Covid-19 will impact on town and city centres across Coventry and Warwickshire

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Coronavirus will have a major knock-on effect for buildings and land in town and city centres across Coventry and Warwickshire, a new report has revealed.

The findings emerged in the Coventry and Warwickshire Local Enterprise Partnership (CWLEP) Growth Hub’s SmartRegion report from July 7-20.

The report collected data from the CWLEP’s business engagements and survey data, the Coventry and Warwickshire Local Enterprise Partnership, Coventry City Council, Warwickshire County Council and the West Midlands Combined Authority.

Reform of the English planning system could also change the outlook significantly, after the Prime Minister’s announcement that new regulations will give greater freedom for commercial buildings to change their use without requiring planning applications and local authority approval.

The latest SmartRegion report highlights that accommodation and food service activities (14 per cent), manufacturing (12 per cent) and wholesale and retail trade (11 per cent) were the top three sectors which had contacted the Growth Hub about property and planning issues.

Feedback from businesses has highlighted there is a need to convert vacant units in town and city centres to support smaller service businesses and provide a way to restore shop fronts and footfall particularly and service gaps in the market for premises suitable within the digital, creative and professional services sector.

Over the last couple of months there have been a number of announcements around regeneration initiatives in Coventry and Warwickshire.

They include Coventry City Centre South, Transforming Nuneaton, the Daimler Powerhouse and Abbotts Lane in Coventry, and a £12 million office development at Abbey Park in Stoneleigh.

Craig Humphrey, the managing director of the CWLEP Growth Hub, said it was important to develop innovative ways of utilising empty retail and larger commercial property space.

He said there has been a shift in the availability of premises due to the move to remote working and companies reviewing their space requirements.

An aerial view of Coventry City Centre South

“We recognise that factors, including both permanent and temporary business closures across high streets, factories and offices as well as a move of workers from the office to their homes and rate and rent holidays have left business owners, public spaces, high streets and our economy in an unprecedented situation,” Mr Humphrey said.

“Some of the projects which have been announced recently highlight innovative workplace and public space requirements expected for the future – including flexible work and office spaces, collaborative spaces, open-air community and public spaces allowing for more of a community focus for SMEs in particular.

“There has been a rethinking of the balance of commercial and residential space at schemes such as at Coventry City Centre South which highlights that there is going to be a change to create places where residents can live, work and socialise.”

Mr Humphrey said the trend in more new businesses being launched is likely to continue as lockdown measures ease and companies make redundancies which is expected to spur on a wave of entrepreneurism.

He said: “Requirements for workspaces, particular in the services sector, are likely to change in the short and the long-term as businesses are likely to focus on employee-wellbeing, work life balance and reliance on remote technology.

 “Manufacturers are assessing ways to maintain productivity and output, with the prospect of less space per employee, allowing for social distancing measures and a potential reduction in employees on factory floors and production lines.

“Affordability of spaces will remain an ongoing concern as business cash reserves are likely to be capped or eradicated as an effect of the lockdown.

“Businesses are likely to require incentives such as low rents, flexible offers around renting and co-working, or attractive additional serviced offers to make decisions on renting offices.”


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