and building allowance through to ensuring that the project is structured in the most VAT efficient way. Further, there are many VAT reliefs applicable to the construction or conversion of buildings into dwellings.
By necessity, this briefing can only provide a short overview and it is essential to seek professional advice before applying the contents of this article. This briefing does not constitute advice nor a recommendation relating to the acquisition or disposal of investments. No responsibility can be taken for any loss arising from action taken or refrained from on the basis of this publication. Details correct at time of writing.
Tax legislation is that prevailing at the time, is subject to change without notice and depends on individual circumstances. Clients should always seek appropriate tax advice before making decisions. HMRC Tax Year 2022/23.
This article was previously published on Smith & Williamson prior to the launch of Evelyn Partners.