PLP’s shed first

North-west developer to create UK’s biggest logistics land bank with ports arm and Harworth Estates

John Whittaker’s Peel Group has set up a logistics division to cash in on the recovering big sheds market, in a move that will give it the biggest logistics development land bank in the UK.

The privately owned infrastructure and property group will pool its industrial sites together with those owned by Peel Ports and Harworth Estates to form a 5,674 acre land bank with a potential developed value of £4bn. For around half the sites this will be the first time they have been introduced to the market. The venture will be formally launched at MIPIM next month.

The “strategic alliance” between the three companies brings all their shed sites under the same marketing umbrella. The aim is to offer distribution occupiers a one-stop shop for warehousing across the north of England and the Midlands.

Of the land that will be marketed by the new division, half is owned by Peel Group, with Peel Ports and Harworth each contributing 25%. In total it could accommodate 60m sq ft of sheds. Around 1,900 acres is ready for occupation, while a quarter of the land lies in the green belt and will need to go through the planning process.

Peel Group owns a 51% stake in Peel Ports, which operates docks at Liverpool, Glasgow and Chatham, and around 30% of former UK Coal parent Coalfield Resources, which in turn owns 25% of Harworth Estates. Harworth was formerly UK Coal’s property division. The three companies will retain separate control over their sites but will act in concert when promoting them to occupiers.

In some cases that may mean they come into competition with each other, particularly near Manchester, where Peel is promoting the 150 acre Port Salford site and Harworth has 250 acres of sheds land at Logistics North in Bolton. However, for the most part the companies’ sites complement each other: Peel is dominant in the north-west, while most of Harworth’s land is in former colliery areas of the Midlands and Yorkshire.

Peel was founded in 1971 by chairman John Whittaker and has built up a huge land bank in the north-west. Some 42% of PLP’s land is located in the region, much of it around the Manchester Ship Canal. Only one small site is located in the south-east. PLP development manager Matt Fitton, who will lead the new division, said that Peel is in the process of acquiring further sites in the north-west, but that it has no immediate plans to purchase land in the south.

PLP may undertake speculative development if it can raise external funding, but it will concentrate on the pre-let and pre-sale markets.

Matthew Fitton added: “The market for design-and-build sheds is coming back and, as the largest single owner of logistics, land we need to make sure our offer is ready to go and marketed correctly.”

Original source: Property week 21st February 2014