London Offices Space Lost

Over 4million square feet of executive office space in London has been ‘lost’ in the course of the last decade, according to a new study by property consultancy firm H2S0, which looks at Westminster planning data. The ‘lost’ office space hasn’t been sent to a desert island, however, but converted into other facilities.

According to the study, 3million square feet of the lost 4million executive office space has been converted into residential properties since 2001, with the other missing million converted into hotel space and other leisure related facilities.

The loss of millions of square feet of office space is one of the factors leading to the current shortage in key London areas, which in turn has resulted in a rapid rise in rental fees, they now stand at an average of £100 per square foot for the first time since the property market crash. The situation seems unlikely to change drastically anytime soon, with further schemes involving almost 2million square feet of office space to be converted to other uses having been given planning permission.

Those schemes don’t even include another recent conversion, with Portland House, the Victoria office building of no less than 26 storeys, having been earmarked for conversion into high-end apartments by the building’s owners, Land Securities. While there have been some development projects that have resulted in the creation of new executive office space, it hasn’t always been in the ‘right’ locations. For example, while just over 3million square feet was created in Westminster between 2004 and 2009, the majority of it was located in the Paddington area.

H2S0 partner, Paul Smith, says, “The trend for office buildings in London’s West End being converted to other – primarily residential – uses gained momentum more than a decade ago, when Westminster Council instigated a policy of not renewing the ‘temporary’ office planning consents that we were granted on many buildings after the Second World War.” Indeed, the West End area of London alone has now been estimated to have lost more than 320,000 square feet of executive office space in the five year period between 2004 and 2009, a loss that new developments have not been able to negate, at least in that particular area. “It is clear that the trend is unlikely to disappear in the medium term,” the report states.

Despite the downturn, H2S0’s report is not all bad news, at least in some ways. The company states that the loss of executive office space may actually have been a good thing in many ways for the West End location, given that many of the buildings involved in the redevelopments had actually begun their lives as residential properties in the first place. They were therefore merely being returned to their original use. “The trend puts the West End in better shape to meet the needs of those who either want to do business or live in the location,” Smith concluded.

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