Yesterday’s Budget announcement contained a clear message of business continuity as the Chancellor relayed emergency measures to mitigate the impact of Coronavirus. Public health, the NHS, SMEs and workers were the primary focus, but for the property industry, there were still some takeaway messages. Not least, an announcement of short term emergency Business Rates relief, as well as a programme of investment launched for roads and infrastructure. Key members of our service teams add their comments.

Retail & Leisure Group

Russell Smith, Partner, comments; ‘overall there was some welcome, positive news for the high street, in particular for small shop and restaurant owners who will see an increased business rates discount. It is a temporary and extreme step sadly in light of the destabilising Coronavirus pandemic, but nonetheless it is well needed and overdue for the ailing retail sector.

The announcement to hold a review into the long term future of business rates should make a marked change to the future of the high street. This will need to be implemented in a timely manner however as there is likely to be a further reduction in footfall in high street across the country in the months to come.’

Alfred Bartlett, Partner, adds ‘ironically, the digital service tax (2% tax introduction on digital businesses) will also help bricks and mortar retail and may prove a good first step in balancing the investment in trading formats and redressing the high street decline.’

Automotive & Roadside

Phil Blackford comments; ‘the Government have announced a fund of £500 million over the next five years to support the rollout of a fast-charging network for electric vehicles ensuring that drivers will never be further than 30 miles from a rapid charging station. That is very welcome news to both manufacturers and EV charge suppliers and hopefully will provide the much needed kick start to creating the necessary infrastructure in the UK to align Government targets, manufacturer’s development and production and a structured network of EV charging stations.’

Town Planning

Jason Lowes, comments; ‘in terms of planning, most of the announcements in the Budget were primarily financial commitments, with the Government’s planning reform initiatives saved for today’s announcement by Robert Jenrick. These indicate that a planning white paper will be released in the spring, addressing a wide range of matters, including:

  • Introducing a “zonal” element to the planning system
  • Further measures to encourage development on brownfield land
  • Initiatives to speed up the planning system

By way of background to the above, the Government feels that the planning system is holding back the delivery of housing, and that these initiatives will break down barriers. However, they are all at a very early stage, and we will be looking very closely on how they develop. Nevertheless, any initiatives that render the planning system more predictable and straightforward to navigate will no doubt be welcomed by the industry. Rapleys Town Planning team will be releasing a fuller newsletter on these reforms shortly.’

 

Simon joined Rapleys in 2002 as a graduate building surveyor and is now a partner in building consultancy. He has experience in all property sectors with particular specialism within the railway, industrial and residential sectors.

He also specialises in residential dilapidation matters and leads multi-disciplinary teams in the preparation and negotiation of complex dilapidations claims for bulk rented housing estates.

Simon is an Incorporated Member of the Association for Project Safety and has experience in all matters of Health and Safety Consultancy. He has acted as CDM co-ordinator and more recently as principle designer on large scale commercial and residential construction projects.

He is experienced in developing bespoke forms for tablet based, electronic data capture and in running projects to undertake detailed surveys of property portfolios in excess of 600 properties.

 

The Motorway Service Area (MSA) has been synonymous with the long car journeys of Britain since they opened with the M1 in 1959. Since then, the humble MSA has seen vast improvements and now delivers an evolved, efficient service for road users up and down the network. Operators and the retailers within, can clearly see the benefits of adapting to the climate in this steady sector, but how did we get here?

Following the first MSA opening in 1959 there have been a further 92 opened across the UK. Starting life as a Government owned establishment they became denationalised in 1992 and are now, in the majority, privately owned and managed. The three main operators of sites are the household names we are all familiar with seeing along our journey’s; Moto (38 sites), Welcome Break (24 site) and Roadchef (20 sites). These are not the only players however, with Extra operating in 8 sites and a further one under construction in Leeds.

Generally, the requirements for MSAs are based on the Department of Transport regulations. They include several stipulations;

• 24 hour access, 365 days a year
• Free parking
• Free facilities
• Fuel provision
• Disabled access
• At least hot drinks and cold food available at all times
• A picnic area of at least 0.5 acre

There are other points to consider dependent on location and the operator will work in conjunction with the local Police, Regional Tourist Board and Highways Agency to ensure services are provided. This list of requirements is likely to continue to evolve over time. For example, the introduction of electric charging points may become more of a necessity than a luxury.

The modern MSA
The trend of eating at restaurant type venues within MSA’s has declined and today’s customers prefer a shorter stop with an emphasis on food-to-go. Road users trust the brand they know and in order to facilitate their needs, MSA operators have forged links with various high street names such as M&S Simply Food, McDonalds, Burger King and Subway, to name a few.
With the relaxation of regulations, traffic signage can incorporate the logos of these retailers, which in turn drives visits to the MSA, thus higher revenues.

The days of a standard square ‘shed’ type building with basic facilities are numbered as road users demand a better experience from the service areas. This has come hand in hand with the rise of the ‘coffee culture’ and it is fair to say that virtually all retail offers within MSA’s are now franchised. Indeed, there is more customer choice than ever. For example, the coffee retailers, such as Costa and Starbucks, have numerous outlets within the MSA, enabling customers to stop at a restaurant, take away or simply drive-thru.

