Market Towns Offer Investment Scope; THE Market Towns of County Durham Are Proving an Increasingly Attractive Investment with Larger Towns and Cities Having Already Reached Their Peak, Says Ben Cox

Article excerpt

CURRENTLY the retail property market is experiencing tough times, in terms of a lack of consumer and occupier confidence brought about by worsening economic conditions.

In such circumstances, it can be difficult to see how investment in prime locations will provide strong rental growth, as in certain locations the market may have reached its peak.

This is why strong market towns could be increasingly attractive prospects for property investors.

Taking County Durham as an example, both Bishop Auckland and Darlington are providing strong encouragement for future growth.

Bishop Auckland is a historic market town within short travelling distance to both Durham and Darlington.

The town has supermarket anchors in Asda and Morrisons, and is host to several well-known high-street names including Marks & Spencer, Boots and Woolworths.

Traditionally, the main retailing thoroughfare is Newgate Street with its prime pitch being the northern end which includes the Newgate Centre and is close to Market Square.

Prime rents in the town stand at around pounds 50 persqft Zone A but planned developments should provide the potential for further growth.

The owners of the Newgate Centre are working in tandem with Wear Valley Council to finalise proposals to extend the centre which would provide a significant amount of additional floor space and allow major absentee retailers such as Primark and Next to gain representation.

The scheme will potentially add an additional 75,000sqft of prime retail accommodation and will form the shopping core for Bishop Auckland.

The centre already boasts a strong line-up including Argos, Wilkinsons and New Look and looks well placed to capture additional quality retailers.

In addition to this is Helios's North Bondgate scheme which will provide a further 70,000sqft of retail/leisure accommodation and is due for delivery late 2009.

With a significant revamp of the town centre in the pipeline, the prospect of a more upmarket and diverse retail offer looks increasingly realistic which should combine together to provide positive growth prospects for investors.

Darlington, like Bishop Auckland, benefits from a strong location. …