A major property report has highlighted that Kent is fast becoming a hot spot for industrial logistics and distribution companies with more than 507,000 sq m (5.45 million sq ft) of major schemes under construction or consented.
The Covid-19 pandemic is considered to be one of the factors in speeding up the pace of demand, with a further 177,000 sq m (1.9 million sq ft) of industrial and distribution space being progressed by Panattoni through the county’s planning system, with a decision expected over the next few months.
That was one of the strong messages presented at the virtual launch of the 2020 Kent Property Market Report, which was attended by nearly 350 people.
Produced by Caxtons Chartered Surveyors, Kent County Council and Locate in Kent, the 29th edition of the Kent Property Market Report says the county looks set to benefit from its strategic position, affordability, and burgeoning logistics, life science and creative industry sectors.
Ron Roser, Chairman of Caxtons, which has offices across Kent, said: “Having attracted the attention of both investors and logistics operators for its relative affordability and connectivity over recent years, the pandemic has only added to requirements, driving robust rental growth.
“Little did we know at the start of 2020 how our collective worlds would be turned upside down. The relative uncertainty of last year has been replaced by what is best described as apparent wholesale structural change in how we shop, work and socialise, with the drive to move sales online driving the industrial logistics and distribution sector. Five years or perhaps even a decade of change has been accelerated into a matter of months.
“And while there’s no getting away from the human cost of Covid-19 and its impact on our economy, there’s reason for optimism, with investor confidence very evident in logistics and distribution, as well as healthcare and life sciences – with all these industries bucking the trend in Kent and beyond.”
With Kent having attracted significant investment from logistics operators over recent years, new stock is coming forward to serve London and the South East, including London Medway Commercial Park close to Junction 1 of the sq m, and Bericote’s Powerhouse development at Littlebrook, adjacent to the sq m5, QE2 Bridge and River Thames.
The pandemic has increased the demand for logistics and warehousing requirements, driving robust rental growth of 14 per cent over the last year, building further investor confidence. Planning permission – subject to highways issues – has recently been granted for 74,322 sq m (800,000 sq ft) of flexible warehousing and office space with the prospect of 4,000 jobs brought forward by U+I in Tunbridge Wells, close to the A21.
Elsewhere in the county, Panattoni, Europe’s largest privately-owned industrial developer, has plans to develop a £180m scheme on the 90 acre site of Aylesford Newsprint in Tonbridge & Malling. The scheme would create 3,000 logistics, warehousing and distribution and manufacturing jobs thanks to the investment in 177,000 sq m (1.9 million sq ft) of commercial floorspace and a £6m link road.
Gavin Cleary, CEO at Locate in Kent, said: “Despite the challenges of 2020, Locate in Kent continues to see a steady demand from developers and inward investors across the region. Looking at the logistics market, it has seen a remarkably resilient performance this year, following an increase in online consumer spending due to the pandemic. This is a strategically important sector for the county and one that is predicted to continue to grow and thrive, bringing with it employment and sustainable economic growth.
“As we continue to navigate these uncharted waters, we expect further demand as e-commerce expands, and Kent and Medway is well positioned to maximise on the opportunities it presents. The county is very much open for business, and Locate in Kent is here to support companies, logistics or otherwise, to succeed and more forward strongly.”
The Kent Property Market Report is supported by Cripps Pemberton Greenish, DHA Planning, Handelsbanken, Hollaway, MHA Macintyre Hudson and Royal Institution of Chartered Surveyors (RICS).