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26 July, 2022 - 00:25 By Tony Quested

Savills says more offices are being converted to labs to meet demand

Take-up of office and laboratory space in Cambridge hit just over 192,000 sq ft in the first half of 2022 – in line with last year’s figure. 

Once again this demand was dominated by life science and tech occupiers who combined accounted for 76 per cent of all transactions.

Savills, which released the market intel, says that take-up remained resilient in the first half due to strong occupier demand and warned that the lack of supply – along with zero availability of existing fitted lab space until at least 2023/ 2024 – has hampered the ability of businesses to identify suitable standing stock.

It says that at present, there are four speculative schemes of note currently under construction, with just one – adjacent to Cambridge North railway station – set to be ready this year. 

Other developments due for completion over the course of 2023 include three new laboratory buildings totalling c.88,000 sq ft under construction at the Howard Group’s Unity Campus, 67,000 sq ft of new office space at M&G and Wrenbridge’s Brooklands scheme and 100,000 sq ft of laboratory space at Cambridge Biomedical Campus, which is being developed by Prologis. 

Looking ahead, a number of buildings have obtained planning consent in H1 2022, notably at Granta Park. An application has also been lodged at Chesterford Research Park for a further 57,000 sq ft of new laboratory space. However, both are unlikely to be delivered until 2024 and beyond.

Consequently, Savills has seen an uptick in take-up in emerging locations for office buildings being converted to labs. For instance, Vision Park in Histon has seen circa 45,000 sq ft of lab deals complete to three companies including Talga Technologies and Source Bioscience UK, all having relocated from Cambridge Science Park.

In addition, the completion of 160,000 sq ft of mid-tech accommodation at Bourn Quarter has seen a number of new R & D occupiers look to secure space, with c.80 per cent of the scheme now either let or under offer. Following the success of the first phase, a further 110,000 sq ft now has outline consent as part of Phase II.

William Clarke, director in the business space team at Savills Cambridge, says more labs need to be developed to cope with demand. 

In a ‘use it or lose it’ plea to developers with suitable land or buildings, Clarke says: “With new and Grade A office supply critically low and fitted laboratory space not currently available, occupiers have no option but to consider alternative options in the short-term to satisfy critical requirements in order to continue to expand. 

“Given the lack of suitable supply we are likely to see 2022 total take-up figures somewhat muted, but we believe this is not a true reflection of market sentiment.”

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