Commercial property

Commercial property news from Swindon and Wiltshire.

Opportunity to claim back overpaid business rates on refurbished properties

Written by Peter Davison.

Alan Morrish of Alder KingBusiness rates experts at Alder King say property owners who have paid Empty Rates on a property while it underwent refurbishment over the past four years can now make a backdated claim for a refund.

The news follows a recent Court decision by the Upper Tribunal (Lands) which rejected the Valuation Office Agency’s claim that a property undergoing refurbishment was ‘in repair’ and therefore liable for Empty Rates.

Alan Morrish, partner at property consultancy Alder King, said: “Rates used to be a really simple tax. When you occupied a property you paid rates and when you did not, you did not. Then the government changed the law and made owners liable for full rates on empty properties.

“To compound the agony, the Valuation Office Agency, the government body responsible for rating, has been taking a really hardline stance of late, especially in relation to buildings being refurbished. The net result has been a flood of recent case law as owners undertaking refurbishments rightly seek to mitigate their empty rates bills.

“The better news is that, in almost every case which has been to Court, the ratepayer has been successful. The latest decision from the Upper Tribunal (Lands) has now opened the doors for property owners to make a claim for overpaid rates for properties which underwent refurbishment as far back as 1st April 2010.”

The latest case concerns a refurbishment of an empty office in Sunderland where the owner stripped an office back to its shell. The heating, air conditioning and electrical systems were removed in preparation for a comprehensive fit-out.

Rating law assumes that a property is in a state of reasonable repair, whether this is the case or not. The alternative would be an endless spiral of appeals and arguments about whether some minor item in disrepair should be taken into consideration in arriving at the correct rateable value.

The VOA of late has been taking this "in repair" doctrine much further by arguing that, as a general rule, buildings which are in the process of being refurbished can be assumed to be in good order. By applying this perverse logic, the owner remains liable for full empty rates while a refurbishment programme is taking place.

With admirable verve, the Upper Tribunal (Lands) rejected this argument out of hand. The Tribunal said the replacement of major building elements, such as an entire electrical circuit, heating and air conditioning, go far beyond the meaning of repair.

It is also fundamentally clear from the reasoning of the decision that if a building could not be used because it is in the hands of contractors in the process of comprehensive stripping out works, then empty property rates are not due.

Alan continued: “It remains to be seen whether the VOA will be successful in an appeal against the decision. That said, property owners should be aware there is scope to look back to as far as 1st April 2010 to obtain a refund on overpaid rates if a refurbishment scheme has taken place.”

Alder King appoints new consultant to Swindon office

Written by Peter Davison.

Martin BakerProperty consultancy Alder King has appointed Martin Baker as a senior surveyor in its award-winning Swindon agency team.

Martin will work on commercial and development agency instructions across Wiltshire, Gloucestershire and the Thames Valley.

He joins from Summerdown & Partners, a property management company in Marlborough where he handled the disposal and acquisition of all types of commercial property. Prior to that, Martin worked for Swindon property agency Whitmarsh Lockhart.

James Gregory, who heads up Alder King’s Swindon office, adds: “Martin will make a great addition to our team, bringing with him 10 years’ experience and new ideas for the commercial property market in Swindon and across Wiltshire, Gloucestershire and Oxfordshire.”

Chartered surveyors Kavanaghs appoint new manager to commercial services team

Written by Peter Davison.

Alison WilliamsWiltshire chartered surveyors Kavanaghs have made a new appointment to their commercial services team.

Alison Williams has joined the company from Alder King in Swindon to head up the commercial services team for Kavanaghs Melksham and Trowbridge offices.

Alison will be managing commercial lettings, disposals and acquisitions in the Wiltshire and Bath and North East Somerset areas. She will be working closely with Henry King, who has recently acquired the company jointly with fellow director Robert House.

Alison is well respected in the commercial property market and has been commended for her work throughout Wiltshire. In 2012 Alison was awarded Deal Maker of the Year for Wiltshire by the property industry magazine Estates Gazette.

Henry said: “we are delighted that Alison is joining the business and recognise that her expertise will assist our firm in expanding its commercial property business further and building on our client base throughout the area”.

The commercial team at Kavanaghs has a wide portfolio of premises to sell and manage and have recently been successful in selling the former NHS clinic site in New Park Street, Devizes.

The property was sold for a mixed use scheme incorporating Majestic Wine with residential premises above. Other recent successful transactions include the appointment to manage the Avonside Enterprise Park, Melksham, disposal of the 10 acre Celcon site in Westbury and the letting of 4,112sqft of prime offices at County Gate, Trowbridge which occupy a prominent landmark position.

Thrings strengthens commercial property offering with triple appointment

Written by Peter Davison.

Iain Mason Edward Jackman and Natalia SokolovLaw firm Thrings has recruited three specialist solicitors to advise its fast-growing portfolio of commercial property clients.

Partner Edward Jackman, associate Iain Mason and solicitor Natalia Sokolov have joined Thrings – whose offices in Swindon are on Drakes Meadow – to further strengthen the firm's commercial property and construction offering.

Edward arrives at Thrings from Brookstreet Des Roches, where he had been a partner since 2005.

He has broad experience of commercial property work, in particular advising clients on the acquisition and disposal of land for development, commercial landlord and tenant transactions and property work in the utilities sector.

