Ahoy me hearties and set sail for junction 22 of the M6, where Astral Developments is building Parkside. No – it’s not a container port five miles inland but nor is it a site specifically for haulage as you might expect of something so wedded to the M6. Astral has put in a planning application for a rail freight interchange on a 672-acre site, which will be the biggest in UK.
The development will include a new motorway junction, providing a direct link to the motorway for all Parkside traffic. The A49/A579 will now free flow over the motorway between the Winwick By-pass and Lowton, allowing local traffic to avoid Parkside.
There are more green elements to Parkside than just the name. Additional land in an extended countryside park is incorporated into the scheme, on its eastern boundary. And Astral reckons more than 500,000 HGV movements will be taken off the roads annually and transferred to rail.
Despite the failure of rail freight in the UK so far and the stated intention of many in the rail industry to choose passengers over freight, Astral is following the government line that the creation and performance of major freight Interchanges is vital “both to promoting greater use of inland intermodal freight, with rail providing the ‘trunk haul’ elements, and in maintaining efficient trading links with our immediate neighbours in Europe and across the world”. Astral is heartened by Asda and Tesco’s use of rail freight.
The rest of the development community believes the M6’s future is more as a location for road haulage than rail freight. The main focus of activity is at the Birmingham end of the M6. King Sturge research puts land prices at anything from £500,000 an acre (£1.23 million per ha) in the Midlands part of the M6 to as low as £250,000 an acre (£618,000 per ha) further north. Rents range from £6.50 per sq ft (£70 per sq m) down to £4.25 (£45.75). CB Richard Ellis puts rents in the Liverpool area at £5 per sq ft.
More than 80 acres (32ha) located between junctions six and seven of the M6 have been granted planning consent for office, production and warehouse and distribution uses. Opus Land and Frontier Estates joint venture Fropus is to develop the £150 million scheme funded by Prudential to offer bespoke high bay units built to individual requirements from 40,000 sq ft (3,700 sq m) up to 1 million sq ft (92,900 sq m). Called the Hub, it has been given the go-ahead for a project set to regenerate the largest brownfield development site in the Midlands.
After securing a pre-let to records management company iron Mountain, it is seeing its first 120,000 sq ft (11,150 sq m) speculative building go up. Simon Spencer of agents Knight Frank says: “It is an ideal location for the development of a regional distribution centre for a major logistics operator. The Hub’s proximity to junction six of the M6 places it at the heart of the national motorway network, facilitating excellent communication links with the rest of the country.”
“There are no other sites in the region with the flexibility and scope to cater for large scale requirements. Currently logistics and distribution companies have to look further afield to meet their specifications in the 400,000 sq ft and over bracket. The Hub will go a long way towards re-dressing the balance and meeting the growing demand for larger buildings.”
The Hub is next door to Wilson Bowden’s 600,000 sq ft (55,700 sq m) Nexus Point scheme. There is only one unit of 26,900 sq ft (2,500 sq m) left there after 105,000 sq ft (9,800 sq m) let to engineering company Thyssen Krupp during the summer. Slough Estates’ 115,000 sq ft (10,700 sq m) Meteor Park is across the road.
Work is due to start at Wilson Bowden Developments’ new scheme at Bentley Bridge in Wednesfield, near Wolverhampton, which is set to deliver a total of 130,000 sq ft (12,100 sq m) of high specification industrial and warehousing space across a 6.5 acre site. Joint agents on the scheme are King Sturge and DTZ.
And Catesby Property Group has started work on its Vantage Point distribution complex, near junction 5 of the M6, in Birmingham.
Planning consent has just been granted for 10,730 sq m (115,500 sq ft) of warehousing to be built in two units – 6,045 sq m (65,070 sq ft ) and 4,687 sq m (50,450 sq ft) – on a five-acre (2ha) site close to the landmark former Fort Dunlop factory at Castle Bromwich. There have been some other big lettings on the M6 this year. Going north again, Tesco took ProLogis’s 386,000 sq ft (35,880 sq m) CrossFlow 380 shed in Crewe. In addition, soft furnishings company Dunelm took 250,000 sq ft (23,225 sq m) at ProLogis Park, in Stoke-on-Trent.
So if you want a chart of development activity along the M6, expect a clear passage through Birmingham, there are dangerous shoals the closer to Manchester you go and thereafter lies the edge of the distribution world.