Leeds and Newcastle ‘are best placed for pandemic recovery’

Leeds and Newcastle are the best placed cities to recover from the fallout caused by the coronavirus pandemic and Brexit, according to the latest research from real estate advisory firm Cushman & Wakefield.

Leeds scored particularly highly in terms of resilience
Leeds scored particularly highly in terms of resilience

Leeds scored particularly highly in terms of resilience. More than 25 per cent of office take up in the city in the last five years is from public sector occupiers, which are considered low risk because of the Government’s "levelling up" strategy which will benefit cities outside of London.

Adam Cockroft, head of Leeds office leasing at Cushman & Wakefield, said: “Leeds has been particularly successful at attracting demand from public sector tenants, which are relatively unaffected by changes in the wider economy and offer an attractive proposition for investors.

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"The growing demand from media tenants will further enhance Leeds’ resilience.”

The research showed that Leeds and Newcastle are the least likely of the UK’s regional office markets to be impacted by the pandemic and the UK leaving the EU, followed by Birmingham, Bristol and Manchester.

Cushman & Wakefield's research analysed the main business sectors occupying office space and their exposure to a host of potential risks. The sectors included financial services, manufacturing & energy, professional services, flexible workspace, media, insurance, public sector, legal and tech.

The analysis weighed the exposure to risk in each of the UK’s largest regional cities, based on the occupier base in each, to create a ranking.

Cushman & Wakefield said Leeds and Newcastle are positioned most favourably for recovery from the pandemic because they are predominantly occupied by business sectors that are least sensitive to areas of risk.

Ben Cullen, head of UK offices at Cushman & Wakefield, added: “Those UK cities with less exposure to the riskier sectors may experience an earlier and stronger return of occupier demand post-Covid, while those with increased exposure may take longer to return to pre-Covid levels.

"The dominant low risk business sectors in the take up profile of most of the UK’s regional cities suggests that many markets could see a relatively early return of occupier demand.”

Cushman & Wakefield identified the current four risks prevalent across all office markets as competition, location, regulation and sensitivity to changes in economic growth.

The real estate firm said Leeds and Newcastle have limited exposure to the financial and manufacturing & energy sectors, which are viewed as a higher risk due to regulatory events such as Brexit limiting opportunities for business in EU markets.

In addition, the flexible working sector has not yet been fully established in these markets, which has been hampered by Covid-19 and the subsequent economic downturn, coupled with working from home policies.

Patrick Scanlon, head of UK offices insight at Cushman & Wakefield, said: “The financial, manufacturing & energy, and flexible workspace sectors have the highest exposure to risk factors in the short to medium term, while the public sector, legal and tech sectors have the least exposure over the same timeframe.

"Greater exposure to risk factors may affect the decision-making process for companies in some sectors, potentially affecting the time and sizing of occupational requirements.”