Business Scene – January 2017
Predicting the future is best left to the newspaper astrologers but when it comes to Uckfield there are some facts upon which to base our view of how 2017 will evolve.
- We can state with certainty that a major housing development will get under way just off the town centre, writes Paul Watson.
- The Ashdown Business Park, just off the A272 at Maresfield will continue to grow.
- We may – and I emphasise may – get a decision on future expansion of Uckfield town centre and it is likely we will see the first detailed planning application for the 1,000 homes scheme at Ridgewood Farm.
67 retirement homes
Work is due to this month on a £10million scheme to provide 67 affordable retirement living apartments in the heart of Uckfield.
Wealden District Council’s redevelopment of the former Grants Hill House will be carried out by Sussex-based developer Thakeham.
The new development will increase the number of apartments at the site from 42 to 67, including two bungalows, improving the quality of accommodation and facilities available.
You can read more on this scheme here.
John Lewis has moved in
The Ashdown Business Park is now taking shape as property agents, Lawson Commercial outlined in an end-of-year review.
Chris Lawson reported that the John Lewis distribution centre on a 3.9 acre site was now occupied. It was one of the largest deals to take place in Uckfield for more than 25 years.
He went on: “During the course of 2016, Lawson Commercial has sold Site 8 to Jemtech UK Ltd, an engineering company, for their new headquarters, Site 5 is under offer to another local Uckfield business for a new 20,000 square foot research and development facility and Site 10 is under offer to a business from West Sussex, specialising in medical research.
“The Ashdown Business Park website will be redesigned for the new year and re-launched hopefully with a 360° tour to promote sales of the last remaining sites.”
Strong growth but not booming
Looking more generally, Mr Lawson commented: “The commercial market overall remained remarkably strong considering the European referendum, the election of Donald Trump as American President and the resignation of the Italian Prime Minister.
“These events have caused some hesitation in business confidence but overall the demand for all types of commercial property remained very strong.
“Business is not exactly booming but many businesses in Sussex and Kent saw opportunities for growth.
“Overall we would describe progress, despite the various political upheavals, as strong and steady throughout the year.”
Industrial units in short supply
He sounded a note of caution around the availability of industrial units.
“ Few premises became available and even fewer freehold premises.
“The demand for freehold, commercial buildings remained very strong throughout the year.
“It was noticeable during the course of the year that for good quality, industrial space, rents appear to be on the rise and several transactions were concluded at rents of around £8 per square foot per annum, highlighting the shortage of supply, Mr Lawson said.
This may signal a problem in the future when existing businesses want to expand and new businesses want to find premises. It may also be a factor that could discourage businesses from elsewhere wanting to move into this area.
He said: “There is a huge amount of proposed housing being put forward over the new ten years and there needs to be the facility for further job creation in the local area.”
Uckfield town centre redevelopment
We should hear at least a morsel of news this month on the future redevelopment plans for Uckfield town centre.
This scheme was floated before the financial crash of 2008 and has also been hit by a change in shoppers’ habits away from big supermarkets to the discounters and convenience stores.
The town regeneration committee is set to meet and will receive an update on the viability of the scheme.
The committee is made up of representatives of Uckfield Town, Wealden District and East Sussex County councils. It has not met since last July, probably a clear sign of the slow progress the scheme continues to make.
1,000 homes at Ridgewood Farm
Against many people’s expectations, last year was all quiet on the Ridgewood Farm site to the south and west Uckfield.
Outline planning permission has been granted for 1,000 homes but a full application is still awaited.
The detailed applications will – in all likelihood – be for portions of the land. Development is expected to stretch on for many years.
First new houses at Ridgewood Farm, Uckfield, are expected to be ready in the year 2018/19, according to Wealden District Council figures.
Read more here and about sites in and around Uckfield which have planning permission for development.
Business news highlights from December
Uckfield farrier Declan Emmerson has won an outstanding apprentice award from the Warwickshire College Group.
The 25-year-old studied for his farriery apprenticeship at Moreton Morrell College in Warwick and is now running his own business.
Pig and Butcher
David Gardner has celebrated his first anniversary as landlord at The Pig and Butcher, in Five Ash Down.
As he moves into his second year he is looking forward to many more celebrations, and says there is an air of excitement in the pub now the once-tired premises have a new lease of life, drawing in customers old and new. More here
Uckfield Framing Company
Picture framing courses being run in Uckfield are proving increasingly popular and bookings for the first one in 2017 are now being taken. The day course is being held on Saturday, January 14, by Uckfield Framing Company on the Bellbrook Estate, Uckfield.
It shows the range of products available for children’s parties, corporate events, wedding entertainment and for adult parties.
4 Paws Outdoors
She walks a maximum of three dogs at a time either for an hour, or for half an hour if a dog is recovering after surgery, is a puppy, or a much older dog, not needing as much exercise.
Railway use declines
Uckfield and Buxted railway stations have seen fewer passengers in the last year.
A decline has been recorded, halting an upward trend which has been particularly marked in recent years following the introduction of new diesel trains.
Station usage for 2015/2016 at Uckfield was 480,624 entries and exits, down from 552,364 the year before.
The official reason is not the strikes which have bedevilled the service for months as you will see from this earlier story. Read more.
Station usage for 2015/2016 at Buxted was 133,062 entries and exits, down from 150,310 the year before.
Did you see?
Find local businesses in our Uckfield Directory