MG Rover’s demise is big news for business, and the future of Longbridge is big news for property (see analysis + opinion feature, p30). Landlord St Modwen has the chance to build on its reputation as the UK’s top regeneration developer, but there may be wider benefits for the property industry – if the government wakes up to the lessons from the collapse.
The hope is that the Rover saga will show that industrial planning should be focused on the service sectors rather than buildings where things are made.
An emotional attachment to manufacturing has delayed development of sites across the UK, from the Thames Gateway to the north. Regional development agencies and councils have both been attempting to defy economic logic when it comes to site usage. Brixton has appreciated this: more than 80% of its estate is now accounted for by warehousing, and distribution developers like ProLogis, Gazeley and John Cutts have blazed across the continent as well as the UK.
Property as a whole should throw its weight behind St Modwen’s plans for a mixed-use redevelopment of Longbridge with an industrial focus on warehousing, rather than factories. Creating any jobs is better than vainly waiting for manufacturers that would only be undercut by rivals in the Far East.
One silver lining, though, is that MG Rover did not collapse in 1999. At that time Advantage West Midlands’ preferred alternative for the site might have been a call centre occupier that would probably have already relocated to India.
Ronson’s des res
Gerald Ronson has set the housebuilding world alight with a possible bid for Crest Nicholson (see development, p48), and theories abound over his intentions. Some expect him to sell his 23.4% stake to a Wimpey, Barratt or Persimmon desperate to get its hands on Crest’s landbank. However, housebuilders can still buy land fairly easily themselves, and selling on the stake is not Ronson’s style.
Others speculate that a Land Securities might buy Ronson’s stake as a platform for its own Crest Nicholson bid; this would buy it the expertise to build volume homes. After all, mixed use is all the rage and Quintain is likely to become the biggest housebuilder in London once its Wembley and Greenwich schemes are under way. But why should LandSecs buy a housebuilder? It doesn’t buy a contractor when it needs to build an office scheme in the City.
It is more likely that Ronson will launch a 450p-460p knock-out bid for Crest and run it as a part of his own business – and returning to his housing roots – at a time when bargains are few and far between in commercial property.