“A knowledgeable and well-connected planning team has been crucial to our success in Biggleswade.”
Tritax Symmetry is the new name in logistics property solutions. Previously known as db symmetry, the logistics developer was purchased by the FTSE 250 listed Tritax Big Box REIT plc, in 2019. Tom Leeming is Development Director at Tritax Symmetry. He is currently working with our Planning team, led by Director, Russell Gray, on the delivery of Symmetry Park, part of Stratton Business Park, in Biggleswade.
What is the industry like for Tritax Symmetry in the current climate with COVID-19 and lockdown?
It has actually been quite a positive period in terms of progressing construction responsibly on existing sites and engaging with occupiers. My focus at the moment is building out the Co-op site and starting the next phase at Symmetry Park in Biggleswade. Our main contractor, Winvic, is able to work safely on site and is continuing to do so using the appropriate social distancing measures. We are committed to delivering the unit to the Co-op in early January 2021 and are currently on target to do so.
I think COVID-19 and the lockdown will see a further change in our retail habits. While online shopping has been a way of life for many for some time, we are now seeing people who wouldn’t have ordered online before Covid, now doing so. When they realise how easy it is, it is likely they won’t go back to traditional methods – for at least some of their shopping needs. Further structural change in the retail market will have a positive impact on the demand for state-of-the-art logistics units to facilitate the change.
Why did you choose to work with Woods Hardwick?
We like to use planning consultants who know the local area and have strong relationships with the local authorities. Geography is a major driver when choosing planning consultants – but it’s also about the individuals we work with. Russell is incredibly knowledgeable and well connected in Central Bedfordshire and is able to provide us with valuable advice that we can rely on. This is proven in the success we have experienced at Biggleswade.
Tell us more about Symmetry Park and how Woods Hardwick have supported you here.
Woods Hardwick had already worked on the original development at Stratton Business Park, securing outline consent for phases 5 and 6. When Tritax Symmetry (then db symmetry) purchased Phase 6 in 2017, the plan was to secure detailed consent for five units for a range of tenants. When the Co-op approached us, seeking a 50-acre site with planning consent, we worked with Woods Hardwick to revise the consent from five units to one single unit. Woods Hardwick secured approval of reserved matters for a circa 661,000 sq ft B8 use building in 2019. In February 2020 contractors broke ground to mark the start of construction of Co-op’s new regional distribution centre.
What were the main project challenges and opportunities?
The main challenges around a site like this is about building relationships and ensuring confidence – for Central Beds Council, for our tenant, Co-op, and also for ourselves. Without the occupier, the site isn’t viable and so we needed to ensure lease negotiations were satisfactory for all. We had to negotiate the planning conditions, and with Tritax Symmetry being relatively new to the area, we welcomed the expertise and knowledge that Russell and the Woods Hardwick planning team brought.
This is a major inward investment project for Central Bedfordshire – a £100m site creating more than 1,400 new jobs. The success of this project is testament to the open-mindedness and commercial nature of Central Beds Council. They were great to work with.
So what’s next?
Before and during the lockdown, we have been doing a lot of work in the Local Plan for expansion of Stratton Business Park. This has included various representations and liaison with Central Beds Council. We have in fact just submitted a new detailed application for five new units, totalling 577,000 sq ft, on allocated land in the business park. Symmetry Park is in a great location for potential tenants – located just 600m from the A1, providing fast access to the M25.
I am looking forward to working with Russell and his team on this next phase. Woods Hardwick provides great value for money and sound advice – they are part of an excellent project team that I enjoy working with and will continue to do so!