Bricks & Mortar: Town barriers ‘putting off suiters’, say agents

By David Howell   |   Planning and property correspondent   |
Tuesday 21st July 2020 6:04 am
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MP Jeremy Hunt said the town centre 'feels like the good, the bad and the ugly' this week – but added the councils would work together to find a 'more attractive long-term solution' ()

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SINCE I last reported a couple of weeks ago on the shops available for sale or rent, there have been developments which I thought I should tell you about.

The state of the market in Farnham has been described as ‘very positive and frenzied’.

* Strong interest by independents

I am told Farnham’s commercial property market is emerging from lockdown. Two of the local commercial agents report strong levels of interest by independents. Interest is in its early stages, but there are multiple viewings of some of the shop units available.

Unfortunately, as always, the agents are unable to confirm names or even the sector of those viewing. Properties with rentals of below £25,000 a year have stronger interest.

From what they hear, retail properties with higher rental have less, if any, interest. There are insufficient warehousing and industrial properties in the area.

A lot of the national store companies appear to be restructuring, leading to closure of stores throughout the country, including some in Farnham.

I am assured Farnham is doing better than many other towns. I hear many tenants have missed paying their rent for two quarter days, ie March and June, to landlords who, in many instances, are more cash strapped than the shop owners.

Some companies were about to complete on letting shop space but stepped back in March knowing what could be coming.

* Previously reported

Already reported are Parker Fine Art Auctions moving into Hawthorn House in East Street, the old Laura Ashley unit, Buffy Parker and his business partner Henny Smith are incredibly positive about setting up here in Farnham.

Buffy told me the building is ideally suited to a fine art auction house. Alan Greenwood & Co, funeral directors, are moving into 72 Castle Street.

* Pavement-widening measures

I am told the recent pavement-widening measures in central Farnham have had an impact on potential occupants, affecting the confidence of potentially interested businesses, although the numerous planters do soften the otherwise harsh appearance.

Some have likened it to what you’d expect to see outside a football stadium. The instigator of the vandalism is, of course, Surrey County Council.

Farnham Town Council wanted a very much softer appearance. The barriers are initially set up for 12 weeks from Saturday, June 13. I understand Farnham Town Council have also funded the additional rectangular planters which have recently been installed.

* Gone, going and staying

Oasis, which has a branch in The Borough, has gone into administration. The shop is on the market at £43,500 a year.

The Accessorize shop in West Street is still trading but is now on the market for £32,500 a year.

The Strutt Parker office, 38 Downing Street, is under offer. I understand they are planning to relocate in Farnham.

I had hoped to give you an update on Bowleys Fine Shoes in The Borough this week. The owners should be contacting me soon.

* Properties available

The former Breeze salon in Borelli Yard remains on the market for sale at £325,000 or to let at £25,000 pa. There is still interest in this property.

One property which appears to be very good value with the forthcoming Brightwells development and Bush Hotel refurbishment is 1 South Street, 646 sq ft for an annual rental of £19,500.

The Pump House in Kimbers Lane is under offer again. I will try to find out more for next week.

I see the agent’s board on the post office has disappeared but nothing from the agent yet.

And despite best efforts to glean information, there is still nothing from the agents marketing the old Argos store.

* Previously unreported properties

Other new additions to the list of properties available are the freehold of the Jolly Sailor pub in West Street, under offer I hear at £675,000.

There has been significant interest in this former pub, occupied by Bush Hotel staff until the lockdown.

Nearby adjoining buildings 104 / 104A West Street, former Farnham Interiors (lighting agency) and Heald Nickinson, Solicitors, are on the market for £925,000.

One property I discovered for sale while reviewing the agents’ websites is Kei’s Peking Restaurant in Runfold.

Planning permission was refused for the construction of three new dwellings and the extension and conversion of the existing building into four dwellings in 2019.

* Boots

Boots Opticians announced that 48 branches of their 606 will be closing in their restructuring. Of the 606 practices, around 156 operate on a franchise basis.

Neither of the local commercial agents had heard anything but Boots have their own retained London agents. If local agents are instructed, I will update you.

I do hope the Farnham branch is not one of those having to close down.

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