Rok MD plays down King Street closure

Stuart Longbottom, managing director of Rok Developments, fiercely denied reports the developer was closing its Manchester base and said a retreat back to Salford Quays was merely sensible cost-cutting in the current climate.

Longbottom said: "We are marketing the city centre office because in these difficult times we want to limit costs where we can. There is more than enough space for the development team at Salford Quays. We won't be moving out of the city centre until we find a new tenant for our space which may not happen in the current market.

"We moved into the city centre to position the development team among the lawyers and agents when deals were being done. Now no-one is doing deals they don't need to be there."

Rok has retained DTZ to market its central Manchester office in the Pinnacle on King Street. The group generates most of its revenue from its building and maintenance divisions, which operate in this region from a large office in Salford Quays. The Exeter-based group announced at the start of this year that it was getting out of development in the long term.

Contrary to market speculation that the development team, headed by Jonathan Conway, would be broken up, Longbottom said there would be no departures.

On current developments, he said it was business as usual: "We are seeing them through as before with buildings for sale or to lease and plots of land for sale."

The company has three schemes in the North West. The largest is the 250,000 sq ft Wilmslow Business Park, a joint venture with Royal Bank of Scotland. Agents are DTZ and Cushman & Wakefield.

Longbottom said: "We haven't yet got planning at Wilmslow so we can't do very much there anyway. We started on site demolishing the existing buildings but the next step is building a new road which could take 18 months after planning."

Longbottom said he had been waiting for months for a planning decision but the council had given no date when one will be made.

Rok completed phase one at the 9.5-acre the Links in Blackpool, last year, comprising 25,000 sq ft of light industrial space in Piper Court, and 15,000 sq ft of offices in Seneca House.

Agents Knight Frank and Robert Pinkus & Co report strong interest including units under offer. Quoting rents are £11/sq ft offices and £4/sq ft industrial. The remaining land is ready for development and Longbottom said Rok would be keen to sell the plot. He denied speculation that The Links was being touted for sale as a whole.

At Atherleigh Business Park, near Wigan, a first phase of offices and industrial has been completed and let. A test centre for the Driving Standards Agency is under construction. Remaining land is also for sale. Agents are King Sturge on offices and PD O'Herlihy and Littler Associates on industrial.

In March, Rok announced revenue of £950m in 2007, up 38% from 2006, and pre-tax profit of £31.7m, up from £22.4m.

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