Feature, Freight News, Logistics, Business

Thames Enterprise Park secures funding – updated

[ February 13, 2019   //   ]

Thames Enterprise Park, unveiled last October has announced a further £8.5m of investment to transform the former Coryton Oil Refinery site into a logistics hub.
The investment will fund land preparation work on 44 hectares of the 168 hectare site by specialist remediation contractors DSM Demolition. It will be focused on the ‘West Site’ which previously formed part of the historic Shell Haven Oil Refinery and Coryton Village, before its closure and demolition in the 1990s. This part of the site will be ready for development in 2020.
Thames Enterprise Park, a joint venture between fuel firm Greenergy and property developer iSec, aims to build a new 5m sq ft ‘superhub’ including a dedicated Food Hub bringing together processing, packaging, storage and distribution. Highly automated warehouses of up to a million sq ft would be available.
The developers also plan to attract renewable fuel and energy producers and the park will include a Sustainable Industries Hub for small and medium sized businesses to research and develop new technologies and techniques for the energy and food logistics industries.
Seven hectares of land will be safeguarded to provide an ecological enhanced corridor along the length of the Shell Haven Creek to compensate for any loss of habitats within land to be remediated. The planning application for the redevelopment of the whole of the site is currently with Thurrock Council and will be determined later this year.
Chief executive of iSEC Group, Stephen Lawrence told FBJ that while the planning process was taking a little longer than anticipated, mainly because of land ownership issues, he hoped for a council planning decision by July this year. The development was however completely in accordance with local planning policy and, if all goes to schedule, the first buildings on the site could be operational by late 2021. Interest by potential users has been brisk and heads of terms (subject to planning permission) have been agreed for 30 acres, with discussions for another 30 acres, which would come close to filling phase 1 of the development. Up to a further three phases of development would be made available later.
He added that he not believe that any further sites could be developed on the same scale in the region and indeed, there were very few potential sites of similar size anywhere within a 50 mile radius of London.
Lawrence sees Thames Enterprise Park as complementary, rather than competing with other developments in the area such as Forth Ports London Distribution Park and Tilbury2 schemes or the logistics park at DP World’s London Gateway port. He said: “Every square metre of space in the region is promoting the cluster effect, especially for food logistics, and whether it’s in our park or in others, it all adds to the story.”
He sees very strong demand for logistics space in the area, saying: “London Gateway port has completely changed the logistics ‘gravity’ of the UK.” He says that with London Gateway container volumes expected to reach 1.8m teu by the end of the year – getting on for half Felixstowe’s total – whereas in the past it made sense to put hubs in the centre of the country, the whole model has altered, particular for food, for which London and the south-east account for 40% of the market. Lawrence argues: “The cost of storage is tiny compared to the cost of distribution, so proximity to London makes sense, as it takes out a lot of primary and secondary distribution and helps to reduce the cost of logistics.”
The new park’s energy business could also benefit from new government legislation encouraging fuel companies to mix conventional fuel with product from plastic waste or old tyres; the London area accounts for a great percentage of the UK’s total of these ‘waste’ products. The region also sits on one of the country’s main aviation fuel pipeline.
Brexit could further tilt the balance in favour of the Thameside region, Lawrence believes. He adds that, in any case, cold storage capacity in the UK is already at a premium, with virtually no spare capacity already. Brexit might also reduce the amount of UK food product going to continental Europe for processing, which could again raise demand for UK storage, while changes in the transport market may encourage more use of rail or freight ferries into the nearby port of Tilbury. Again, the transfer to modes which move freight in large ‘blocks’ could create the need for more warehousing and distribution centres. Lawrence adds: “In many ways, the UK’s distribution network is still operated as it was in the 1980s, when it was all dictated by the major retailers.”