Abstract granted detailed planning consent for affordable laboratory centre in Sawston, Cambridge

Mark Glatman’s Abstract Securities has announced that its associated company, Abstract (Mid Tech) Limited, has obtained detailed planning consent for the first phase of a brand-new development, aimed at life sciences and biotechnology occupiers, which will be named South Cambridge Science Centre (SCSC). The first building of c140,000 sq. ft. will be ready for occupation in early 2025.

SCSC will be developed on a brownfield site in Sawston, approximately six miles south of Cambridge City Centre and close to Babraham Research Park, Granta Park, and Unity Campus and an established cluster of South Cambridge life science, biotechnology, pharmaceutical and research occupiers.

Mark Glatman, Chief Executive of Abstract, said: “We saw a fantastic opportunity to acquire and reposition around five acres of land, to create much needed new science and technology lab space at a sensible and affordable rental. The scheme is in an established location in the Cambridge market where the availability of quality laboratories is almost zero against unprecedented demand for this type of space. Tight land supply and a very difficult planning regime means that there are huge barriers to providing the type of accommodation that is in so much demand. We are delighted to have the ability to get on and deliver and will be breaking ground soon.

‘’We can deliver great quality laboratory accommodation for a wide range of different user types and the building is designed to offer maximum flexibility in a landscaped setting, which will eventually sit alongside the proposed Cambridge South East Transport route, linking the neighbouring science and research parks, biomedical campus and Cambridge City Centre.

“Potential end users in the market are currently faced with rents in the high £60’s per sq. ft. but we have deliberately positioned the project to offer the best quality flexible laboratory space, aiming for rents under £50 psf. We feel that companies that are focused on growth will be looking for more affordable accommodation and we have been able to assemble a scheme to achieve this pricing point.’’

Abstract are working up plans for a second phase of development on the site for a further building of c40,000 sq. ft. and planning will be submitted in coming weeks.

Christopher McPherson, Development Director of Abstract Securities, said: “As with all Abstract schemes, we are focused on providing buildings of the highest quality, with great environmental credentials, but we also aspire to ensure that this scheme is operationally Net Zero Carbon. We believe that there is no other building in the Cambridge market that has a better carbon footprint than SCSC. A great deal of thought has gone into designing space that will meet the exacting requirements of several different occupier types whether biology or chemistry biased, and we have a high degree of flexibility in how we can accommodate different users. Given the supply demand imbalance and the more affordable pricing of our scheme, it won’t be a surprise that we are already at the early stage of discussions with a number of parties.’’

Matt Smith of retained agent, DTRE, commented: ‘’With the named tenant demand for laboratory space in the highly competitive Cambridge market currently totalling in excess of 1.2m square feet and vastly outpacing supply, it has left existing and potential new occupiers with limited options for purpose-built laboratory space.

“The decision by Abstract to deliver the scheme speculatively is an exciting development in the Cambridge market and will allow occupiers to have access to the same highly specified but more competitively priced CL2 laboratory space without having to face the costs of other schemes, where rents are now trending towards £70 psf.

“In addition, the South Cambridge Science Centre has been designed with sustainability at the forefront, including the use of renewable energy sources and will be delivered as a Net Carbon Zero scheme which is becoming an increasingly important consideration for occupiers.’’

It is understood that Peterhouse retains the freehold ownership of the land and has granted a 175 year ground lease which will attract a ground rent after buildings are completed and let.

With its extremely competitive and potentially highly reversionary rental, Abstract is also in early discussions about forward funding their project.

Abstract have retained Michael Laird Architects to design their proposals for the site. Bowmer & Kirkland have been appointed to build out the scheme with a start on site in early June.

Bidwells represented Peterhouse. Abstract were advised by DTRE.  Bidwells, DTRE and JLL are retained letting agents for the South Cambridge Science Centre.