MSA’s are ideally positioned to take advantage of emerging retail trends and the adoption of operators to embrace the ‘Grab-and-Go’ concept proves their ability to adapt to a changing retail landscape. Even Wetherspoons trialled a licensed premises at the Beaconsfield service area on the M40, although this has yet to be repeated elsewhere.

The independent MSA

The game changed again in 2014/15 with the opening of Gloucester Services on the M5 between Junctions 11a and 12, which is operated by Westmorland. The concept is unique to them in that national retailers have been rejected in favour of local farm produce and independent cafes and restaurants.

However, it is the design of the facility that is to revolutionise MSA’s moving forward. The built accommodation blends seamlessly with its surroundings to include the sustainable grass roof. But more than that, the main amenity building did away with brash branding and instead incorporated wood effect styling and sweeping curves within the design of the building, rather than simply a big square box.

An example of a new facility following the Gloucester principles is the Leeds Skelton Lake Services, currently under construction by Extra and due to open in summer 2019. This facility has a grass clad undulating timber frame roof on the main food court building, as well as an additional 100 bedroom room hotel and petrol forecourt facility.

What does the future hold for MSA’s
With regard to new build activity in the MSA market, the development of new sites is naturally constrained due to the national coverage of existing sites. Furthermore, the need to commit high levels of capital expenditure on start-up costs, in conjunction with tight regulatory conditions, restricts new developments.

Whilst the regulations have relaxed slightly, for example, the strict spacing between motorway services by way of distance/drive-time can be overcome if there is a genuine ‘need’ for a facility in a certain location, the costs and time make it difficult for new operators to enter into the market. So whilst there are only six MSA operators within the sector being Welcome Break, Roadchef, Moto, Extra, Westmorland and EuroGarages, there is plenty activity and potential for further changes in the outlook of the MSA.

For further discussions or detail on Motorway Service Area’s do not hesitate to get in touch with the Automotive & Roadside specialists at Rapleys.

Neil is a Partner in Rapleys’ town planning team and is passionate about providing clear, commercially informed planning advice to his clients.

He has an extensive knowledge and understanding of the planning system gained during more than 17 years’ experience within private sector planning consultancies in London, Leeds and Manchester. In this time, Neil has successfully advised clients in the private, public and voluntary sectors.

Neil has specialist knowledge and experience in the residential planning sector in particular. He has a proven track record in managing complex planning applications and appointing and leading large, multi-disciplinary consultancy teams on behalf of his clients. Neil is confident in leading negotiations with local authorities and key stakeholders. Neil has successfully represented clients at appeal as an Expert Witness.

Project experience includes:

  • Redevelopment of the former British Sugar factory site in York to provide 1,100 new homes, community facilities and public open space;
  • Redevelopment of a Green Belt site in Greater Manchester to provide approximately 85 new family homes;
  • Redevelopment of an out of centre brownfield site in Leeds for retail and car showroom units totalling 90,000 sq ft;
  • Redevelopment of a key City of London site to provide a new 50,000 sq m headquarter office building; and
  • Development of a headquarter office building in the Green Belt on behalf of an international pharmaceuticals company.

 

Jamie joined Rapleys’ development consultancy team in April 2016 as a graduate surveyor from Oxford Brookes University where he studied Planning and Property Development. He now sits in the affordable housing & viability team in the London office where he assists landowners, developers and housing associations.

Jamie provides development valuation advice for residential, mixed use and ‘build to rent’ schemes on both small scale developments and larger urban extensions. His work is generally focused in the south east of England but he has worked on sites in Newcastle and York. Jamie works on detailed development appraisals to assess scheme viability and deliverability while providing affordable housing strategy advice. He also provides agency advice in relation to disposal of development sites and S106 ‘package deals’. Jamie’s client base consists of a range of landowners, residential developers and housing associations.

Jamie became accredited into the Royal Institute of Chartered Surveyors in November 2019, and his interests outside of work include cricket, rugby and exploring the highlands of Scotland.

 

Jason is a partner in Rapleys’ town planning team. Since joining Rapleys, Jason has submitted and negotiated a wide range of planning applications, including retail, motor trade, residential and public transport infrastructure. To support such proposals, Jason has prepared retail, design and general planning statements.

Jason has undertaken numerous site analyses and appraisals, and provided planning advice in relation to site disposal. He has also been actively involved in public consultation exercises promoting development, particularly public exhibitions.

Jason has given planning evidence at public enquiry, has provided expert planning witness advice and has promoted development at examinations in public.

Jason was educated at Stowe School and University College London. Since graduation in 2000, Jason spent three years gaining experience within the construction/refurbishment industry. Subsequently Jason worked for two years in contract work as a development control officer for a number of local authorities in the north-west London area, dealing with a wide range of planning applications from minor to major, and contributing to the London Borough of Ealing petition in respect of the Crossrail Bill.

James is a partner in the building consultancy team and has a broad range of experience across all mainstream areas of commercial building surveying.

