The short supply of land for both housing and industrial schemes is leaving few options for either sector other than to build higher.

And SEGRO’s response has been to build its first multi-storey, mixed-use, commercial building.

Delegates at the Thames Tap round table on January 27 considered the political and practical challenges of how to accommodate more of each to meet fast-growing demand.

DevComms director Charles Bushe said a political shift has taken place in which the Conservatives have begun to focus on local issues, a trend he predicts will spread during 2022 while LibDems are focussing on the national scene. Conservative areas, he said, are already pushing back on housing numbers.

Mike Shearn from Haslams summed up a recent meeting with Reading Borough Council.

He said: “They want more housing but they haven’t got more land.”

Head of office for Savills Reading Phil Brown told the meeting: “Their Plan A was Grazeley, the new garden settlement south of J11.

“The expansion of the AWE’s detailed emergency planning zone has scuppered that, unfortunately. They are now an authority with more of a focus on the urban area and they are going to have to find solutions.

“They have got a Local Plan in place, probably sit for another two of three years, before they have to prepare a new one so it is thinking about how they need to address the housing needs in a way that meets the needs for a variety of different housing types.”

And when the meeting moved on to talk about industrial development, the same shortage of land issues arose.

SEGRO’s Thames Valley director Jo Jackson said: “From a market perspective, it’s no different from the challenges we have talked about in terms of the resi market.

“There’s a total lack of supply, there’s not really many brownfield sites to then go and do new development on.

“They are going to have to go higher. We have just got permission for a seven-storey scheme on the Slough Trading Estate We very much feel that intensification is where it’s got to go.”

She said infrastructure for online shopping and food delivery is needed to serve residential schemes and it should have priority. But she highlighted the increasing shortage currently being experienced.

“In terms of the market, last year, if you wanted 50,000 sq ft in the Thames Valley, there was none. That’s now down to units of 20,000 sq ft – there is none. And there is probably nothing under construction at the moment so how long will it take for more to come through?

David Jones from Evans Jones asked how any speculative developments would fare.

Mrs Jackson said: “We are trying to do some spec but I don’t think they will be spec by the time they’re finished.”

She explained the thinking behind the multi-storey Slough scheme, a UK first which will have up to 72 units.

“It’s very much small workshop-type space. We have a lot of units of 1,000, 2,000, 3,000 sq ft on the trading estate, some of them very old stock and they are all single level.

“You go round and it’s so spread out. With something like this you get four acres into one acre. It’s about bringing forward some of those small units that aren’t logistics or people that are having deliveries all day, every day. It might be a bit of eBay work or that type of operation.

“And it’s all about bringing amenity within the building, so there’s going to be a ground floor café and there’s going to be meeting rooms people can hire out so you don’t need that meeting room in your warehouse that you only use once a quarter.

“So you’re getting more efficient with that space. It’s a very concierge-type service, your parcel deliveries come through the front door and they are dealt with by the front of house. You don’t need to be there for it.

“I think there’s going to be a bit of a challenge because we don’t have this type of product anywhere in the UK. There’s a lot of it in the Far East.”

Image shows SEGRO’s multi-storey commercial building which won planning consent in December.

The line up (l-r in image below):

Steve Woodford, managing director, Haslams

Mike Shearn, chief operations officer, Haslams

Charles Bushe, director, DevComms

Laura Fitzgerald, mode Transport

Joanne Bruce, marketing manager, Evans Jones

Matthew Battle, managing director, UK Property Forums

Brian Dowling, partner, Boyes Turner

David Jones, managing director, Evans Jones

Phil Brown, head of office, Savills Reading

Jo Jackson, director Thames Valley, SEGRO

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