The Evolving COVID-19 Situation and the Challenges of Operating Commercial Property

The Coronavirus (COVID-19) crisis is demanding attention and scrutiny from Commercial Property Owners and Operators. The increasing ability to identify cases of COVID-19 at a local geographical level, creates a need for Commercial Property Owners and Operators to be pro-active in understanding national, regional and local policies, data and evolving trends.

In the Leicester area, in the last week of June, there was an increase in the number of people testing positive, with a 7 day infection rate of 135 cases per 100,000 people. This resulted in the Government’s COVID Operations Committee and the Local Action Committee Gold for Leicester taking a decision to impose specific local measures to mitigate the outbreak. Part of the measures included the closing on 30th June of non-essential shops, which had previously been allowed to open on 15th June.

The areas identified for the local measures includes the City of Leicester and selected parts around the City. The map below shows the geographical extent of the local measures. The area is principally that of Leicester City Council Local Authority, but along with areas of the Local Authorities of Blaby, Charnwood and Oadby and Wigston.

Fosse Shopping Park is a retail park of significant size, located at the South-West corner of the outskirts of Leicester, within the Local Authority of Blaby. In 2014. The Crown Estate bought Fosse Park and most recently has been investing in the development of an additional 140,000 square feet of retail and restaurant space.

Fosse Park is a naturally popular shopping location. On re-opening on the 15th June, the public demand for shopping at the park created a significant number of people on site and resultant queues.  

The preparation for the crowd, implementation of COVID-19 measures and the management of the public on the 15th June re-opening was clearly well conducted by Fosse Park. A Journalist from the Leicester Mercury attending the opening commented that there were, ‘Plenty of security advising people what to do’ and that new safety and social distancing measures were clearly in place.

The latest COVID-19 testing data for the week 29th June to 5th July shows a decline for Leicester City Council Local Authority in the weekly rate of positive COVID-19 per 100,000 of population cases from 134 to 99. Over the same timeframe, for Blaby Local Authority, in
which Fosse Park is located, the weekly rate of positive COVID-19 per 100,000 of population cases has increased three-fold, from 6 to 20.

The core issue for retailers, is that they can plan and implement excellent safety and social distancing measures, but that they remain dependent on a number of actions, from the adherence of the public to the measures, to a variety of local influences such as population age and health characteristics.

The Council of the European Union recommends that a positive COVID-19 rate of 15 cases or greater per 100,000 of the population should result in specific additional COVID-19 safety measures for the localised geography where the rate has been identified.

Balkerne’s SmartResilience software platform provides the ability to integrate and analyse numerous sources of data. The following table illustrates major essential retail brands with stores in England and Wales, that are in areas with a current weekly positive COVID-19 rate of 15 cases or greater per 100,000 of the population.