Covid-19 has had a devastating impact on society, the economy, and the country as a whole.  We are however starting to see signs of a return to normality and new trends on demand as a result of Covid-19. 

What is the new normal?
But what is the new normal and are there new openings out there?  We are seeing some very interesting trends in demand and opportunity.

More demand for rural offices, including rural business hubs and office space in the house or in the garden

Covid-19 has led to a wholesale change in working practices with widespread adoption of home working.  Many London and other urban based businesses are reviewing their modus operandi and looking at means of allowing their staff to work closer to their homes.  The advantages are clear.

We are already seeing an increase in demand for rural office space both for local businesses and for London firms looking for out of town work hubs. The advantages of reduced commuting times, improved quality of life and reduced costs mean that this trend is likely to only grow.

More demand for rural homes particularly with extra outside space

Village house with potential home office in the garden

Potential home office in the garden

Lockdown has made people fully appreciate the importance of open space and the freedom to use it.  Fears of another pandemic and the associated risks is leading many urban dwellers to consider a move to the countryside. Similarly, the lockdown has led to a renewed appreciation for the importance of gardens. We anticipate that gardens could be a key determining factor in the housing market, reversing the recent fashion for ‘low maintenance’ homes with limited outside space.

Applicant registrations across all our estate agency offices, in Battle, Haywards Heath, Pulborough and Tunbridge Wells from buyers looking to relocate from London and other major cities have increased greatly in the past four weeks.
Property portal Rightmove say; “We recorded our busiest ever day on Wednesday 27th May, surpassing six million visits for the first time and up 18% on the same Wednesday in May 2019. Over a quarter of people (28%) who were not planning a move before lockdown are now entering the market.”

Increased demand for rural holiday accommodation
It is going to take some time before people are confident with flying again.  Mass international travel may be greatly reduced.  This will inevitably lead to an increase in the number  ‘staycations’ with an associated surge in demand for rural holiday accommodation.  We are already seeing an increase in enquiries to our Planning team for change of use and conversions for holiday cottages and camp sites.  The South East is ideally located to help meet this demand. With Government and Local Authorities keen to stimulate economic growth there are real opportunities to secure consent for new ventures. Please get in touch with our expert Planning team for an initial no obligation discussion as to whether your project might be given the green light.

Increased demand for rural leisure activities and green space
The shift towards home tourism should also lead to an increase in demand for rural leisure activities and access to green space. Again, this could create more opportunities for rural land owners, farmers and rural businesses to diversify their income. Associated with this increase the demand for food and drink related services is likely to rise.

Increase in demand for local food
The empty shelves, hoarding and perceived food shortages that were symptomatic of the early days of lockdown has led to a renewed focus on food security. The closure of restaurants and other eateries created a notable increase in demand for local farm produce and home delivered food.  This has provided farmers with an alternative outlet for food that would otherwise have been sold to restaurants, in addition many consumers have now connected with food producers local to them through the use of ‘veg boxes’ , drive-through farm shops and takeaway services.
Now is the time to fully promote high quality farm produce so that the recent growth in demand for local food can be sustained.

Planning opportunities for relaxation of restrictions on leisure development and change of use

Camp Sites We expect the Government and Local Authorities to take every opportunity to help to get the economy moving again.  It is likely that the trends identified above will be recognised and supported by planning policy. For instance, new permitted development rights were introduced to allow for pubs and restaurants to temporarily operate as takeaway.

There is much work to do here, as not all local planning departments are fully operational yet.  But now is the time to apply for relaxations on conditions, such as an extension of wedding venues and camp sites seasons and expansions into new enterprises. Please get in touch with our Planning team for a discussion

The impact of Covid-19 has been enormous and is likely to continue for great length of time. Some of the changes have represented an acceleration of longer-term trends and are therefore likely to be permanent. While the situation is ever changing, it is clear that the post Covid-19 world will offer many opportunities that rural communities need to be on the look out for. If you have a project in mind or need help and support with ideas, please get in touch with us. We have a highly experienced team Chartered Surveyors and Chartered Town Planners available to advise you in our offices across the south-east.
Harry Broadbent-Combe, Senior Surveyor.

Our clients will always receive a truly bespoke service provided by a dedicated and highly experienced Partner-led team. Our services include Estate Agency, Equestrian and Rural Agency, Lettings, Estate Management, Valuations, Planning and Telecommunications. Offices in Battle, Haywards Heath, Pulborough and Tunbridge Wells.