13 September 2019/ rent_commercial_property_guide

Guide to renting commercial property in South East England

Everything you need to know about renting commercial property in South East England

South East England is known for its beautiful green hills, vibrant coastal towns and educational institutions. It has the UK’s second largest regional economy following London and is quickly becoming one of the country’s leading areas in the technology industry, particularly around the M3 in Surrey, M4 corridor in Berkshire and its county town Reading.

The counties of Buckinghamshire, Berkshire and Surrey border London, making them popular with those who need to regularly commute into the capital but crave more greenery and space than it can offer.

To the north east, Oxfordshire is home to the university city of Oxford, one of the world’s most notable centres of academic excellence. Hampshire, the birth county of Jane Austen, sits to the south of the region, with the New Forest national park, Highclere Castle and Southampton’s two universities some of the region’s biggest draws. Next to it are the counties of West Sussex, where you’ll find the South Downs and university town Chichester, and East Sussex, which is home to Brighton, famous for being one of the UK’s most vibrant creative hubs.

Further east, the coastal county of Kent is known as ‘the garden of England’ for its high number of orchards and hop farms. It’s also where many goods travel in and out of Europe via major port town Dover and home to historic city Canterbury.

In the south, the Isle of Wight sits just off the Hampshire coast and is a popular tourist destination for holidaymakers in the south of England.

The South East is the most populous of all of England’s regions

The south east is home to around 9 million people and it’s the most populous of all of England’s nine distinct regions, despite only being the third largest region.

The population of Berkshire is around 906,000 and the average age of its residents is 38.3. Its population is estimated to have grown by around 105,000 since 2002 and the county has a population density of 718 residents per square kilometre. Berkshire has an average of 2.53 residents per household.

Buckinghamshire is home to around 803,000 people, with an average age of 39.4. Its population has grown by 110,000 since 2002, a significant increase of 15%. It has a lower population density than neighbouring Berkshire, at around 429 residents per square kilometre. The average number of people per household is 2.52.

East Sussex has a population of 840,000, a number which has swelled by around 94,000 since 2002. The county’s residents have an average age of 42.2. It has a higher percentage of residents aged over 65, at 21.3% compared to the national average of 18.2%, likely due to its popular seaside towns.

Hampshire is the largest county in the south east and the joint most populous, with around 1.8 million residents. It spans a larger area than many of the south east’s other counties and, as green areas like the Test Valley and the New Forest national park cover much of the county, has concentrated areas of high population density. For example, central Southampton has a population density of around 12,427 and central Portsmouth has more than 15,000 residents per square kilometre, while some areas of the New Forest have just 56 people per square kilometre.

The Isle of Wight has just 141,000 residents, with an average age of 45.9. It has a large population of over 65s, with more than 27% of the population made up of retirees compared to the UK average of 18.2%. The majority of its population is concentrated around the north and east of the island, particularly around key tourist towns like Cowes and Shanklin.

The South East’s other joint most-populous county, Kent, has around 1.8 million residents. It’s population has jumped 15% since 2002 and has an average population density of 490 people per square kilometre.

Oxfordshire has around 682,000 residents, with an average age of 39. Its population density and average age varies quite significantly depending on the area. Central Oxford’s average age is just 26.9 (due to the large student population) and the area has a population density of 6,635 per square kilometre. Comparatively, rural Cherwell in the county’s north has an average age of 47 and a population density of just 65 people per square kilometre.

Affluent Surrey has an estimated population of 1.2 million and an average age of 40.7 years. It has a high population density, at an average of 713 people per square kilometre, likely due to its status as a London commuter county. An average of 2.49 people live in each household.

Finally, West Sussex has around 852,000 residents and an average age of 43, with a larger than average population of retirees (22.6%). Areas like Rustington and Bognor Regis on the coast have even higher average ages, at 58.8 and 55 respectively.

The South East’s economy is above the UK's average

The UK’s average full-time wage in 2018 was £36,600. By comparison, much of the South East matches or exceeds this, particularly the counties that border London.

Berkshire’s average salary is around £42,500, making it the highest earning county in the South East. Buckinghamshire’s salaries are slightly lower, at an average of £36,000. Its neighbour, Oxfordshire, has an average salary of £37,300.

On the lowest end of the scale sits East Sussex. Its residents’ average annual salary is around £30,000. West Sussex’s residents are also below the UK average, with an average salary there of £32,400. Also in the south of the region, Hampshire has an average salary of around £33,700. The Isle of Wight has an average salary of £28,500.

