Column: Traditional industries are in need of premises

Martin Crosthwaite of Sheffield-based Crosthwaite Commercial.
Martin Crosthwaite of Sheffield-based Crosthwaite Commercial.

Column by Martin Crosthwaite, a chartered surveyor at Sheffield-based Crosthwaite Commercial

Last week, plans were announced for a second Advanced Manufacturing Research Centre on the former Sheffield Airport, to include nine hi-tech buildings.

This will closely follow the new Factory2050 scheme which is approaching completion.

Schemes such as this are a fantastic addition to the industrial landscape of the city.

Projects like this are successfully attracting millions of pounds of inward investment, closely linked in many cases to The University of Sheffield, which is seeing a sharp increase in linked courses, particularly engineering.

Unfortunately, however, the more traditional industrial base is struggling to find suitable premises in order to expand.

This is holding them back in many instances.

Requirement circulars for industrial units upwards of 10,000 sq ft are commonplace amongst commercial property agents and there is simply insufficient stock out there to satisfy demand.

These companies are not looking for the costly, energy efficient, hi-tech super factories, they simply need cost efficient sheds, ideally with overhead cranage and a decent yard.

Why have we got to this position in such an industrial based city?

Basically, because virtually no-one is building new stock, primarily due to cost.

One only has to drive down the Don Valley and see the vast areas of traditionally industrial land which has been cleared and redeveloped for retail shopping, car showrooms, leisure schemes, etc.

Still redundant is the former Betafence Wire Factory site on Sheffield Road, almost 30 acres of industrial land which now awaits a start on site for a 395,000 square foot IKEA retail warehouse.

This might create jobs, but developments such as this drive up the price of industrial land and consequently makes the construction of new warehouse and workshop units simply uneconomical for many businesses.

Unfortunately, there is no easy answer!

As some companies upgrade their industrial processes using improved technology and re-locate to the newer, hi-tech schemes, this frees up some of the cheaper buildings, however this is only on a small scale and unlikely to go anywhere near satisfying the latent demand out there.

Sheffield needs more “second hand sheds.”

If there was a way to develop such schemes economically, then this would be an enormous boost to the local manufacturing base.

Until a solution is found, however, the search for sheds will continue.