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Developers urged to bring forward more offices

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Developers are increasingly looking to create mixed use schemes in Croydon to take advantage of the increased office take-up and prestigious occupiers moving into the borough.

HMRC and The Body Shop are among the big names to announce they are moving their operations in the town in recent months and Jo Negrini told the Develop Croydon Conference that the council was keen to encourage a true mix of office and residential within a scheme.

The council’s chief executive said: “Over time what we’re trying to do, and I think we’ve strengthened our planning policy around East Croydon station to ensure that we protect as much of the commercial footprint as possible to create that environment where people can invest in commercial property as well.

“What’s actually happening now is that people who had got planning consents a number of years ago are all coming back to the council about maybe changing their consents from full residential with a Tesco’s on the ground floor, which was all that was going through the planning system a couple of years ago, to having proper mixed use developments that provide not only commercial and residential, but provide workspace for tech and other types of cultural things.”

Vanessa Clark (pictured), director of Sinclair Clark, warned that there was a shortage of pipeline office space and that more needed to be done to encourage developers to include commercial space within their schemes.

“Only a couple of years ago Croydon was awash in office buildings. We had roughly 1.8m sq ft, permitted development took out a lot of obsolescence. The occupier market looks like Croydon’s still awash in buildings but it’s not,” she said.

“Our supply is down to probably between two and three per cent of stock, there’s new supply coming in early next year, rents are under pressure and they’re going to be rising a bit more, I’m interested in terms of office pipeline what can we do to bring forward more pipeline.

“Ignoring Ruskin Square at the moment where HMRC is going, building two is already under offer, it will be two to three years before more supply comes in there. We have a really small supply pipeline.”

In response, Ms Negrini said the she felt the council was doing it all it could.

“There’s a number of people here who have got planning consents for residential, is to come in and talk to us because that’s the way we’re going to be able to do it,” she said.

“I think the HMRC deal and the fact it got so much profile, and the fact that it was such a large number of Victoria staff coming out as a proposition will have an impact.

“We feel that we are trying to do as much as we can by changing the planning policy and by trying to sort out the permitted development thing – I think we were quite quick to jump on – but I do think it’s about developers coming and wanting to do something quite different here. We’re almost trying to buck the market in trying to get people to create something other than residential.”