The value of investment deals in Warrington in 2014 was almost triple that of the previous year according to the council's seventeenth annual property report, with 34 transactions totalling £400m compared to £140m in 2013.
An overwhelmingly positive view of Warrington's property market was delivered yesterday at the launch of the report, presented by Vince Sandwell, director of BE Group, who compiled the research.
With 34 recorded deals, individual transactions totalled £300m, while portfolio acquisitions accounted for an additional £100m.
Warrington's largest single recorded deal in 2014 was the sale of the Golden Square Shopping Centre for £141m to LaSalle Investment Management on behalf of the Alaska Permanent Fund Corporation.
Other notable transactions included the sale of Riverside Retail Park to Pradera, a European investment and retail property management company, and the sale by MEPC of its portfolio of three of UK Business Parks, including Birchwood Park, for £430m to Oaktree Capital Management and Patrizia Immobilien. Birchwood Park is understood to be valued at around £160m.
Omega's emergence as a prime regional employment site was reinforced last year with the two largest industrial deals in Warrington in 2014.
These were The Hut Group's acquisition of a 41-acre site, on which it will build a 690,000 sq ft distribution and manufacturing centre; and a deal to build a 260,000 sq ft warehouse for French automotive parts manufacturer, Plastic Omnium, which will serve as a supply base for Jaguar Land Rover.
Warrington's office market continued to perform strongly and saw another high level of activity with take up of around 320,000 sq ft, the third highest annual level recorded.
Nuclear occupiers dominated office deals. Previously seen as a growing sector, nuclear related businesses now occupy 20% of all office space in Warrington east, with that number looking to possibly further increase in the coming year with the likely take up by other international nuclear sector businesses.
The Birchwood area of Warrington out-performed all other parts of the town in both the number of deals and floorspace taken. The largest deal in Birchwood was Pin Properties' letting of the 51,700 sq ft Allday House to AMA, a consortium of three nuclear consultancies servicing a major contract at Sellafield.
Other deals included the international sportswear manufacturer New Balance moving its European HQ to a 30,100 sq ft office in Appleton House at Birchwood Boulevard, following a refurbishment of the building by Aviva.
Retail & Leisure
In terms of retail, most of the activity in this sector focused on investment rather than being occupier-led, and where as the previous year saw a spate of closures, 2014 was significantly calmer.
Redefine, the owner of Birchwood Shopping Centre, increased its floorspace to 430,000 sq m and eight new operators were attracted to the centre last year, along with 4.6m visitors.
The £107m Bridge Street Quarter development has started on site and aims to regenerate and revitalise Warrington town centre and create a family-friendly shopping, restaurant and leisure complex. Cineworld is understood to be the cinema operator for the site. Muse Developments is the joint venture partner.
In terms of housing, the local plan core strategy is targeting the annual completion of 500 new homes through to 2027 and the latest figures on housing completions show that Warrington is ahead of this target. Warrington council is currently working to redefine the local plan's housing figures after a High Court ruling overturned its housing target earlier this year.
The local housing market continues to grow through improvements in values and strong developer activity.
Average house prices in the borough rose by 2.9% in 2014. The average house is now valued at £187,000, a rise of £5,270 on the previous year.
The Warrington Annual Property Review is commissioned by Warrington & Co.
Speakers included Professor Steven Broomhead, chairman of Warrington & Co, Jim Hancock, former BBC broadcaster, Steve Park, managing director of Warrington & Co and Roger Draper, chief executive of Warrington Wolves.
Sponsors of the 2015 report are Muse Developments, RAM Properties, ISG and Omega Warrington. The information was compiled by BE Group.