Viewpoint: David Jackson

March 5, 2019

Savills, one of the world’s leading property agents, has opened an office in Newcastle. Chris Dobson talks with David Jackson, Savills’ head of planning, on what this new office means to the global business

Employing 35,000 people in 600 offices across 60 countries, why has Savills chosen to open an office in Newcastle?

We have an extensive UK network with over 130 offices across the country, including representation in all the major cities of the North. To date, Newcastle has been the one missing piece of the jigsaw and the primary reason for that has been a determination on our part to ensure we assemble the right team.

We are confident that we now have that in terms of length of service in the local market and expertise across a range of sectors. In addition, our research is showing that the North East region is one of those where house prices are likely to continue to grow and where funds are seeing a better return than in other regions in the country. So it is a nice coincidence of factors.

You refer to local expertise. You have recruited a strong regional team to enable you to open the doors and be immediately in business. Will this team continue to grow?

Absolutely. We have already taken on additional staff since recruiting the initial team at the start of the year, including in our valuation team and in property management in which we are very active locally. And we intend to build further, with some internal transfers from existing Savills offices in the region, as well as taking on new joiners.

Across which sectors will this market knowledge be applied?

Over the past 24 months the market has been led by out of town residential development; however, we are increasingly seeing a shift back towards city centre mixed-use developments. The success of major city centre projects relies on a mix of skills rather than single use, the key to achieving deliverable development is therefore having a deep understanding of several markets.

The nearest Savills offices are York and Leeds to the south and Edinburgh to the north. This gives the Newcastle office a significant market area between. What are the main issues facing this large area and its clearly- defined conurbations?

The offices that you refer to are our nearest multi-disciplinary offices, but we do have other offices in the region focused on serving our rural clients, for example at Wooler and Corbridge. The new office in Newcastle now establishes a metropolitan presence which will be our regional hub, providing additional services and sector knowledge to our existing clients around the region.

We see a range of issues arising ranging from diversification of the rural economy introducing new uses to the countryside in ways that don’t impact the attractiveness of the area, to delivering city centre regeneration – which involves designing a physical solution that is both financially viable and respects the existing urban context including the local built heritage.

Recently, the formation of the North of Tyne Combined Authority was announced. There is also the North East Combined Authority, a North East LEP, a Tees Valley LEP and a Tees Valley Combined Authority. As someone based in London, do you find this political structure confusing?

Rest assured that London is not without its complexities with the mayor in the strategic role alongside the London boroughs as well as numerous special interest and lobby groups. The important factor is not necessarily the number of organisations, but whether there is unity of purpose among those organisations backed by a consistent focus on delivery.

There are good examples of this in the North East, such as the International Advanced Manufacturing Park, which is an initiative that has combined the efforts of South Tyneside and Sunderland Councils and the North East LEP. The redevelopment of Redcar Steel Works is another example, backed by South Tees Development Corporation delivering industrial land and innovationin energy supply.

It is these types of joined-up and ambitious initiatives that will win Government support, which is often key to delivering jobs and homes, and where Savills wants to be involved to contribute to the success of the region.

What do you feel are the overall region’s strengths?

A combination of great natural assets – it is a beautiful place to live; a large and vibrant metropolitan area with a strong economy
supported by universities, international investment and research activity; and a strong regional identity, which is a combination of these factors as well as reflecting the history and culture of the place.

You didn’t mention the over-used phrase ‘quality of life’. Do you think it’s a too big an ask to think that the business community in the south will give up possibly four hours a day commuting and replace it with a commute of an hour or less with a far better lifestyle as a result?

You are describing my life. I commute to London from Oxfordshire most days and I recognise entirely the beauty of the North East as I come here on a regular basis for family holidays. We love the beaches of Northumberland, which are the most beautiful in the country; the sea is a bit chilly but the lack of crowds more than makes up for it. On top of that, there is fantastic history, from Whitby Abbey and Lindisfarne through to the great places in Newcastle such as Baltic Quay – a reminder of the city’s industrial heritage as well as reflecting the new Newcastle. I am sure there will be people who will forego the daily commute into London to enjoy what the North East has to offer. Lucky them.


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