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The issue of workspace

The digital, media and technology sector in Brighton and the surrounding area continues to grow strongly. This is great news, providing jobs and economic benefits. But there are challenges for individual businesses associated with that growth. One is the ever-increasing difficulty our member businesses tell us they have in finding workspace to grow into.

Brighton’s geography is a limiting factor in that. The sea and the national park which border our city to the south and to the north are part of what makes it a great place to live, but they also limit development opportunities.

We also don’t have the old industrial stock, some of which is being turned into creative and digital workspace in Northern cities.

Then there is the introduction by the government of what’s called Permitted Development Rights (PDR). This is the ability of property developers to turn work and office space into residential accommodation and no longer needing planning permission before they do so. Returns on residential developments in the south are soaring with hefty profits to be made. That means we are also losing office and studio spaces to flats. In fact Phil Graves, the MD of property agents Graves Jenkins, reckons Brighton has lost around 750,000 sq ft of workspace permanently in part because of PDR.

Even when property developers are interested in creating more workspace for the city, they often base their plans on attracting big, stable tenants who will commit for long leases. Wired Sussex spends a lot of time explaining to developers the needs of small, fast moving digital businesses, and suggesting that developers adopt the more flexible approaches to leases and to ‘anchor tenants’ that are common in the USA. We don’t often convince them, and that’s why we welcome property developers like Platform 9 into the city, who already understand our sector and the way it works.

As well as providing advice, we also try and delver practical support. We have long provided backing to The Skiff coworking space (a JV with Inuda), thus ensuring that freelancers (a crucial part of our sector) have a place to work and meet.

We enable member businesses to post details of their excess workspace on our website, giving them the opportunity to flex with business demands and provide desk space to others.

Outside the city, we are working with partners to create more dedicated spaces including a hub in Bognor Regis.

Where we can, we also try and help, advise and connect those with workspace challenges.

There is no magic bullet, and we feel our member’s angst on this issue, but rest assured, we do our best.

About the author

Phil Jones

Hi, I'm the Managing Director of Wired Sussex, overseeing our strategy as an organisation and work to promote our membership and its needs to local, national and international stakeholders, including government.

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