Procurement · 23 October 2015

If not central London then where? Alternatives to the capital’s rental hotspots

Not just for students – Cambridge is a well-known startup hub
Not just for students – Cambridge is a well-known startup hub

Our working spaces expert flags up some locations around or within London that’ll keep you close enough to the action, without being drawn into the sky-high rents of some of the capital’s sought-after spots.

Central London is arguably the most vibrant office rental market in the world. However, with demand regularly outstripping supply, the centre of the capital is also a hugely expensive place in which to rent office space; rentals in the West End were at a cost of £100 per square foot in 2013. Thankfully, there are a number of alternatives (both within and indeed beyond the borders of the M25) which represent a brilliant option for savvy enterprises looking to avoid sky-high rental rates, but want to be close to the capital.

(1) Stratford

Stratford has picked up more attention since the London Olympics
Stratford has picked up more attention since the London Olympics

One for the future, East London’s most rapidly-developing district is set to become an increasingly important part of the capital’s office rental scene. The area is set aside from the West End, the City and Canary Wharf but boasts excellent transport link to these key hubs of commerce.

As we’ve said, it’s one that’s just going to keep developing. Following the 2012 Olympics, serious levels of investment have been ploughed into the area. You only have to step outside of Stratford International or take a trip along the DLR through the acres of growing high-rises to this part of London is really on the up. Particularly of note for businesses is the International Quarter which will contain, amongst other things, millions of square feet of top-class office space.

(2) Croydon

Former shadow business secretary Chuka Umunna attended the launch of Croydon's new innovation centre earlier this year
Former shadow business secretary Chuka Umunna attended the launch of Croydon’s new innovation centre earlier this year

Described last year as the tech-city of South London, Croydon is certainly getting an increasingly-impressive billing from those in the know. Indeed the borough announced last year it was the fastest-growing tech hub in the whole of the capital; impressive stuff.

So if you’re a tech startup and have been put off by the prices near the digital roundabout, or your budget won’t stretch to a space in Soho, it could really pay to consider Croydon. The area also boasts its own tram system and, like Stratford, offers close proximity to, and excellent transport links into, the capital (regular trains head to St. Pancras, Victoria and London Bridge).

(3) Kingston upon Thames

Kingston upon Thames is a popular retail spot
Kingston upon Thames is a popular retail spot

In leafy West London, you’ll find Kingston upon Thames, an attractive and appealing town, again with some great links to the capital (direct trains take around half an hour). Despite this close proximity (and a burgeoning business community and strong office space market) Kingston, with its pleasant waterfront and cordial atmosphere, can feel like a world away from the hustle and bustle just down the road.

If you expand your net you’ll find even more options within a short distance of Kingston. Other nearby areas that could be fruitful are Twickenham and Richmond, both of which offer some of the charms of Kingston with similar proximity to London.

(4) St Albans

The picturesque town is a favourite with micro businesses
The picturesque city is a favourite with micro businesses

If you’re looking beyond the borders of the M25 (and why shouldn’t you?) then St Albans could well be your first port of call. Like Kingston it is leafy and attractive with excellent road and rail links to the capital, but the town also boasts a burgeoning economy with a strong number, and great variety, of properties available.

There are nearly 10,000 businesses registered in St Albans – not bad for one of the smallest cities in the UK. Almost 90 per cent of these are micro businesses comprised of ten people or fewer, though there is variety. At the other end of the scale the city plays host to giants such as Deloitte and Aon Hewitt, so there’s plenty of superb company.

(5) Cambridge

Just watch out for cyclists
Just watch out for cyclists

Situated only 50 minutes north of London’s Kings Cross, Cambridge is arguably the UK’s startup hotspot outside of the capital. It is the centre of an area dubbed Silicon Fen; a hub for digital ventures in the East of England. You’ll also find Microsoft, Spotify, ARM and more, along with a top-class science park and cutting-edge pharma-research at the sprawling Addenbrooke’s hospital complex.

Arguably the great draw is the historic city itself, with its charming pubs, grand colleges, winding river and ubiquitous cyclists. Walk its cobbled streets and you’ll feel echoes of London’s cosmopolitanism on a much reduced and calmer scale. Cambridge is also home to Genie HQ… not that we’re biased.

Image: Shutterstock

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Peter Ames is the head of strategy for Office Genie, the first desk space marketplace in the UK – under the umbrella of Genie Ventures (a digital marketing and e-commerce company). The site is responsible for letting out millions of pounds worth of space to the country's small businesses and freelancers.

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