Edward has also acted for FTSE 100 and FTSE 250 companies, as well as large private companies and private clients.

Iain moves to Thrings from Stone King, where he was an associate solicitor in the firm’s business property team.

His experience includes the sale and purchase of freehold and leasehold properties, acting on the grant of commercial leases, and development and regeneration projects.

Iain has provided commercial property advice to a range of clients, including small and medium-sized enterprises, owner-managed businesses, large corporates, private individuals, investors and lenders.

Natalia, who joins from Clarke Willmott, specialises in construction law. She has acted for a number of clients from the renewable energy sector – particularly wind, solar and biogas – and has acted on a range of major domestic and international construction and engineering projects.

In her new role, Natalia will advise clients on construction procurement, dispute resolution and in the management of construction and engineering contracts.

She will also use her extensive experience of negotiating building contracts, professional appointments, collateral warranties, bonds and guarantees for national and international developers, employers and contractors.

Colin Stratton, Commercial Property Partner at Thrings, said: “In the past nine months, the commercial property market has shown significant signs of improvement and stability, thanks to an improving economic outlook, an increase in the number of residential and commercial developments and a marked return to activity in the construction market.

“There is a growing sense of confidence among developers, and the buoyancy in the market is being reflected in the range, quantity and complexity of projects that Thrings is being asked to advise on.

“Edward, Iain and Natalia are joining at an extremely exciting time for the firm and I am confident their expertise will only enhance Thrings’ strong reputation for commercial and corporate work.

“The appointment of three such experienced legal professionals not only supports our strategic approach to growth, but it will also enable Thrings to continue providing its commercial property clients with the specialist legal advice they have come to expect.”

Hills Homes secures planning for new homes near Blunsdon

Written by Peter Davison.

Hillside Way Broad BlunsdonHills Homes has been granted outline planning permission for up to 61 new dwellings at Hillside Way, Broad Blunsdon. 

The development, which includes 19 affordable homes, will also provide 9 new allotments, open space and a play area.

The Section 106 agreement will provide a financial contribution to the Borough and local Parish Council of circa £400,000.

Nick King, group director for Hills Homes, said: “We are delighted with the outcome of our planning application and the fact that Blunsdon Parish Council recommended it for approval.

"The next step will be for us to work up our detailed proposal in conjunction with the Parish and Borough Council with a view to commencing the development in 2015.”

Hills Homes has a strong reputation for building high quality homes on carefully selected sites in Wiltshire and neighbouring areas – from major developments in large towns to smaller ones in rural towns and villages.

In recent years the company has won the LABC National ‘Best small housing development’ Award and the LABC West of England ‘Best social or affordable housing’ Award for its developments at Upper Castle Combe and Southrop respectively.

£4.65m property deal will see Swindon tech firm move from four sites to one

Written by Peter Davison.

Swindon Silicon SystemsA 34,690 sq ft two-storey office building at Interface Business Park in Royal Wootton Bassett has been acquired by a property fund for £4.65m.

The building will be the new company headquarters of Swindon Silicon Systems, a specialist in the design and supply of integrated circuits, who will rent the building from Mayfair Capital Investment Management's Property Income Trust for Charities fund (PITCH).

Staff from four Swindon Silicon Systems sites dotted around the town will move into the new building, which offers extra space for the expanding company.

The firm has entered into a new 20-year lease agreement, with a break in year 16, paying an annual rent of £381,579.

James Thornton, chief investment officer of Mayfair Capital and fund director of PITCH, said Wootton Basset offered a "secure, inflation linked income with a relatively high yield and a long lease".

Peace Pennels advised Mayfair Capital and Mark Atkins Associates advised Swindon Silicon Systems Ltd.

Bassett distribution depot bought for £2.5m

Written by Peter Davison.

Unit 1 Interface Business ParkA 50,000 sq ft warehouse in Wootton Bassett has been aqcuired in a deal worth £2.5 million.

Bishopsgate, a division of the Ward Thomas Group, has acquired the freehold of Unit 1 Interface Business Park in a transaction negotiated by property consultants Alder King and Colliers.

The London-based company purchased the 54,288 sq ft unit for £2.5 million from real estate group Custodian.

The depot provides 48,138 sq ft of warehouse and 3,442 sq ft of office accommodation together with a generous service yard suitable for large vehicles.

With its proximity to the M4 motorway, it makes a strategic addition to Ward Thomas’ portfolio of depots across the UK, allowing the company to efficiently and safely move customers’ equipment, from CT scanners to exhibition pieces, around the country.

Tim Bloch, Managing Director of Bishopsgate commented “The purchase of the site follows the acquisition of the Allport Specialist Services Division in 2013 and strong organic growth we have been experiencing within our business.

“We have found the site in Royal Wootton Bassett, where we have been tenants for several years, has excellent road links and good local economic growth and the purchase shows a strong commitment to our staff and customers in the area”.

Alison Williams, Associate at Alder King in Swindon who represented Custodian, said: “There has been a marked increase in demand from owner occupiers to purchase but there is a real shortage of large scale good quality buildings ready for immediate occupation in and around the Swindon area.”

Tim Davies, Head of Colliers in Bristol who acted for Ward Thomas, said: “Ward Thomas recognised the attributes that the property had to offer with its top specification accommodation, and excellent location for access to the M4.”

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