THE majority owner of Scotland’s oldest and largest business park is to spend up to £50 million on expanding the estate amid signs of improving economic activity.
Commercial property group MEPC has bought the site of the former Rolls-Royce engine factory at Hillington Park for £2.85m in a move that means it now owns about 70 per cent of the 419 acre park. The deal marks the start of a ten-year investment programme by MEPC, which has been in charge of Hillington since its acquisition of Caledonian Land in 1996.
Plans for the 28-acre site, which has lain dormant since Rolls-Royce moved out in 2005, include a mix of new industrial and office space.
Jamie Cumming, commercial director for MEPC in Scotland, said some of the park’s 500 businesses were already in discussions about expanding and upgrading their existing accommodation. MEPC is also speaking with a couple of companies from the North-east of Scotland looking to pre-let facilities further south.
“We will also create some speculative space alongside that as well,” he added. “These will be much more modern properties that are fit for purpose going forward. As the economy seems to be turning a corner, we are now looking towards the next generation of space.”
MEPC is currently putting together a master plan for the site. All being well, Cumming said the group would “put a spade in the ground towards the end of next year”. The site is being sold by St Modwen Developments, the London-listed property investment group that bought the plot from Rolls-Royce for £6.35m in 2006. St Modwen originally planned to refurbish the 800,000sq ft factory that has since been demolished.
The deal marks the 75th anniversary of the Hillington Park’s formal opening by King George VI and Queen Elizabeth in 1938.
The park was the first of the “Special Areas of Scotland” to be set up by act of Parliament in a bid to revitalise economic activity during the depression between the two world wars. Rolls-Royce moved there in 1939 as a “shadow” aero engine manufacturing facility for the Merlin engines that powered Spitfire, pictured, and Hurricane fighter planes.
Today more than 6,000 people work at the park for businesses that generate £340m of economic wealth annually. Tenants span the retail, manufacturing, engineering, life sciences, technology and public sectors, and include notable organisations such as Heathrow Airport Holdings, Balfour Beatty Engineering Services and the NHS.
“The purchase of the vacant former Rolls Royce site is part of MEPC’s plans to further grow Hillington Park’s appeal as a location for local and national companies,” Cumming said.
“This plan includes a master plan, signage and commitment to make a case for investment of up to £50m over the next ten years in infrastructure, commercial buildings and supporting retail and other service amenities.”