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Applications to build sink in downturn

APPLICATIONS for permission to build new commercial property developments plunged sharply over the past year, as a number of high-profile developers succumbed to the downturn and demand for office and retail space faltered.

In the past year, 21,729 commercial property planning applications were lodged in England, down 15 per cent from 25,600 the previous year, according to commercial law firm EMW Picton Howell.

The news comes after a string of property companies were put into administration last year, stung by collapsing valuations and the reluctance of banks to lend to the sector. Mountgrange Capital, founded by multi-millionaire entrepreneurs Manish Chande and Martin Myers, went under in March last year after Bank of Scotland Corporate pulled the plug on lending to the company.

EMW Picton Howell said that the retail property segment had been most severely affected, with a 21 per cent drop in applications for new premises over the year. Applications for new office space followed close on its tail, tumbling 11 per cent to just 5,429 during the period.

Countrywide, the region of Slough was hardest hit, with applications for the year down almost 65 per cent. Oxford bucked the trend with a 161 per cent surge in new applications, thanks to a local council scheme to pedestrianise and revamp the city centre. Planning applications in London dropped by a fifth.