Watford Borough Council says it is well aware of a potential shift in the way people work as the latest finances on a major investment were scrutinised.

In July 2019, the council took on a 40 year lease of Croxley Park with the option of buying the business park when the lease expires.

The council pays £9.2 million a year to owners Columbia Threadneedle Investments (CTi) with the council making money through rental income.

When the deal was announced last year, Watford's mayor said it secured £1.5 million of additional income a year for the council.

But this agreement was signed before Covid-19 – and with employees working from home and many businesses struggling to make ends meet due to the lockdown, the council’s investment has faced hurdles almost immediately.

Papers on Croxley Park’s finances and what impact Covid-19 has had were presented to the council’s Cabinet committee this month.

Despite the turmoil of lockdown, the business park's agents claim the arrival of three new businesses to Croxley Park is "evidence long-term" companies don’t want their staff working from home.

Vibrant Foods, connectivity solutions company CSL Dualcom Limited, and medical devices supplier Clinisupplies Limited have all moved in within the last six months.

Watford mayor Peter Taylor said: "It is fantastic to welcome three new businesses to Croxley Park, which will provide more jobs for local people.

"Their decisions to set up in Watford show confidence in our local economy and that, despite the difficulties nationally, Watford is an attractive place to live and work."

There are other signs of positivity with the development of the 85,000 square foot four-storey ‘Building 1’ on track for completion in spring 2021 – it will be up to CTi to find occupiers.

It has not all been plain sailing in the last few months and this why the council report says the performance of the investment will be "monitored closely".

Two businesses at Croxley Park have got into administration since March, according to the report, total debt at Croxley Park rose from £1,292,291 at the end of quarter 1 to £2,402,206, while there are individual cases where business park tenants have requested rent holidays or payments plans.

Looking to the future and a possible move away from office working, the report states: "The council understands lockdown and working from home could kickstart new way of working and that some may downsize/leave.

"There is a significant degree of uncertainty as to when and in what numbers office workers will return to the office and to what extent the technological advances made during lockdown enabling a higher degree of homeworking will accelerate a further shift to agile working between home, office and elsewhere.

"Despite such uncertainty, the level of contracted rent has increased since purchase and significantly, risen over the period between quarter one and quarter two.

"The council is actively monitoring all aspects of the investment through the financial model and conducting scenario planning where necessary.

"As noted above, the performance of the investment continues to be monitored closely to ensure that the council receives the expected returns."

Paul Smith, from Croxley Park letting agent Bray Fox Smith, added: "Croxley Park has cemented its position as one of the UK’s leading business parks in recent years, with high quality workspace and wellness focused offerings like the Hive.

"More is expected of today’s workplaces, and even more is going to be expected as we emerge from Covid-19. Croxley Park is well placed to deliver for businesses, its employees and clients now and long into the future."