‘Let’s build now, to further this most optimistic market since downturn’
By Simon Toseland.
AFTER a year of steady growth and improved confidence, particularly in the manufacturing, construction and service sectors, prospects for the Wellingborough occupier market are at their most optimistic since the downturn began in 2008.
As forecast, stronger office and industrial take-up, coupled with a greater shortage of new well-specified space, has led to more emphasis being placed on delivering new schemes to the market.
However, while there is a pressing need to bring forward more development on key sites to replace dwindling stock and meet rising demand, as yet no speculative development has been seen, unlike neighbouring towns in the county.
It is therefore paramount that investment is now made in commercial development projects as the current supply available for immediate occupation, particularly industrial stock, is at critically low levels. And, unless new build projects start to come out of the ground, there is the fear that the town could lose out on attracting new companies, stifling its economic growth.
It is hoped that various schemes in the pipeline will shortly start to deliver a mini ‘tsunami’ of new and much needed supply of commercial accommodation to the market. These schemes will also support the town’s rapidly increasing population, with further growth anticipated – especially on the back of a report by Lloyds Bank which placed Wellingborough as the most affordable town within an hour’s commute of London.
Work has now officially begun on Stanton Cross – a major new mixed-use development – having overcome obstacles that have delayed its initiation. The scheme is set to deliver 3,200 new homes, an improved railway station, schools, doctor’s surgery and shopping facilities, as well as 110 hectares for commercial development.
The employment opportunities are predicted to be spread across all sectors – high technology/research & development, industrial and distribution, and office – estimated to create 7,500 new jobs.
Infrastructure works into Stanton Cross have now started which will see two new roads and bridges being constructed; with the first phase of housing by Bovis Homes recently receiving approval from the Borough Council of Wellingborough.
This will comprise 379 new one, two, three and four-bed homes, along with 20 affordable homes, scheduled to be ready for occupation by the autumn next year. The whole development is expected to take between ten to 15 years to deliver.
A further 3,000 new homes are also set to be delivered as part of the Glenvale Park urban extension to the north of the town. The approved masterplan also provides for a mix-use neighbourhood centre, two smaller local centres, schools and a business campus offering up to 270,000 sq ft of high quality employment space. The first phase will deliver approximately 550 new homes as well as a family public house, gym, a convenience store and a further 5,000 sq ft of retailing.
Wellingborough’s newest retail park has now opened on London Road with Lidl, McDonalds, Starbucks, Subway and HSL Chairs all committing to space within the scheme. The opening of the McDonalds Drive Thru restaurant alone has created 90 new jobs and is one of the first McDonald’s in the area to offer customers the option to either use the traditional instore till services, or new innovative self-order kiosks; allowing customers to browse the entire menu and check out the nutritional information of each meal at the same time. Also, some of the restaurant tables feature tablet computers for diners to use while they dine. One retail unit within the scheme, comprising 2,000 sq ft remains available.
Opposite, on the Castlefields Retail Park, Tapi Carpets & Floors has opened in Unit 5, formerly occupied by Allied Carpets. The flooring chain was launched just over 12 months ago by ex-Carpetright director Martin Harris. Mr Harris, son of Carpetright founder Lord Harris and seasoned flooring executive in his own right, aims to roll out the Tapi concept across the UK with a reported 200 store target. Tapi’s offer is pitched at the mid-market and comprises carpets and smooth floor coverings with a predominantly own-brand offer.
As well as continuing to attract new businesses to the town, the commercial property market is also drawing interest from institutional investors. Indeed, at the end of October, a 341,000 sq ft distribution facility – let to Somerfield Stores Limited – was sold by LondonMetric Property Plc. A sale price of £29.2m is reported to have been agreed, reflecting a net initial yield of 5.8 per cent.
So, Wellingborough has a lot of potential – it is just a case of more action, particularly in terms of commercial development. More effort needs to put into implementing schemes already consented and delivering the stock to feed occupiers’ appetites.
Pictured – GROWING CONFIDENCE: Simon Toseland, a director at commercial property agent Prop-Search, is encouraging local investment in commercial development projects like the Wellingborough Retail Park.