New Derby City Council offices vital or a waste of money?
THE city council says its new office block will help create up to 100 jobs by providing space for budding businesses.
But one property expert claims the £3.35 million Cathedral Quarter Enterprise Centre will simply take business away from other landlords.
Derby City Council gave itself planning permission this week for the office block, the first development on the former Princes Supermarket site in Bold Lane.
The authority bought the site from the East Midlands Development Agency in 2011 and will use £2.39 million European Regional Development Fund cash to pay for the development, with the rest coming from its own coffers.
Council leader Paul Bayliss said the authority had been approached on several occasions by entrepreneurs and city business leaders saying this kind of accommodation was missing in the city.
He said: "In comparison with other cities, we don't have a lot of 'incubator' units like this. To an extent, that's down to the fact that we have a number of very large firms in and around the city who people work for.
"But business leaders who come to us have said they wanted to see more small businesses spring up as it benefits their supply chain."
Neil Johnson, council regeneration properties manager, said the council funding for the development came from its £10 million Regeneration Fund, set up to stimulate office developments in the city centre by helping with construction costs.
He said: "We hope the centre will create between 85 and 100 jobs. There will be 25 business units to begin with but there could be up to 38. If one unit needs expanding, we can just move the walls."
The scheme will be managed by the council's estates team.
Mr Johnson said that work was due to start this spring with the first tenants set to move in by March 2014.
The centre will be made up of two separate buildings – one three-storey and one four – linked by a walkway.
Russell Rigby, director of commercial property agent Rigby & Co, said the offices were great news for the city.
He said: "The council knows what it is doing. It's set to be the brother and sister offices of Friar Gate Studios, which is full of businesses.
"I've been won over by that and I can't see what's not to like about the new centre."
But Hugh Broadbent, of Belper-based property agent Chartex, said he believed the new units would be a waste of money.
He said: "The council obviously has good intentions. But, if they had to make the money for this themselves they wouldn't spend it in the way they are.
"There are lots of incubation units in Derby and Derbyshire and all this will do is create more competition that is completely unnecessary."
Mr Broadbent said he expected the council to have to undercut the market to fill the units and that existing businesses might also move in to take advantage of low rents.
The council said a decision was still being made over what the rest of the site, which is known as the Sadler Square development, could be used for.