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South Northants - a key district

Whilst South Northamptonshire is a relatively new district - formed in 1974 by bringing together Brackley Borough, the Brackley and Towcester Rural Districts and part of the Northampton Rural District - it has a high rate of economic activity and according to a recent survey by the Halifax Building Society, is the third best place to live in the UK and the best in the East Midlands.

The concentration of employment in professional, scientific and technical industries reflects the areas advanced manufacturing and high performance engineering strengths.  Silverstone is obviously an important cluster for motorsports and high performance engineering, as well as providing tourism to the district. 

At the end of 2013, the British Racing Drivers’ Club confirmed that MEPC had taken a 999 year lease on the existing Silverstone Industrial Estate and the development land around the outside of the circuit, comprising some 760 acres, in a reported £32 million deal.  The site, which has planning permission, includes 200 acres for a mixed-use scheme and would feature a new business park of up to 1.3m sq ft, a technology hub of around 675,000 sq ft, education campus and hotels.

More recently, MEPC has added an 82,500 sq ft industrial and high-tech unit scheme to its holding at Silverstone Park, though the acquisition of the Jordan Technology Park from BBC F1 presenter Eddie Jordan.  The 15 units, which are suited to companies in the high performance engineering, manufacturing and technology sectors, range in size from 4,900 sq ft to almost 12,000 sq ft. 

In the next 10 years MEPC plans to develop the 2.4m sq ft of Silverstone Park into one of the world’s leading clusters for cutting edge and precision engineering companies, ranging from small start-ups to famous brand names.  By 2024 it predicts the number of occupiers on site will double to more than 100 - with the project creating around 4,000 jobs.

By its nature Silverstone Park attracts premium rents/land values to those achieved elsewhere in South Northamptonshire.  As a result, the Park caters for Tier 1 motorsport and high performance engineering/high technology/R&D businesses for which an address at Silverstone is a pre-requisite. 

It is predicted that much of the growth linked to Silverstone Park and high performance motorsport will be accommodated within the Park itself.  However, this will draw on existing supply chain businesses within the wider area and attract new firms to the area that will not necessarily require - or be able to afford - space within the Park itself.  It is therefore likely, that these occupiers will still seek to be close to Silverstone and therefore are likely to demand space within South Northamptonshire.

A site situated at the north west edge of Towcester and within the confines of the Tove Valley Business Park, could provide additional employment land.  Employment development on this land could include new research and technology facilities, car showrooms and general business uses.

The Brackley East Sustainable Urban Extension, located between the A43 and the existing urban edge, is divided into two distinct parts by Turweston Road.  The land to the north of Turweston Road is a greenfield site, currently in agricultural use, although has the potential to be a key gateway site into the town.  It is understood that South Northamptonshire Council has resolved to grant planning permission for a business park development on the site subject to the completion of legal agreements.

The strategic logistics and distribution sector has seen unprecedented growth over the past decade and future prospects indicate this will continue.  Growth in the sector has been driven primarily by a shift in the main source of demand for distribution services, away from manufacturing, to servicing retail activity.  This shift has seen an increased focus on moving imported goods across the country, rather than more local component movements.  As such, locations with good accessibility to ports, airports and freight hubs have become a key focus for operators and developers. 

As South Northamptonshire District lies at the heart of the so-called distribution ‘golden triangle’, with direct access to the M1 via three motorway junctions (15, 15a and 16), this places it as a prime area to support this type of operation.  The market has therefore shown strong levels of growth, with a number of high profile occupiers taking up space in major distribution parks at Junction 15 (Grange Park) and Junction 15a (Pineham). 

A number of landowners are promoting new strategic distribution schemes that take advantage of South Northamptonshire’s connections, indicating that there is a significant level of occupier demand.  Prologis Pineham at J15a of the M1 and Roxhill at J15 of the M1 are being promoted by the developers.  Similarly it is understand that a 167 hectare site at Midway Park, off J16 of the M1, is also being evaluated as a mixed regional distribution and manufacturing park.  This site is owned by Hampton Brook Developments.

The M1 corridor in the district is the key location for distribution/logistic sector development, with latent demand from both existing and new occupiers for space in this location.  The M40 is not perceived by the market as being a key logistics corridor, although it does though still play a key role in maintaining the attractiveness of South Northamptonshire as both a place to live and work given its strong north/south connectivity/accessibility.

The M1, A43 and M40 play a key role in maintaining the attractiveness of South Northamptonshire as both a place to live and work given its strong connectivity/accessibility.  There is a need to provide a wide range of employment land opportunities.  Not just to enable existing companies based in the area to expand but also to maximise the potential to attract significant occupier, investor and developer demand.

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Friday, August 15, 2014