They say necessity is the mother of invention – and boy, is the shortage of land in and around London forcing people to be inventive.
After all the talk of ‘sheds and beds’ and, more recently, ‘sheds, beds and meds’, industrial developers are starting to look seriously at the multi-storey shed, the high- rise phenomenon that until now has been confined largely to severely land-restricted locations such as Hong Kong.
Goodman Group, the industrial developer behind the biggest multi-storey warehouse in Hong Kong (the whopping, 13-storey, 6.5m sq ft ATL Logistics Centre), has pinned its high hopes on a 9.5-acre site in Park Royal, west London, which it is thought to have forked out circa £70m for – the most dosh per acre ever spent on industrial land in the UK.
True, multi-storey is the Australian developer’s thing – it is one of the world leaders in this type of development – but that is quite a statement of intent for a group that has done very little in the UK of late and will be one of the first to make a move into multi-storey here. At the moment, for all the noise around multi-storey warehouses, there is only one in the UK – SEGRO’s warehouse near Heathrow – and it’s only a double-decker. The question is: how high will Goodman have to go to make good on its hefty investment? You would hazard a guess it might go above the three storeys the likes of Gazeley are considering.
While Goodman may have just moved the goalposts in multi-storey industrial, Tesco could well have done the same with grocer-led, mixed-use development. Again in London, but this time north-east, the retailer has joined forces with Weston Homes to develop a mixed-use scheme that is worlds apart from the simplistic residential and retail propositions the big four were pushing at the height of the space race a decade or so ago.
The planned scheme in Goodmayes not only boasts 1,400 homes, it also features a new primary school, workshops, cafés and enhanced public realm as well as a redeveloped Tesco store. If approved, the location will get a new community and Tesco will have delivered a good chunk of the 4,000 new homes it pledged back in 2014. Suddenly, those redundant big boxes that the big four have been lumbered with since the rise of online retail forced a right-sizing of physical store estates don’t look quite so redundant.
Unfortunately, it will take more than a few innovative joint ventures like this to solve the housing crisis. At the moment, a shocking half of local authorities will not hit their housing targets, predicts a damning new report by the National Audit Office. Unlike the Raynsford Review, the NAO report assessed the planning system against the government’s own targets and it has inevitably prompted calls for politicians to take the findings seriously.
Given that most can’t even take the future of the country seriously (self-interest still seemingly the only game in town), the fear is that the issue will be kicked into the long grass – and with it any prospect of significant reform.