July 23, 2014
Three of the most talked about UK office developments have been given the go ahead within the space of a few days. The Government has finally announced that the new construction headquarters for HS2 will be in Birmingham, rather than London. Meanwhile, following all of the wrangling about its proposed takeover by Pfizer, Astra Zeneca has announced that the controversial move of its research facility from Cheshire to a new base in Cambridge will involve the creation of a new £330 million complex designed by Swiss architects Herzog & de Meuron. Finally, planning consent has been granted for the 4.9 million sq ft Wood Wharf development in docklands including nearly 2 million sq ft of office space which the developer claims will be aimed at the thriving London technology, media and telecommunications (TMT) sector.
Arguably the Government had little choice but to site the HS2 centre in Birmingham, given the recent show they have made of emphasising the benefits for the UK outside of London. The move is set to bring 1,500 jobs to the city, and the Government and City Council have announced the creation of the Birmingham Curzon Urban Regeneration Company to drive development in the area surrounding Birmingham’s HS2 station, with the aim of delivering 14,000 new jobs, up to 6 million sq. ft. of office space, as well as 2,000 homes and an extension to the current Metro tram system.
The new building will house up to 1,500 HS2 Ltd employees and the first phase is expected to open in 2015. Some employees will transfer from London but the majority are expected to be new jobs. They will include engineers and designers and support staff. The Government and its partners believe the project provides a blueprint for UK office developments by other local authorities.
Yet another politically charged development is the relocation of Astra Zeneca to its new Cambridge research facility. The commitment of Astra Zeneca to UK R&D lay at the heart of its successful defence against Pfizer’s £69bn takeover bid earlier this year. The issue was further complicated by the proposed move away from its Alderley Edge campus facility to a new location in the South East, sparking more debate about the brain drain from the North of England.
Plans have now been unveiled for the new £330 million development just South of Cambridge city centre. The new centre has been designed by Herzog & de Meuron and will be home to some 2,000 staff as the company seeks to take advantage of the region’s expertise in biotechnology and other cutting edge know-how. The architects claim the new design draws on Cambridge’s historic traditions by not only embracing a campus structure but also incorporating features such as courtyards. Occupation of the building is expected to start in 2016.
Rather less controversially, Canary Wharf Group has won outline planning consent for the huge 4.9 million sq ft Wood Wharf extension which will add thirty new buildings to the firm’s Docklands estate. The development includes 2.6m sq ft of residential, 3,100 new homes as well as a school, local facilities, a hotel, parkland and around 1.9 m sq ft of offices which the developer claims will be particularly attractive to firms working in the technology, media and telecoms (TMT) sector who are struggling to find appropriate space in London’s thriving market. Completion of the first phase of the development will coincide with the completion of the Crossrail mega project in 2018.