This has come within a £95m portfolio sale of UK science parks. US investment manager Angelo Gordon and Trinity Investment Management have bought Mars Pension Fund’s Business Environments for Science and Technology (BEST) – five science parks in all, the others being at Edinburgh, Manchester, Kent and Havant. Their 348 acres in total comprise the UK’s largest private network of science and technology parks.
The outlook for Wilton remains bright too. Kaleigh Haeg, life sciences specialist at Colliers International, which advised the buyers’ joint venture, says: “While science capabilities in the UK have long been recognised as among the world’s best, the science parks have too often lacked the necessary strategic thinking to support and deliver a limitless potential offered by advancing life science sectors.”
Colliers’ new life sciences team, alongside lease advisory experts, will advise on the capitalising of growth for the joint venture.
Over at Darlington, rents at Morton Park in Darlington are rising following a £4m-plus purchase by Rockspring in partnership with Caisson. Rents have hit £5.50psf on smaller units for the first time. Darlington’s biggest letting for some years was seen there - 25,000sq ft to JLM Foods at Lingfield Point, itself acquired by Clearbell in 2014. On Teesside, occupancy levels reportedly continue their rise with significant investment in industrial stock by larger stakeholders such as Mandale and UK Land Estates. The trends are noted by Connect Property North East (CPNE). On Teesside Industrial Estate alone CPNE concluded 14 separate deals and saw rents rise to £6psf. Activity has mainly centred on the expansion and relocation of smaller SMEs. But Cooper BMW also expanded and A-Plant acquired new premises on Haverton Hill.
CPNE’s award acknowledged a successful conclusion of more than 70 deals ranging from 500sq ft on Whitestone Business Park in Middlesbrough to a 93,000sq ft workshop acquired by Jennings Group in Stockton.
Jonathan Simpson, director and co-owner, says the take-up of industrial and warehouse space is significant. He added: “The A1 corridor is still the region’s top performer.
MSeven M&G has invested more than £1m in various holdings across Newton Aycliffe, giving take-up of more than 100,000sq ft to occupiers that include Vantec, PWS and Ceva Logistics.”
Stephen Brown, senior partner at agents Dodds Brown LLP, is also positive. He forecast that a lack of quality industrial units and employment land will continue upward pressure on industrial property prices, whereas offices might remain stable. But Cleveland Business Centre in Middlesbrough, with a £1m-plus refurbishment, could soon be drawing start-ups and established law and IT tenants. It has 50 units of 500 to 5,000sq ft, and the three-storey centre, capable of hosting up to 200 new jobs, includes new conference facilities. Linthorpe Developments behind the project expects refurbishment to be completed in June.
Central Point, also in Middlesbrough, is now fully occupied after its purchase and development by Linthorpe last year. Also recently Commerce House is being transformed through new owners Commerce Chambers Ltd. It was owned by the the North East Chamber of Commerce, which sold after seeing plans to make the building a town-centre office hub, retaining a presence round the corner.