A business park project which has changed the landscape of the approach into Hull is nearing capacity with completion of a major development, commission of a new project and the final plot now placed under offer.
Priory Park, which at one point was mooted as a site for the KCOM Stadium, instead became a destination for businesses ranging from motor dealerships to professional firms and a four-star hotel.
A new phase launched four years ago by developer Henry Boot released 14 acres. Initial interest was steady but a strong market has been exploited with deals now agreed on all remaining land.
Dave Garness, Managing Director of Garness Jones chartered surveyors, highlighted a turnaround in Hull’s fortunes as a result of investment estimated at £1.5 billion, driven by renewables and City of Culture. The buoyant market has enabled his practice to dispose of more than 50 acres of land at sites across Hull and East Yorkshire during the last 12 months.
He said: “With City of Culture there was a lot of excitement and anticipation and it has now been seen to deliver. At the same time, big businesses are investing and expanding – with Siemens and Reckitt Benckiser (RB) being the high-profile companies and many more contributing. They are large, well respected companies which are making a difference.”
Motor dealerships dominated the early development of the western end of Priory Park as the site took shape during the 1990s. They were also prominent when the eastern side of the project was launched, and they were joined by relocations in the legal, financial and insurance sectors and by the new, four-star Village Hotel.
Pharmaceuticals company Indivior, a division of RB, embarked on the first major development in the new phase on a 6.5-acre site which is close to completion as a development laboratory and clean room.
Dave Garness said: “The project for Indivior looks very impressive and will provide high-quality, skilled jobs. Another plot of around six acres has been sold to a high-profile, Hull-based business which is planning significant expansion. That will leave an area of around 6.5 acres for which we expect to agree a disposal in the coming months.”
Atlas Leisure Homes committed last year to moving its holiday home storage facility to the former Birds Eye Wall’s site of nearly 18 acres next to Priory Park. Its plans are to follow that investment by constructing a new factory.
Dave added: “The expansion by Atlas is all about a long-standing manufacturing company that has emerged from the recession with a positive approach and has completed one of the most substantial land acquisitions for an owner-occupier in this area in the last few years.
“Their strategy is to draw in and store caravan stock rather than lease land elsewhere, taking ownership of an asset that will then give them time to plan, develop and relocate to a purpose built and state-of-the-art production facility.”
Garness Jones is also seeing increased activity elsewhere in East Yorkshire, with two sites occupying a total of 15 acres acquired at Carnaby Industrial Estate, Bridlington, and a land sale at the Ozone development at Howden of just over three acres, both to operating companies.
Figures from Hull City Council indicate that 342,000 people visited the “Made in Hull” attractions during the first week of City of Culture. The reopened Ferens art gallery welcomed 200,000 visitors during its first 10 weeks, compared with 126,000 for the last full year of operation before it closed for refurbishment.
The value of positive media coverage is calculated at £3 million this year, and £52 million since 2013 when City of Culture status was confirmed. The value of the investment driven by City of Culture, the development of the area as a renewables centre and associated projects is estimated by the City Council as £1.5 million.
Dave said: “People had a preconceived poor image of the area, but that was out of ignorance rather than any first-hand knowledge. Get people to come here and take a look and they are very pleasantly surprised.
“The cynicism is understandable because the area has had a lot of knocks and not a lot of support, and in a sense it gives the city a feeling of pride, achievement and confidence which can be infectious for inward investors. The area is on the up and renewable energy is just one of the factors, as shown by these developments.”