Our 2022 regional Office & Industrial market roundup
2022 Office roundup
Total uptake in Watford during 2022 was circa 95,000 sq.ft across 16 transactions. This is down on the 5 year average and mostly a result of the lower end of the market, sub 5,000 sq.ft transactions, being subdued.
Over 50% of the take up was a result of 3 transactions, which is high based on the year on year average, illustrating a lack of demand from tenants at the lower end of the market.
Where corporate occupiers do make a decision to move it has been to best in class accommodation. As a result headline rents for Grade A space continue to increase to record levels. £37.50 per sq.ft was achieved on lettings at 40 Clarendon Road and most recently the 17,915 sq.ft letting to MediVet at HYDE. Available supply remains low with less than one years average take up available across the town.
Parker Hannifin at Breakspear Park 17,589 msq.ft. was the largest transaction (2 leases) of Q4 2022. Total take up for 2022 was 55,854 sq.ft across 12 transactions, illustrating that the most active sector is sub 3,500 sq.ft.
Total availability, including Kings Langley, is 499,000 sq.ft but this includes buildings such as Apsley Two where planning has been submitted, Peoplebuilding 100,000 sq.ft (currently mothballed) so true availability is closer to 300,500 sq.ft.
St Albans has more than held its own in the regional office market with the general desirability of the town as a place to live coupled with excellent transport connections, particularly rail, proving a continuing appeal. With permitted development having taken significant stock out of the market and opportunities for new development severely restricted, supply remains tight, particularly in the town centre core.
Rents for the best quality space have breached £40.00psf, with Canmoor and Legal & General’s refurbishment and the extension at 10 Bricket Road in the heart of the town centre achieving this level.
Here, the letting of c20,000 sq.ft to Aecom in 2021 was followed by St James Place taking around 5,000 sq.ft in 2022 and Motor Fuels Group a further c10,000 sq.ft. This just leaves 5,800 sq.ft available on the second floor.
Elsewhere in the town, 45 Grosvenor Road has seen noticeable letting activity in 2022 after a slightly slow start to the year. Bear Nibbles who took 14,000 sq.ft in 2021, leased a further 7,000 sq.ft this year and have been joined by Omniplex and EB Charging who between them took a little over 10,000 sq.ft. The rent on the remaining space has now been revised to £37.50psf, with around 28,000 sq.ft available in suites from c3,500 sq.ft.
2022 Industrial roundup
M1 Corridor / NW M25
The most striking factor in the southern M1 corridor / NWM25 remains the lack of supply across all size brackets and of all specifications.
In the 100,000 sq.ft + bracket 2022 saw significant lettings of DC234 at Prologis Park Hemel Hempstead 233,860 sq.ft to a data centre operator, Sky signed for 2 units 159,000 sq.ft and 142,000 sq.ft at Panattoni Park Borehamwood albeit the 142,000 sq.ft unit is now back in the market at £23.75 psf, Tritax Symmetry Aston Clinton Phase 2 signed 2 pre-lets to Pangea Laboratories 93,000 sq.ft and Rexel UK Limited 184,000 sq.ft with only Unit 6 116,500 sq.ft remaining at £10.75 psf. In Stevenage, Unit 2 at G-Park North Road (106,531sq.ft) was pre-let with PC in Summer 2023.
Mid box has proved tricky in this location due to the lack quality units, this has only gone to benefit locations further North. For example, in Leighton Buzzard Ascent Logistics Park has signed 7 units of 14-126,000 sq.ft with the final 49,000 sq.ft unit now under offer. What has been interesting to note is the distances companies have been prepared to travel to this scheme with relocations from Heathrow, Buckingham and Bicester all illustrating this point.
Rents further South inside the M25 are still holding firm which only goes to encourage a development pipeline. Developers still have appetite for schemes in Hemel Hempstead:
Unlike areas to the North with better land supply, the stock of industrial/warehouse accommodation in the Watford area remains restricted, although there are new schemes coming through. On the development land side 2022 proved an exciting year with a site in Olds Close Tolpits Lane coming to the market and potentially offering a new development opportunity. Whilst initial quoting figures were strong, the eventual sale exceeded all predictions at more than £5 million per acre (but in this instance to an occupier).
Elsewhere the former Spider’s Web hotel on the A41 where consent has been granted for 160,000 sq.ft on the 7.7 acres hotel site with an application pending for another 163,000 sq.ft on a further 10 acres adjacent. Rumoured pricing for all or part of this site was understood to be in excess of £10 million per acre which suggests a step forward from even improved rental levels in the Watford and North West M25 area.
The maximum rental level achieved across this area is £23.75 on the letting of 141,000 sq.ft to Sky studios at the Panattoni scheme at Borehamwood. Elsewhere other locations are pushing onwards with £25 per sq.ft being the quoted rent on Watford Logistics Hub which is targeted for occupation in mid-2023. This scheme comprises three units of 11,000, 30,000 and 48,000 sq.ft. Elsewhere in Colonial Way the 18,000 sq.ft former Arco unit which is to be refurbished is being marketed at a rent of £25 per sq ft.
Outside of the lettings at Borehamwood, rents have yet to consistently push beyond £20 per sq ft, although lettings in the region of £17 per sq.ft are becoming more frequent including the letting of 36,000 sq.ft at Centennial Park to Volvo (technically a 2023 completion). This lettings was at £17 per sq ft on a gross external area on the basis of a ten year commitment. [photo?]. This follows on from another earlier significantly smaller letting at £17.50 per sq.ft.
Outside the Borehamwood, Elstree and Watford industrial areas the major area of activity is Maple Cross is where MX Park, a national development scheme, is proposing two units of 80,000 and 98,000 sq.ft respectively. This scheme was consented on appeal in early summer 2022.
In addition Legal and General have a smaller six unit scheme of 35,000 sq ft on the site of the former Hertford Place office building.
This scheme, which represent the only warehouse/logistics stock close to the M25 west of Watford and east of the M40.
The location of these units is ironic in many ways given that the Maple Cross Industrial Estate was located in close proximity to both of these schemes and was demolished to make way for office and residential accommodation.