Selbourne Group Ltd was established in 1998 making 2023 its 25th year in business! Canning O’Neill has long advised this family-owned company, supporting its commercial property portfolio of great workspaces in Altrincham, Cheshire. In this article, Managing Director Michael de Massey tells us how he’s building on the company’s past, to create resilient commercial hubs of the future.
Our offering is fairly specialised, and we’re focused on great workspaces for businesses operating in the Broadheath area of Altrincham in Cheshire.
You’ll likely know of Altrincham, a bustling and vibrant hub with a great reputation, but our vision was to open up opportunities in the North of the town, unleashing the potential of Broadheath.
Where others saw a semi-industrial landscape and cheap housing, we saw great potential, investing £7.5m on properties in the local area. In the last few years, we’ve doubled down on our commitment, revisiting our buildings to refurbish and update them, creating appealing spaces that will cater for changing business needs.
Among those properties are a Kids Allowed children’s nursery, as well as the Arches and Quay House – a terrace block of twenty self-contained railway arches offering flexible accommodation that can be used for a variety of uses from workshops to retail and support a diverse mix of small businesses.
Building on the refurbishment of the Arches, we then turned our attentions to Mansion House, upgrading the space here to create more great office space – all of which is now fully let.
Canning O’Neill helped us through this process, hosting weekly meetings and feeding back on our designs, ensuring that we were creating something that the market wanted. They had their ears to the ground and have been – and continue to be – a valuable partner.
Today, Canning O’Neill are once again alongside us as we take another of our buildings though a major package of works. Trafalgar House – which is on the main A56 arterial route connecting Altrincham with Manchester – will soon be in line with the rest of our portfolio and our decision to invest here, and in our other buildings, was supported by Canning O’Neill’s insight into the changing commercial property landscape.
Looking to the future – while learning from the past
Our plan is to cater for a new generation of occupiers, learning from our 25-year history while embracing the future. If you look back to when we started out in 1998 things have changed radically; gone are long-form leases and densely packed working environments – instead its’ about great experiences, good aesthetics, and value for money.
The latter point’s really important to us. Being based in Broadheath means we can compete with Altrincham prices; we’re to the north of the town so we don’t come at the same premium – but our workspaces are just a mere 10 minute walk away and we’ve got great amenities like the TransPennine Way and the canal – a beautiful setting for businesses hoping to appeal to their colleagues.
Occupiers definitely see those benefits, and that’s why we’ve already let the space that has been transformed at Trafalgar House. This building was the long-time home of the Carole Nash insurance call centre; Covid changed that business’ need and we had to adapt and think about the building serving a new purpose for multiple occupiers.
“We started on the ground floor, investing in well-designed, self-contained units, with a focus on the health and wellbeing sector – appealing to a genre that worked under the existing planning and saving us the time of applying for a change of use. We quickly secured lettings – with a yoga company, dental scanning business, beauty therapist and a masseuse all signing up. The building is blessed with great outdoor space and parking, meaning that we could easily accommodate the new footfall those uses would bring.
“The next stage was to transform the first floor, revitalising 12,000 sq ft, splitting it into 11 units of different sizes. Works here completed in September 2022 and again proved popular with everything let by Christmas – the appeal largely down to competitive rates and a rejuvenated offering that gives occupiers comfortable suites with LED lighting, double glazing, air conditioning and new heating systems. Such features were crucial for meeting sustainability and energy efficiency targets and something that has helped us achieve an EPC B Rating – fantastic for a building originally constructed in the 1960s! There’s also preinstalled high-speed internet, high quality kitchens in each space, an onsite café, and conference rooms.
Canning O’Neill swiftly got word of those spaces out to market, in particular reaching the financial services sector, with many businesses of that genre now calling Trafalgar House their home. Much of this is down to the building’s non-VAT registered status, mean that VAT isn’t payable on the rent and service charge. This means it’s very appealing to businesses like financial services who can’t recover the VAT – Trafalgar House effectively gives them a 20% saving on other buildings they may be considering.
What occupiers want
But beyond the aesthetics, occupiers have also been interested in our flexible approach to leases. As I said earlier, we know long-term leases don’t cut it anymore, but equally we have seen occupiers shy away from 12-month leases – while we offer those, the main appetite is for 3 to 5 year agreements. Such leases help our occupiers plan and forecast for their business’ immediate future, allowing them to establish themselves in a great space without fear of having to move any time soon.
The success of these spaces, coupled with the knowledge and support of a partner like Canning O’Neill has propelled us through to the final refurbishment phases at Trafalgar House – three suites on the ground floor which are all already under offer to other financial services companies. We’ll also then turn our attentions to the top floor offering larger suites of 6,000 and 4,000 sq ft respectively.
Such investments have been easy decisions to make. Market volatility has a habit to dominate the news on a national level but for us, local knowledge and a real, in-depth understanding of a local market like Broadheath means we can offer something more bespoke.
This area is our marketplace; we’re based here, and we see our tenants most days, building great relationships and regularly popping in to see them in their space. Their thriving offices give us the confidence to keep growing and giving this corner of Cheshire great spaces to work.