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News - 18 November 2009
Argus headline 17.11.09

Lack of office space constrains employment growth

The Argus newspaper has reported that the city’s lack of suitable office space is reaching a critical point for some of Brighton & Hove’s most promising digital media companies.

The multi-award winning company Relentless and producers of Second, Life Linden Lab , have both indicated that finding suitable accommodation is limiting their plans to expand.The executive director of Relentless - Andrew Eades - has warned that the firm “could double in size in the next two to three years” but it struggles to find the space to do so.

As a consequence, the Argus reports that, moving away from Brighton is something that Relentless would “consider seriously as a last resort”.

Similarly Emma Williams, of Linden Lab, said the company’s office base in other countries found it much easier to expand: “In Boston (Linden Labs is) in an innovation centre which has moveable walls so they can create a new pod whenever they want to bring more people in. The danger is that potential staff would go to these other locations because they do not have the same problems we do”

“Inevitably, if the situation does not improve then the company may look to create an office somewhere else. It would probably keep a presence in Brighton but it will not grow to become our European headquarters and the city would lose some of its potential to be a centre for digital media.”

Phil Jones, managing director of Wired Sussex, said he was “very concerned” about the issue because “if companies cannot grow, they could open satellite operations in other parts of the country or move out altogether. Brighton does not have a God-given right to be a digital media cluster.”

ECONOMIC PARTNERSHIP COMMENT

The city has just under half a million square metres of office space but less than 3% is Grade A quality that high-tech companies increasingly want. The Economic Strategy for Brighton & Hove has made the provision of more office space a priority and we know from previous discussions that it is an equal priority for the Local Authority.

The slump in UK construction has hampered plans to provide new employment space and the situation is unlikely to change in the near future. The focus of attention is starting to turn to refurbishment of existing stock rather than demolition and new build. Queensbury House in Queen’s Rd which has been transformed into 2,800 sq metres of Grade A space may well provide a model for the future.


Read related items on:
Communications, IT and new media
Local
Commercial property
Linden Lab
Relentless Software
Wired Sussex
Jones, Phil


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