He specialises in management of refurbishment projects, preparing and negotiating dilapidations claims on behalf of both landlords and tenants, undertaking pre-acquisition and technical due diligence building surveys and advising on Party Wall matters in both residential and commercial schemes.

James has project managed refurbishments valued in excess of £8million and negotiated numerous large dilapidations claims on behalf of various clients ranging from pension and investment funds to top global brands. James has also acted for both Building and Adjoining Owners regarding complex party wall schemes and undertaken building surveys on various prestigious commercial properties ranging from small scale to hundreds of thousands of square feet in size.

 

 

Chris is a chartered surveyor and a member of the Compulsory Purchase Association. He has over 35 years experience in the property market, including more than 30 years dealing with commercial property in a railway environment.

Until 2006, Chris was Network Rail’s Commercial Property Manager (London North Eastern) and has maintained strong contacts with all parts of the railway industry. He has a sound understanding of the complex regulatory constraints that the industry operates under.

Chris also has a detailed understanding of property development in and around the railway. He has had extensive involvement in major railway development projects, station retailing as well as large compulsory purchase schemes having previously advised the Thameslink and Crossrail projects, amongst others. In this time, he also managed large property projects which interfaced between Network Rail and London Underground infrastructure and has good contacts with both organisations.

From 2006, Chris was a director of Shaw Corporation, a niche property development firm focussing on identifying, facilitating and delivering complicated urban development projects in London, and was a consultant with Masons Property Advisers dealing with railway related development, disposal and other estate matters, before joining Rapleys as a development consultant.

Chloe joined Rapleys in 2013 after graduating with a Masters in International Planning from the University College of London. In 2016, she gained her town planning chartership and is now an Associate working within a range of sectors including automotive and roadside, industrial and distribution, office, residential and retail. Specifically, Chloe is also responsible for overseeing planning matters on a portfolio of sites on behalf of BP Oil (UK) Ltd.

She specialises in development management, completing site appraisals, policy representations, planning statements, and preparing and managing planning applications and appeals. Over the years, Chloe has been able to establish beneficial working relationships with technical sub-consultants which have provided her clients with cost savings. Notable clients that Chloe has worked with include Associated British Foods, Bellcross Homes, BP Oil (UK) Ltd, Frontier Estates Ltd, Linden Homes, Lookers Plc, and The Jockey Club.

Chloe can offer carefully considered professional consultancy advice and has extensive experience in recruiting for and leading on project teams to promote and protect her clients’ interests.

 

Alun is responsible for a wide range of development related issues, including urban regeneration projects, site disposals, site acquisitions for property developers, development audits/appraisals and agency advice. He has considerable experience in setting up joint ventures.

Alun has extensive knowledge across all sectors of the market including residential disposals and acquisitions, food and non-food retail schemes, industrial and office developments and in particular has been involved in a number of major mixed-use developments.

Alun joined Rapleys in 1997 and was elected a partner in the development team in 2000. Prior to this he worked at Railtrack Property and the British Rail Property Board.

 

Angus has over 20 years experience and heads up the development team. He has a wide range of development experience including mixed use developments, disposals and acquisitions, development audits/appraisals and providing agency advice. He also has considerable experience in development management, taking projects through the development process from inception to delivery.

Angus is active in a number of sectors including residential, retail, industrial, office and mixed use developments. Angus joined Rapleys in 2004 having previously worked as Head of Development Sales in the South of England for Network Rail, where he was responsible for disposing of Network Rail surplus land assets and promoting and delivering major station developments.

 

As part of emerging growth plans for the Oxford – Milton Keynes – Cambridge Arc, which includes the £215 million Growth Deal for Oxfordshire announced in late 2017, the Government has published a plan showing the broad alignment of the Oxford to Cambridge Expressway, a key component of its future growth strategy for the Arc.

The Oxford – Milton Keynes – Cambridge Arc is one of the most economically successful in the country and competes internationally for high-tech and science investment. Following a request from the Government, the National Infrastructure Commission investigated ways to maximise the potential of the area. The report subsequently published in November 2017, concluded that rates of house building in the area will need to double if the arc is to achieve its economic potential.

The absence of a direct dual carriageway link between Oxford and Cambridge had been recognised as a significant infrastructure barrier and constraint to growth. To address this, in November 2016, the Oxford to Cambridge Expressway Strategic Study Stage 3 Report (Highways England/Department of Transport) was published and identified three corridor options for further assessment:

  • Option A: a northern option, roughly following the existing A421 to the south of Bicester and via Buckingham to the east of Milton Keynes.
  • Option B: a central option, following the east-west rail corridor.
  • Option C: a southern option via Aylesbury, linking to the M1 south of Milton Keynes.

A decision on the preferred corridor option for the expressway has been eagerly awaited by the development industry. There are areas within this corridor and in close proximity to the expressway, that will in future become natural locations for strategic housing and employment growth that will be identified in future Local Plans. The announcement this week, that Option B is the preferred broad alignment will help to define the parameters of this critical growth axis and establish areas of search for long term strategic development opportunities.

Rapleys has significant experience in undertaking site searches and identifying long term strategic development opportunities. For further information please contact either Tony Clements or Dan Sharp.