Property expert in call for utility tsar

R3 Products'FACTORY FOCUS'Ecclesfield
R3 Products'FACTORY FOCUS'Ecclesfield
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A leading Sheffield property expert is calling for the appointment of a ‘Utilities Tsar’ to help companies get the services they need when they move into new premises.

Guy Gilfillan, from Lambert Smith Hampton, was responding to reports of companies finding it difficult to get the power supplies they needed.

The problem was highlighted by R3 Products chairman Kevin Parkin earlier this year.

Mr Parkin told Star Business: “There is a real problem in Sheffield with industrial estates having insufficient power. There is a great deal of residual power left over by the steel industry, but it turns out the industrial estates aren’t built for manufacturing, they’re built for assembly and warehousing.”

To add insult to injury, when R3 found a factory and decided to invest in up-rating the power supply and wiring to meet its needs, it took two months to get the power company to turn the electricity on.

“They were particularly difficult. It was just a bureaucratic nightmare,” said Mr Parkin.

Guy Gilfillan agrees. “Getting power now is so difficult,” he says. “It takes an awful long time, you are beholden to the utility operators and, frankly, they are less responsive than you would like.”

Mr Gilfillan says the cost of providing heavy duty supplies to new sites can be prohibitive.

As a result, developers will opt for a light industrial supply and leave it to incoming tenants to make their own arrangements if they need more power.

He believes regulators should have the power to appoint a ‘Tsar’ who could deal directly with the utilities to ensure supplies are provided rapidly and to take up the case of any company facing unreasonable delays.

n Government plans to revitalise Britain’s high streets by reducing planning controls could fall flat, according to Graeme Walker, from Lambert Smith Hampton.

He says the two-year moratorium on planning restrictions isn’t long enough to allow most retailers to recoup their costs.

“The capital needed to establish a new shop, from fit-outs to business rates and health and safety requirements, is likely to be substantial, and for only two years’ worth of trading, this expenditure is not worthwhile,” says Mr Walker.

“This could lead to greater competition for the few empty units that are already fitted out, but for the many that need investment, demand is unlikely to be high.”

Mr Walker dismisses fears that the relaxation of restrictions will lead to more betting shops and pawnbrokers.