The partnership had great plans for the 575-acre plot, which was ripe for development given its perfect location next to the main motorway network, mid-way between Manchester and Liverpool. However, given the lengthy planning process for a scheme of that size, the project hit the buffers with the financial crash and subsequent recession of 2007 and 2008. For many years nothing happened on site and Omega was in real danger of becoming just another unrealised dream.
But things picked up; Omega was revisited, new plans were submitted and by 2012 the market saw the first deal at Omega to Brake Bros, which took a 200,000 sq ft design and build unit on the north side. This was quickly followed by subsequent deals to Hermes and Travis Perkins the following year.
With the north side quickly filling up, the south side of Omega then followed suit attracting some of the biggest companies in the UK and globally, including Asda, Brake Bros, Travis Perkins, Amazon, The Hut Group, Plastic Omnium, Royal Mail and The Delivery Group. Together, these deals have seen take up of 2.5m sq ft of logistics space in just five years.
Despite the slow start that Omega initially suffered it is undoubtedly one of the region’s most enduring success stories. As an industrial agent, what I find interesting about this scheme is its evolution; depending on when the buildings were developed, the design features of each building show how the big-box market has evolved over this 20-year period.
The timing of Omega coming forward meant it was ideally placed to benefit from the global shift in people’s shopping habits and the unprecedented increase in online retail. Between 2015 and 2016 we saw major occupiers such as The Hut Group and Amazon snap up big-box facilities, making Omega a key location in their UK distribution network.
As the years have progressed, technology has become ever more important role. To improve efficiency, Asda opted for a “dark warehouse” at Omega whereby the lion’s share of the work is carried out by robots and automated control systems. Similarly, cross-dock logistics facilities have also become a key design feature in this new logistics age and can be seen at both Amazon and the Royal Mail’s facilities.
More recently, the insatiable quest for more space in the right location to meet customer demand has led to occupiers requiring “ready-to-go” buildings rather than waiting for a design and build solution. This is reflected at Omega where Amazon took a 350,000 sq ft crossed docked speculatively built unit. Mountpark’s subsequently speculatively built an industrial scheme, with two of the 4 units being snapped up by Royal Mail, which took 360,000 sq ft, and The Delivery Group, which took 145,000 sq ft, leaving only two units remaining.
Omega has been a phenomenal success story and should be fully occupied in the next few years. Some of us will be breathing a sigh of relief when that happens as other sites will stand a better chance with a big competitor out of the way. Omega’s success demonstrates the importance of a key located site that is immediately deliverable, and pressure should then be put on the planning system to release similar sites. The only concern, as demonstrated at Omega, is the length of time it takes for such sites to get off the ground but once they do, they transact very well.
It’s an impressive scheme and one that certainly deserves some kudos.
As a new decade nears, throughout December Place North West will be publishing views from the property industry on the best buildings completed between 2000 and 2019, highlighting the design and development successes of the past 20 years.