Time to avoid a SPLAT

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One has to pity Tesco for it seems as if the retailer’s plans to build a regional distribution centre in the south of England are doomed to controversy if not actual failure. But to be honest any large shed in this area is going to have an exceedingly rough ride.

The first scheme to attract Tesco’s interest was Prudential’s and Astral’s Hartland Park scheme near Farnborough. However, campaigning by neighbours necessitated a new planning application. PRUPIM and Astral announced that they would amend the plans, and with this duly done one would have thought that the new plans should have gone through. But that is not the case.

SPLAT – Stop Pyestock b Lot Act Today, the pressure group campaigning to prevent the development of warehouses on the former Quinetiq site, has secured more than 5,000 formal objections in less than four months to the new application. On its web site, www.pyestock.com, campaigners have laid out their arguments in emotive terms. This is a successful campaign and is the blueprint for other campaigns in the region. The ‘Stopmegasheds’ site, www.stopmegasheds.co.uk, has a direct link to the Pyestock group. This is the web site of the opposition group to the Goodman development in Andover, which is the second of the two schemes that Tesco has shown an interest in.

The redevelopment of 49.42 acres of Andover Airfield was originally granted outline consent for 742,440 sq ft of business uses in 2003 to include 484,200 sq ft of offices, 96,840 sq ft each of industrial and storage and distribution and a 64,560 sq ft hotel.

Goodman was selected as preferred developer and acquired a further 64.25 acres and it is on the combined land mass that an application for 1,076,000 sq ft of space comprising one 69,940 sq ft hotel, one 335,400 sq ft warehouse with five per cent offices, six smaller warehouse/office units totalling 173,139.16 sq ft, an office block of 119,974 sq ft as well as an 882,255.44 sq ft warehouse for Tesco with ancillary Bio-mass generator.

According to the council’s review of local economic development activity 2007/2008, the development will involve a £120m build programme including £20 million on infrastructure, mainly highways.

Opposition to the redevelopment has, according to the campaigners, the backing of some 2,000 residents as well as extremely vocal support from local MP and former transport secretary Sir George Young who has posted his views on YouTube and is running a poll on his web site www.sirgeorgeyoung.org.uk.

In a recent posting on his web site he says: “I want to see the airfield site developed to provide new jobs – as proposed in the local plan. But Andover should be ambitious about the jobs it should generate in the future.

“We need to attract employers who can pay above average wages for these more highly-skilled jobs. The reality is that most of the jobs in the proposed warehouse would be relatively low paid; and the size of the proposed development would squeeze out other job-creating opportunities, which might serve the interests of the town better.”

Sir George adds: “This is the largest cleared site that Andover has for new employment. We must ensure we get the right balance of jobs here and not simply accept the first bid that comes along. We should be ambitious for the town, and for the jobs we can offer those who live here.”

Other concerns raised revolved round traffic capacity and the sheer size of the proposed warehouse which one campaigner said would equal the size of Heathrow’s new Terminal 5.

This refrain is echoed in Newbury where ProLogis has been struggling to secure planning for a 671,251.84 sq ft development comprising three warehouses on a 42-acre site at New Greenham Common, which it bought from Sainsbury’s.

The scheme has been rejected by councillors despite approval from planning officers because of the scheme’s visual impact, which they believed would contravene local policy guidelines.

Letters from local parishes councils voice their concern over traffic volumes, noise and light pollution as well as the visual impact of these buildings.

Kevin Storey of Cushman & Wakefield says: “People will keep looking at these sites because it is Hobson’s Choice for big shed sites in the region.

“It is basically a war of attrition. There are no votes in warehouses and it doesn’t matter how green the building is, it’s still lorries, an awful lot of lorries. It is the traffic issue which concerns people the most and they still do not think that [warehousing]has the right sort or enough jobs.

“The regional planning guidance is generally against large warehouses. The problem is the more we don’t make things, the more we are going to need distribution facilities to deal with the imports.”

Paul Harknett of Savills says: “There is a recognition by developers that large sites are increasingly rare and if they cannot find them in prime areas, non-mainstream locations will be considered.”

