Commercial property agent welcomes easing of business lockdown as deals agreed to keep firms ‘on the front foot’

David Garness, managing director of Hull-based Garness Jones

A leading Yorkshire and Humber commercial property agent says he is proud his company has helped businesses remain ‘on the front foot’ throughout lockdown as Prime Minister Boris Johnson outlined plans for a phased reopening of society and industry.

David Garness, managing director of Hull-based Garness Jones, believes his company was one of the few in the commercial property sector – particularly regionally – to continue offering site viewings after the March 23 lockdown.

Emphasizing that his business has ‘followed Government guidelines each and every step of the way’, he says the decision has been vindicated as a number of property deals being agreed in that time.

Mr Garness says that has ensured that the companies involved have not had to standstill for six weeks and are now in a much better position to respond and restart as we enter ‘phase two’ of the UK’s Covid-19 response.

“I’m very proud of the work we have done to support businesses over the past few weeks with their property needs,” said Mr Garness.

“There was a lot of caution and reluctance to do any sort of business due to the initial unclear messaging around ‘essential work’ and the references made to the food and health sectors, however, when you looked carefully at what was said, it was never said that business had to stop.

“The Government advice from March 23 onwards was to work from home if you could – as we did with our teams – and only to travel for essential work, which is again what we have done.

“We were very considerate and took time to carefully consider what we could offer clients safely, and what could be justified in terms of business need.

“I have to say, from all the years in property, I know how essential securing the right premises are and we took the decision that we needed to support those who came to us and said they had a genuine need for property now.

“Essentially, we have always ensured that we haven’t lost sight of the economic need through lockdown. There is always a need for businesses to be able to continuing operating, to plan and to grow, and to be able to come through this situation in a strong enough position to be able to grow and create employment.

“We all need those businesses as we emerge from this situation.

“In the past week we’ve progressed a number – and it has to be stressed it is only a small number – of deals which are of significance. There is one deal in particular which has seen a very well respected local company, in the leisure field, secure new premises which offers it great potential in the future.

“They saw beyond the very difficult situation we have all been facing and wanted to plan ahead, despite it still being highly uncertain until last night when their particular industry could return to any form of normality.”

‘Common sense’ approach will continue to be taken to activities

Property viewings have been conducted on site by Agency Director Paul White, who says a common sense approach has been taken at all times.

“We’ve of course offered virtual viewings to people over the past few weeks but taking on any new premises is a big decision and there is simply nothing that beats walking around and getting a feel for the place,” he said.

‘We’ve assisted by speaking about the premises beforehand and their key features before meeting one person at a site and opening up for them to look around alone. We’ve then spoken at distance outside after the viewings and taken things from there. This will continue following the guidelines set out last night.

“By finding a simple way of doing things safely we’ve helped a number of businesses keep very important aspects of their work turning so they are on the front foot now that a timetable is being set to start returning things to normal.”

Following the publication of the Government’s recovery plan, in which a phased return to normality was outlined, Mr Garness says common sense will still be the key factor for all businesses.

“I am glad to see Mr Johnson is now actively encouraging the manufacturing and construction sectors in particular to work, as they have clearly been placed under huge strain which couldn’t go on much longer,” he said.

“The key now is helping these businesses to be able to return to operations in a safe manner for all workers, and customers, with regards to social distancing and containing the spread of the virus. It has to be safe.

“As the Government has stated, it cannot continue to support the economy indefinitely. We do need to get back to work, and we need to find a sensible and safe way to do so.

“We still need much greater clarity on last night’s announcement, and of course many businesses are going to need a support in making sure their premises, processes and people are safe. We face another massive challenge.

“However, I feel this step is an important one as it potentially gives businesses the opportunity they deserve to demonstrate their responsibility by allowing them to work to guidelines and get the economy moving again.”