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Jessica Davies takes a look at the availability along the M4 corridor form Bristol to Reading and what deals are in the pipeline…

Until a few months ago design and build prospects had been virtually at a standstill in the region. But the drought has lifted somewhat since Oxford University scooped up 15 acres in a D&B freehold deal at Keypoint in Swindon. The plan is to build a book storage facility in association with the Bodleian Library, and the first phase is expected to be around 125,000 sq ft. DTZ and Whitmarsh Lockhart were joint agents for Keypoint.

Further south, Toby Green of Savills points to the former Andover airfield site as the most “exciting” prospect in the area. Developer Goodman’s proposed mega-shed for Tesco was initially given a cold reception by local residents.

However, the developer has now secured full planning consent for the £120 million development after Test Valley Council approved the Section 106 agreement at its planning control committee on 31st March 2009. The proposal includes 1.25 million sq ft of warehouse space incorporating a single building of 863,000 sq ft, along with offices and a hotel and conference centre. The site will have direct access to the A303, linking it to London and the South West. Letting agent is Savills.

Availability is thinner on the ground around Bristol. Paul Baker of King Sturge says there has been a good amount of activity during the back end of 2008 and the start of this year. Warburtons secured one of Gazeley’s eco-developments – a 120,000 sq ft warehouse at G.Park Western Approach – on a freehold basis. And Culina Logistics snapped up a 115,000 sq ft building at ProLogis’ Cabot Park on a five-year leasehold.

Global manufacturer and supplier of automotive and aerospace parts GKN chose two units at G.Park Western Approach in April this year. It took the 5010 and 5020 units measuring 120,720 sq ft and 211,600 sq ft respectively, on a 20-year lease with a 15-year break clause, at a rent of 5.75 per sq ft. King Sturge and DTZ acted as joint agents.


Both buildings have been developed in line with Gazeley’s sustainable design concept and feature eco-friendly measures such as rain water harvesting and recycling, energy-efficient lighting, low water use appliances and FSC approved timber.

Baker reckons that although enquiries have slowed in the first quarter of this year, there are a number of opportunities arising from the food retail sector. Baker says that many food retailers are looking to improve their facilities, and as a result have remained “acquisitive”.

Tesco is the most obvious example – earlier this year the retail giant bought 100 acres alongside the M49 at Pilning, near Bristol, to use as a fresh food distribution centre, replacing its previous Chepstow facility. The site will be known as Portal West Distribution Park. And there are rumours astir that Asda and Morrisons are to follow suit, having both shown interest in taking sites in the Bristol area. Baker says there has been a “flurry of interest” from the recycling market, pointing to a number of contracts that have recently been sealed with local authorities on buildings around the 100,000 sq ft size range.

Several large, second-hand buildings are coming back onto the market. Heating and plumbing giant Wolseley has vacated its 260,000 sq ft site in Didcot. And it’s been rumoured that Hong Kong-based power tools manufacturer Ryobi is soon to vacate the 167,000 sq ft site at ProLogis Park in Didcot.

Prologis’ 550,000 sq ft Crossflow is also available on leasehold at a rent of £5.95 per sq ft. And in Swindon two large buildings, formally occupied by the Early Learning Centre, are now available, as well as the 600,000 sq ft former Woolworths site. And, Mothercare has vacated two buildings at South Marston Park in Swindon measuring 203,195 sq ft and 100,536 sq ft. Quoting rents are £6.07 per sq ft and £5.17 respectively. Letting agent is CB Richard Ellis.

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