President's Message November 2015
It has been another exciting and busy month here at the Chamber with the Chamber Ball taking place at Sopwell House last Saturday with the marvellous Co-Jones filling the dance floor and our thought provoking breakfast earlier in the month kindly sponsored by Aitchison Rafety who provided a very informative overview on the St Albans and District property market. Whilst their excellent presentation gave the usual flavour for current supply, demand and purchase costs and rental yields in both residential and commercial property, it was noticeable that one particular element of the presentation caught the attention of the gathered audience - the availability of good quality commercial premises within the St Albans traditional business footprint.
In a city where we are working hard to develop and promote the brand of “City of Expertise” and seeking to encourage employees and employers alike to bring their labour and businesses to this fine city, it seems remarkable that a lack of available commercial premises largely owing to the generous relaxation of regulations around permitted development for residential dwellings may scupper not only our efforts to attract new businesses to the area but also to sustain our existing businesses. Indeed, many of our successful growing long established local businesses who have the desire to expand further will be approaching lease expiries over the forthcoming years with a feeling of dread and potentially may face the prospect of having to relocate their businesses outside of the their traditional central St Albans City locations and away from their established customer base. Even if such businesses are successful in securing an appropriate location from which to trade, it is highly likely they will find passing footfall substantially down as many of the local businesses which previously provided them with custom will not have been as fortunate.
Several St Albans based businesses have already seen the writing on the wall and taken steps in the last few years to secure their future in the heart of the city. Others are quickly realising the issue and taking steps to protect their businesses. However, I think this issue now demands real focus and I will be working with all interested parties over the next couple of months in order to arrange a St Albans and District Chamber of Commerce sponsored forum where we can explore this important issue in greater depth and consider a united approach in conjunction with all of our local businesses and key stakeholders to ensure our aspiration for what we all refer to as our “City of Expertise” does not have the rug pulled from underneath it owing to a lack of available commercial property.