The average salary in Kent is £32,000, while Surrey’s residents get paid more, with an average salary of £39,600.

The South East has a dense transport network of trains stations, roads and airports 

South East England is well connected by major motorway like M1, M3 and M4

If you’re travelling north, the M1 runs through the county of Buckinghamshire and can take you all the way to Leeds in the north of England, or to London if you’re travelling southbound. The A34, which branches off from the M4 34 kilometres north of Newbury, takes you North through Berkshire and Oxfordshire as far as the city of Oxford.

For those travelling west, the M4 can take you from South East London all the way to south Wales, via major towns like Slough and Reading in Berkshire and large cities like Swindon, Bristol, Cardiff and Swansea as you head further west.

The M3 runs from Surrey south to the city of Southampton in Hampshire. The A34 connects west Berkshire to the motorway, joining the M3 just outside of Winchester, while the A3/A31 connects Kent to the M3.

To the east of the region, the M25 joins the M20 and M2. The M2 will take you to Faversham in Kent and the M20 runs to Folkestone. The M23 also branches off from the M25, which can take you from the north of the county to just outside Crawley, where the A23 will then take you South to Brighton and the coast of East Sussex.

The South East is well connected by an extensive rail network 

The Great Western main line, which connects London Paddington and Bristol Temple Meads, runs through Berkshire, Oxfordshire and south Buckinghamshire. This makes it easy to travel both east to London or west to the city of Bristol, where you can continue south to Devon and Cornwall or further west to Wales.  

Kent is connected by both the South Eastern Main Line and High Speed 1, with the latter connecting you to the Channel Tunnel for easy transport to the continent. The Brighton Main Line passes through Surrey and West Sussex, while Surrey is also connected to the North Downs Line, which starts in Berkshire before connecting with Sussex and Kent. Those travelling from north Buckinghamshire to the north of England and Scotland will benefit from the West Coast Main Line, while the centre of the county and Oxfordshire are served by the Chiltern Main Line, running between Birmingham and London.

Finally, Dover and Folkestone in Kent have lots of rail services via the channel tunnel to France, making travel to Europe easy.

The South East is home to one of the world's largest airport

Gatwick is the main airport in the South East, where you can fly to thousands of international destinations across the globe. It’s located in the county of Surrey around 8 kilometres north of the town Crawley.

Heathrow Airport, the busiest airport in Europe, is just across the border from Buckinghamshire on the outskirts of London, making it easy to reach. Kent International Airport in Ramsgate, Shoreham Airport (between Brighton and Worthing in East Sussex) and Southampton Airport are the region’s other large airports.

Where to get a ferry to the Isle of Wight?

The Isle of Wight can be reached via ferry from Southampton or Lymington in Hampshire.


Commercial rent guide to the South East


A-grade Oxford offices cost an average of £27.05 PSF to rent, while prime industrial units will cost an average of £10 PSF. Less central Abingdon offices will cost between £27.50 and £20 PSF and prime industrial units in the area cost an average of £8.75.


Milton Keynes’ average grade A office rent is £23 PSF, while industrial units in the area command between £8.75 and £6 PSF. Offices in High Wycombe will set you back between £27 and £20 PSF on average. Industrial units are let for an average of £12.50 PSF, with secondary units costing £8.50 PSF. 


A grade offices in Reading cost an average of £38 PSF to rent, while industrial units will generally cost between £11.75 and £8 PSF depending on their condition. Offices in Slough cost an average of £36.50 - £27 PSF. Industrial units command between £14 and £10 PSF.


Portsmouth’s average office rent PSF is between £16 - £12. Industrial units in the city cost between £9 - £7.50 PSF to rent. Office rents range between £19 and £13 in Southampton, while its industrial units cost between £10 - £8 PSF.


Offices in Guildford cost an average of £34 PSF. Prime industrial units will set you back around £13 PSF. Woking’s average office rent is £32 PSF (for grade A offices), while its industrial units cost between £12.50 and £9 PSF. 

West Sussex 

Chichester’s industrial units command between £9 and £6.50 PSF. Offices in Crawley cost between £27 and £17.50, while its industrial units cost between £14.50 and £10. 

East Sussex

Offices in Brighton command between £32 and £25 PSF. Prime industrial units in Brighton cost, on average, £12 PSF.


Maidstone’s industrial units cost between £9.50 and £6.50 PSF on average, while Dartford’s industrial units cost between £11 and £8 PSF.


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