Phil Waring, Partner at RLB UK, recently attended Place North West Industrial & Logistics event. Here he shares his thoughts and answers the question ‘where will the supply for new sites come from to keep pace with surging demand fuelled by extra home shopping’?
What are the prospects for ports and rail expansion to take the strain off motorways? These were just some of the questions posed by the Place North West event I attended last week around Industrial & Logistics (I&L) in the North West of England.
There is no doubt that like other areas of the UK, the sector continues to boom in the North West. With the pandemic affecting consumer shopping habits and accelerating the e-commerce market beyond anyone’s expectations, it was no surprise to hear Deborah Faithfull, Estates Manager at Hermes report that they have met their five year growth plan in just five months. What is also apparent is how this exceptional growth of the sector has driven the demand for land, coupled with institutional investment being redirected from less buoyant sectors, has driven up the corresponding land costs. All this adds to the pressure and uncertainty on developers when bidding for land and running appraisals. The overwhelming demand for new housing stock also contributes to the shortage of developable land, with historic brownfield I&L land now being regenerated for housing.
These factors came as no surprise to us at RLB, along with many others working within the sector. We have all seen the pace of I&L activity continue to gather and exponentially explode across the last 12 months. We are playing our part around land development, working with our clients to actively manage the early due diligence/ site bid stages through our project managers/ building surveyors and providing early feasibility cost and procurement advice though our quantity surveyors. Our aim is to continue providing support from site acquisition throughout the planning, design, procurement stages and onto site with our employer’s agent role.
When land becomes scarce, the race to acquire and build becomes fast and fierce and when this happens often the end in sight is literally that – of the site to be developed and the forthcoming output from that site. However, this is where we need to stop and take stock.
If there is one thing the last 18 months has taught us it is the need to look after people. Whether this is the people who we live with, our family and friends, those we work with, our colleagues and peers, or those in our communities, where we live, work and build. Even when things take an unexpected turn – such as the initial halt in construction we saw in the first lockdown or the ‘full steam ahead’ we are seeing now with the I&L market – we need to think about the long term impact our designs and buildings will have. We need to build for the future with the lifecycle and sustainability of each and every building in mind.
Instead of thinking just about price and availability of land in different geographies, we need to think about the region as a whole. We need to look at our communities and the environment we are building in and what they need, how we can support them and how we build for their future. This might mean relooking at some of the greenbelts that were created in the late 1950s onwards, primarily to stem the tide of urban sprawl and reclassifying parts of them for development and in so doing, protect the true areas of outstanding beauty and areas of natural habitat. This may include considering repurposing of older estates rather than always starting at the drawing board, looking at how we can create jobs and a local economy around our builds.
To this end, at RLB we have partnered with the Social Profit Calculator (SPC) to allow clients and projects to demonstrate and measure this social value. This is also why we weave environmental considerations into every build or refurbishment and have been integral to the teams that have been awarded RICS SKA Gold accreditations.
There is no doubt there is a lot more opportunity in the North West to develop our Industrial & Logistics market. There is also no doubt that working together with our communities we can support their local economies, regenerate areas that are in need and continue to help the cities and towns within the region to thrive. We believe this is our remit for the sector in the North West not just this year, but for the future.