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17 December, 2021 - 21:01 By Tony Quested

New Bidwells chief takes charge after record year of Oxford-Cambridge Arc investment

New senior partner Nick Pettit wants leading property adviser Bidwells to capitalise on the “explosion of opportunity” presented by a record year of overseas investment into the Oxford-Cambridge Arc to help deliver “good economic growth” in the area and wider societal benefits for the UK.

Bidwells research found that £970 million of investment was made into offices and labs in the Arc in the first nine months of the year, with the year-end figure set to pass £1 billion, compared to £452m in 2020.

The head of building consultancy takes over from Patrick McMahon who is handing over the top job after a 12-year spell as the firm’s figurehead to head up Bidwells’ new Mixed-Use Development team.

Pettit will also oversee the 183-year old firm’s Scotland business but will count the division’s experienced managing partner Finlay Clark as his deputy senior partner. 

Bidwells is at the forefront of two of the most dynamic real estate markets in the UK: the Oxford-Cambridge Arc and the emerging field of Natural Capital.

Pettit said: “The international spotlight is now on our core markets after the pandemic showed just how resilient and innovative they are, with global capital lining up to invest. 

“We have seen an explosion of interest and opportunity in both the Arc and sustainable investment with major funds now targeting exposure to Natural Capital assets.

“The science and technology sectors also offer the chance to deliver unparalleled societal benefits for the UK. Where would we be without the Covid-19 vaccine discovered and developed in the Arc? 

“But we must ensure the places we are developing to support the growth of these sectors are contributing societal, environmental and economic benefits for us all.”

Pettit will assume his new role on January 1 and continue the firm’s long-term strategy of focusing on the Golden Triangle of Oxford, Cambridge, London and Milton Keyes, and the Forestry and Renewables sectors, which Bidwells leads on in Scotland.

“I’m thrilled to be leading the firm at this moment in its long history, said Nick. “It’s certainly not my intention to take Bidwells in a new direction. 

“I want to ensure we continue our fantastic work in science and technology and Natural Capital, and to ensure that all our teams continue supporting the vision and ambition that our local, national and international clients are now showing for the Arc.”

Pettit joined Bidwells in November 2003 to set up and grow its Project Management team and develop its Building Consultancy division. He became an equity partner in 2020 and has led the firm’s recent work setting its diversity & inclusion strategy and leading its sustainability work.  

“We began making the links between zero-carbon development, biodiversity net gain through development and carbon offsetting a while ago now,” said Pettit. 

“The whole property industry now recognises the importance of delivering good, green development and our teams really get how to go about doing it. These next few years should be really exciting for the development industry and Bidwells.

“Covid-19 has supercharged the life sciences sector but the Arc has really began maturing into something much bigger. Clusters are now evolving across the region, not just in life sciences, but in a whole stream of converging technologies and scientific breakthroughs. 

“What is more, we are also leading in another fast-emerging field in Scotland and across the UK as our work in forestry, biodiversity net gain and Natural Capital becomes as central part of the sustainability strategies of developers and investors across the country and internationally.

“We’ve worked hard as a firm to get ahead of the evolution of these sectors and the developing nature of ESG markets which I think is really coming into its own now.

“A combination of our global market understanding, competency in the UK’s nature-positive investment markets and deep local knowledge have created a one-of-a-kind offer for our sector.”

Bidwells is today the largest property consultancy firm operating in the Arc with 397 people working across the region to advise 31 Arc-based science and innovation districts – that’s 52 per cent of all science and technology space in the region.

The firm has also been driven in recent years by increasing interest in Natural Capital investment. The firm now manages land hosting at least 80 million trees across the UK, with a value of more than £300m, and approximately half of the coastline of Scotland on behalf of Crown Estate Scotland.

A total of 527 people work across the whole of England and Scotland. Bidwells’ partnership structure allows for its senior partner to serve just two terms but in 2017 the firm’s partners voted unanimously for McMahon to continue for a further four years, an unprecedented third term. 

During his term he oversaw growth in revenues from around £30m to approaching £55m – an 80 per cent increase.

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