THE year has started with an air of optimism following for us at Walton and Hipkiss our most successful year for some time, with residential sales and letting up year on year and a record year within the commercial and land sector of the business – although we are not out of the “woods” it gives us all a good platform to move forward in 2013.

The Bank of England’s agent summary of business conditions for January 2013 shares partially in that sentiment and reports “…..growth in secondary market sales had been weaker than in new housing during the autumn. Demand had been strongest for property priced below the £250,000 stamp duty threshold” indicating a growing confidence in enabling new development. The Bank goes on to say “…

There had been a number of recent reports of mortgage supply improving and interest rates falling, with competition increasing between banks and building societies. But increasing competitiveness had been focused on the lower loan to value (LTV) part of the market and those buyers without a significant deposit still struggled to purchase. Contacts expected the Funding for Lending Scheme (FLS) to support greater activity in the New Year and gradually to improve the availability of mortgages at higher LTV ratios.

In Stourbridge we are seeing some very positive sights, the steelwork is advancing on the Tesco development and we can now see this much heralded scheme finally take shape. Whitbread have made a planning application for the development of a new 80-bed Premier Inn and Brewers Fayre Restaurant on Birmingham Street opposite the new bus interchange and a catalyst for the future regeneration of this part of the town and the area out to Lye Cross.

We are now working hard on the former site of the Labour Club in Hagley Road and looking at the future development for a number of uses including road side retail and residential care.

We have also just launched some very exciting premises in the Old Library on Stourbridge Ring Road / Hagley Road where space is available for all sorts of uses from restaurant to coffee shop and offices to studios or galleries – we are also looking at some potential art and community uses to utilise this remarkable building.

Finally our very own Stourbridge News office building on St Johns Road is receiving a refurbishment with the building shrouded in scaffolding. Let us hope this is a sign of things to come with some real activity in the town.

Going forward how are we going to tackle the High Street and the numerous empty retail units and how are we going to bring back the upper floors into beneficial use – is it time we saw more residential living above the shops and bring back a safer and more enjoyable experience to all the visitors, business and families who use the town centre?

Is it time also to consider pedestrianisation of the High Street – remove the cars leaving servicing only for the shops and business and create a friendlier and calmer environment to encourage more people to use the town when they come and visit Tesco this time next year.

Industrial property continues to see an increase in demand especially from the freehold sector as manufacturing and specialist industrial processes continue to grow and create new employment opportunities.