Schadenfreude . . .

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There is a certain pleasure to be had from reading of local councillors falling over themselves to keep logistics jobs in their towns where only a year ago these same jobs were derided for their lack of aspiration. Goodness how times have changed.

[asset_ref id=”442″]   Liza Helps

There are tales of councillors going on bended knee to Tesco for assurances that smaller distribution centres will be kept open now that the retail giant is opening it mega depot in Middlesbrough, while over in Redditch councillors are hoping to overturn any decision before it’s even made about Halfords supply chain rethink, which could see the distribution centre in the town downgraded with subsequent loss of jobs.

Even councillors in Andover were much subdued as Goodman’s £120m proposals for the development of the former Andover airfield site sailed through Test Valley’s planning control committee in just 70 minutes.

And what of the infamous Newbury councillor who claimed that the jobs potential provided by the proposed development of two warehouses was not needed because his constituency was prosperous enough already despite being in the top ten most debt ridden towns in the country? What is he saying now?

Luckily for him, better minds than his prevailed and both the Gazeley scheme and ProLogis’ plans at New Greenham Park have been given the go ahead. Should both schemes be developed out it could secure in the region of 750 jobs.

But there’s the rub – getting the schemes developed. For as sure as eggs is eggs neither scheme will be developed speculatively as there is just no funding for that sort of thing in the present economic climate. That is a shame, for if the buildings were there they would have been snapped up ages ago.

One fears that council decisions to refuse planning applications such as these, when on a national scale they were so clearly needed, has backfired on the refusniks and the winners in this economic cycle will be those councils that think beyond their boundaries. They will also be in the best position to take advantage when things get going again.

At present, it is true there is a large supply of space on the market. Savills Big Shed Briefing put the level at 4.4 years supply at the end of 2008 up from 3.6 years at the end of 2007.

But, there is virtually no speculative development and an increasing number of properties are expected to be demolished to save their owners’ the rates liability, so in a few years time there is going to be something of a shortage of space.

Therefore those councils such as Bradford, which recently approved plans for a new distribution centre in Dudley Hill close to he motorway for Hallmark releasing the old distribution site in Heaton for residential use thus enabling the facility to be built on the proceeds, will be in a better position than those hide-bound councils further south.

Liza Helps,
Consulting Editor, Property

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