PROPERTY experts have voiced concerns at the lack of office space in Tunbridge Wells after stockbroker AJ Bell announced plans to move.
Commercial property agency Broadlands said “nothing of substance,” is available to the business community with an increasing number of office buildings becoming residential.
Chartered surveyor Durlings has also raised concerns about the Government’s ‘permitted development’ rules and said the firm currently only has two vacant offices on offer.
Last week AJ Bell, which employs more than 100 people, admitted it is planning to move to Manchester or London after their landlord at Calverley House applied to convert the town centre block into residential apartments.
Spokesman Charlie Musson said: “We have been looking for more office space in town but we have not found anything suitable.”
With the Borough Council powerless to stop landlords making such conversions, some are now calling for the local planning authority to have greater protective powers.
Josh Olney, of Durlings, said: “Due to the scarcity of office stock in Tunbridge Wells, and the removal from the market of large office buildings such as Calverley House, demand is extremely strong for the stock that does become available.
“We anticipate this predicament to continue for the foreseeable future.
“Supply is at low levels, mainly due to the significant amount of offices being converted to residential use under permitted development rights.”
Mr Olney said the two vacant offices currently on offer are the ground floor of Dowding House in Paddock Wood and Bayham House in Grosvenor Road.
Shane Raggett, director of Broadlands Commercial Property Agents, said: “There is not anything of any substance available.
“There are no single floors, just bits and pieces dotted around. There are a couple of places and they are under offer.”
Broadlands has already let office space to companies in Tunbridge Wells locations such as Church Road, Mount Ephraim and Clarence Road.
Data from the Valuation Office Agency (VOA), the department responsible for collecting business rates, reveals that in Tunbridge Wells the 163,000sqm of floor space available in the 2000/1 financial year fell to 143,000sqm by 2015/16.