This might explain why developer Graftongate is looking at a 65-acre plot at Solstice Park near Salisbury, which could accommodate up to 1.5 million sq ft of space. Owner Amesbury Property Company has been holding a public exhibition concerning the site proposing a Regional Distribution Centre to complement the variety of employment opportunities currently being established.

APC says the scheme would comprise two buildings of 612,545 sq ft and one of 400,444 sq ft as well as 50,647 sq ft of offices. The landlord expects some 1,200 direct jobs plus additional local “spin off” service jobs.

There would be dedicated access for lorry traffic to enter and exit the site directly from the A303, as well as a new vehicular/pedestrian/cycleway created within the park to aid access to the site by employees and public transport and earthworks to ensure that the scheme fits well within the landscape. Local newspaper “The Salisbury Journal” reports that the plans are already “fuelling fears of even greater traffic problems for the A303”.

Residents have started to voice their concerns about traffic management, the regional distribution centre’s proximity to homes as well as concerns about the type and number of jobs.

In response to the article on “The Journal’s” web site a campaigner from Andover warns readers that they need to look carefully at the proposals in terms of quality of jobs and traffic movements claiming that the Andover warehouse could generate between “1,000-6,000” HGV movements a day.

However, all is not lost and the prognosis for occupiers looking for large sheds in the Swindon area is promising. Charlie Blake of Gazeley says: “We can provide a pretty large shed at G.Park Swindon, the largest up to 700,000 sq ft. The council is minded to approve up to 1.4 million sq ft of space in three buildings from 300,000 sq ft subject to a Section 106.”

Gazeley bought the 70-acre site in 2004. Blake says the company has yet to decide to build speculatively but is confident to be on site in the New Year. Letting agents are Whitmarsh Lockhart, Atisreal and Burbage Realty.

Also in Swindon, Legal & General has been granted permission to develop up to 300,000 sq ft of warehouse space at Keypoint in conjunction with developer Wilson Bowden. This is in addition to units of 100,000 sq ft, 140,000 sq ft and 225,000 sq ft that have already been granted permission on the 62-acre site.

DTZ Debenham Tie Leung and Whitmarsh Preece Lockhart are joint letting agents for Keypoint.

For those unable to wait until next year Gazeley does have a smaller warehouse at G.Park Thatcham totalling 255,000 sq ft available at a quoting rent of £6 per sq ft upwards through joint letting agents GVA Grimley and CB Richard Ellis.

Also in Thatcham, Ivan Scott of Strutt & Parker says he is marketing ING’s Transigo scheme jointly with Jones Lang LaSalle, which totals 156,000 sq ft in nine units ranging from 6,500 – 96,000 sq ft.

Much of what is available between Swindon and Slough and Southampton is on the smaller side and even that in some areas is scarce. Adrian Whitfield of Lambert Smith Hampton’s Southampton office says: “Opportunities in the region are becoming few and far between and as agents we have to be more diverse in our thinking to come up with potential investment/development projects in an attempt to bring further supply into the market.

“At the beginning of 2007, Craigard Investments, advised by Lambert Smith Hampton, acquired Unit 4, Parham Drive, Eastleigh off market, which was previously occupied by Peters and May. The unit amounts to approximately 110,000 sq ft and refurbishment works are now underway.

“Furthermore, Prudential is commencing the comprehensive refurbishment of four units of between 9,000 and 36,000 sq ft on the Griffin Industrial Estate, Totton, Southampton and LSH is working with joint agent, King Sturge, to market the properties.”

Neil Impiazzi of SEGRO says that in Slough there are opportunities for redevelopment on the Slough Trading Estate. He also adds that there are a few schemes coming to the market, which could accommodate enquires of up to 50,000 sq ft. These include Yeoville Road and a 100,000 sq ft scheme of three buildings in Liverpool Road.

In Andover there is a 46,992 sq ft second hand unit being assigned by Orvis, which has been recently refurbished. It boasts 7m eaves, 11 level loading doors and a self-contained yard. Letting agent is CB Richard Ellis.

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