ST NEOTS-based chartered surveyors and planning consultants Barford + Co is reporting a strengthening of the commercial property market in Huntingdonshire.

ST NEOTS-based chartered surveyors and planning consultants Barford + Co, the sponsor of the Retailer of the Year category at The Hunts Post Huntingdonshire Business Awards, is reporting a strengthening of the commercial property market in Huntingdonshire.

In response, the company has appointed three new surveyors to strengthen its agency and professional teams in its core area of activity in Huntingdon, St Neots and St Ives.

Martin Olley and Kelly Edwards have joined Sheila Smyth in the company's professional department, and Steven Harvey has taken up a position in Phil Halmshaw's agency department. Mr Harvey has good knowledge of the local area having previously worked as a surveyor with two of Cambridgeshire's leading surveying practices.

On the industrial front, Barfords has reported an increase in industrial enquiries arising since September last year, a trend which has continued in the first half of 2010.

A number of high-profile office transactions have been completed in what remains a tricky market, including the letting of 8,000sq ft of offices in James Hall, and large suites in Si One and Si Two, all on St Ives Business Park.

With funding more readily available to companies, a number of significant freehold sales have also been concluded in Huntingdon and St Neots.

The retail sector, the most affected by the downturn, has seen encouraging signs. The lettings of properties in Cambridge Street and High Street in St Neots are evidence that retailers are gaining in confidence again.

With terms agreed on several shops in St Neots, St Ives and Huntingdon over the past few weeks, there is increasing optimism in this sector of the market, though landlords have been offering more competitive terms in order to attract tenants.

Director Phil Halmshaw said: "We are encouraged by the number of transactions which are being concluded, though this is not to understate the difficulties which many businesses find themselves in.

"We remain extremely busy at Barford + Co, and as a result of the level of market activity we are experiencing we have increased our resources by the appointment of further surveyors."

When freehold values were reduced in early 2009, Barfords advised clients to hold their nerve, and are now hopeful that the worst of the recession is now over after returning to a semblance of normality in late 2009.

"It is pertinent that as sponsors of the Retailer of the Year award, it is the retail sector which is finally showing distinct signs of recovery," added Mr Halmshaw.