By Simon Toseland
POLITICS continues to frustrate business growth throughout the UK and for Wellingborough it is no different, but increasingly very evident.
Government indecision and manipulation has now extended past Brexit. Following the decision by Westminster to restructure the local authority framework for Northamptonshire - by dissolving the individual councils and forming two unitary authorities - it seems that this process, originally scheduled for this year then delayed until next, has been further delayed due to the general election.
Furthermore, having already spent millions on preparations, there seems to be inference from some quarters that the current proposals for two unitary authorities could be scrapped.
It seems that political ambitions are now a far greater priority than the safe governance and financial prosperity of our county.
Whilst many towns in the region have recently seen speculative growth in the logistics and industrial sectors, Wellingborough has yet to see much of a resurgence in terms of development. The two primary reasons for this are the political and economic climate and the lack of deliverable land within the borough for employment use.
One of only two employment sites available within the borough has now secured two further occupiers. Following global logistics company Yusen Logistics' commitment to a 380,000 square foot unit last year, Prologis Park Wellingborough West has now secured a 130,000 square foot letting to Northamptonshire-based haulier Linkline Transport, with a further unit of 130,000 square feet being simultaneously developed for an as yet un-named occupier. Completion of both units is scheduled for late spring/summer next year
Investment into creating further new employment opportunities for the growing town and addressing some of the supply and demand imbalance will commence shortly at Stanton Cross. Having been appointed as Bovis Homes' commercial delivery partner, St Modwen has secured planning consent for a 310,000 square foot industrial and logistics park, representing the first milestone for the planned 1.5 million square feet of commercial development to the east of the town. This first phase of commercial space, to be called Stanton Industrial Park, will comprise three separate buildings of between 44,000 square feet and 172,000 square feet. Infrastructure works for the scheme are nearing completion.
Stanton Cross is set to become a thriving commercial and residential urban extension for Wellingborough. Comprising some 837 acres, the end goal is to provide for 3,650 new homes, employment areas providing flexible space for businesses ranging from international companies to regional operators, and shopping and community facilities. The further development of 75,000 square feet - to be known as Stanton Cross Trade Park - is already being promoted which will complement the larger facilities providing for trader counter and warehouse/light industrial units from just 3,617 square feet.
However, the Stanton Cross project is a long-term play and not without its challenges. Like comparable urban extensions to surrounding towns like Rushden and Kettering, the delivery of Stanton Cross will span around 20 to 30 years. What Wellingborough and the surrounding towns need are shorter-term solutions to meet business demands now and in the immediate future.
Central Government's obsession for delivering housing has clearly, as predicted, been to the cost of the delivery of employment space.
In addition to the wider Stanton Cross development, Network Rail has begun a programme of significant improvements at Wellingborough Station and is well advanced with adding an additional line between Bedford and Kettering to increase capacity on the railway. It has also started work to rebuild Irthlingborough Road bridge after it was demolished a year ago as part of the line electrification programme.
Network Rail had planned to construct one new improved bridge as part of the Stanton Cross development - linking Wellingborough's existing road network just outside the railway station with Irthlingborough Road - but following angry demonstrations and lobbying by the occupiers of Leyland Trading Estate and the local community, it became clear that the immediate financial impact and inconvenience for the community was unacceptable. As such, Network Rail has committed to replace the demolished bridge and appointed a contractor to carry out the planning and construction, with the new road planned to reopen in Summer 2020.
This has resulted in renewed interest in Leyland Trading Estate, which provides over 230,000 square feet of industrial accommodation across units ranging from 542 square feet to 8,894 square feet. However, reinforcing the lack of supply of business units, the estate is currently 96 per cent occupied with only four units currently available. Recent lettings include a modern 7,426 square foot warehouse to Hitec Lift Trucks, which has a 33-year history in the town as one of the leading fork-lift trucks and national handling equipment dealerships in the region; 1,050 square feet to The Window Company and a further two units offering in excess of 4,000 square feet to be completed shortly.
From our conversations with local businesses, it is clear that growth and expansion is being held back by those in politics, both at local and national levels. The weight of the UK economy rests on the shoulders of businesses, but with frustration and disillusionment growing by the day, it is clear that political priorities need to re-focus before the impact on our economy becomes too heavy.
Further information or advice can be obtained from Prop-Search on 01933 223300 or 01604 492000 or via the website www.prop-search.com