Commercial property: Investors urged to look east for expansion

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East Lothian is witnessing a boom in residential property building with new housing across the region including a new community at Blindwells, north of Tranent, where work has started on the first of 1,600 homes, plus a supermarket and school.

But Iain Mercer, director of Allied Surveyors Scotland, believes that the region is fertile ground for commercial property too.

He says: “If you look at the knock-on effect from a rise in population, there are parts of East Lothian which are doing very well in terms of commercial property.

“Haddington is expanding rapidly with a huge amount of housing developments; there is significant commercial activity surrounding that.

“Most recently, Ediston have bought the site previously earmarked for a Sainsbury’s and are planning a retail park.”

He adds that such activity points to a shift in focus from the east side of Edinburgh into the county, although the East Lothian market is still influenced by the Capital. Mercer says: “We know that the city is restricted in what can be built, and its is hemmed in by the bypass and green belt.

“But there is a shift eastward 
down a corridor, heading out by 
Tranent and the Blindwell site, where commercial property is doing very well.”

He highlights the uptake of Macmerry Business Park in Tranent, which was completed more than a decade ago.

Mercer says: “In many ways it was a bit ahead of its time, but it is now coming into its own with businesses looking to relocate. It is a strategic location which looks south as well as taking in the Capital.”

Allied is currently marketing a modern open-plan office suite of 145sq m with parking and superfast broadband at a rent of £16,000 per annum, comparing very favourably with prices in Edinburgh.

In terms of retail spaces, Mercer says: “The market towns are generally buoyant and investors can get a decent return in these types of locations. While high streets elsewhere face a struggle, East Lothian’s prosperous towns, such as North Berwick, are causing a ripple effect.”

He points to a client, LC Artisan, which was seeking premises in North Berwick and Haddington this year, but instead settled on Gifford.

Mercer says: “Businesses wouldn’t be investing in these locations if they didn’t believe they were growth areas, it is a micro-climate with strong local support for high streets.

“With North Berwick going great guns over the last few years that has spread out across the county.”

He adds: “Gullane High Street has gone through a renaissance with Tom Kitchin opening a restaurant there this year.”

In terms of industrial parks there is a demand for quality business space in the region. Allied recently secured premises in East Lothian on behalf of The Paint Shed, representing its first venture into the county.

The acquisition of Unit 5, Olive Bank Retail Park in Musselburgh has been taken on a ten year-lease from landlord RB&JL Properties at a rent of £27,500 per annum.

Mercer says: “The location is only a mile and a half from The Fort but there is a significant difference in cost so there are opportunities for businesses thinking of moving east.”