August 21, 2015
Aerospace giant Rolls-Royce’s decision in 2012 to close its plant in East Kilbride sparked serious concerns among local people about the impact of the closure on the South Lanarkshire town.
The aero-engine repair-and-maintenance plant will move to a more modern home at Inchinnan, near Glasgow Airport, along with its 600-strong workforce by the end of this year.
Rolls-Royce said the 59-year-old East Kilbride plant (pictured) was nearing the end of its life and the move would mean a more efficient working environment, helping the firm to become “even more competitive”.
But local campaigners, led by former Labour MP Michael McCann, have expressed strong opposition to the move, wary of the economic impact of the closure.
The plant will eventually close its doors in December, and the 50-acre site will be put up for sale. However, the company wanted to ensure it had viable planning permission for the site to maximise its value and has appointed Edinburgh-based Manse to draw up plans.
Rival developers Buccleuch, Miller, Muse and CWC Group are also understood to have bid for the development role.
David Mitchell, managing partner at Manse, says the plan is likely to be for a mixed-use, mainly residential scheme comprising around 300 homes, but with some retail space amounting to around 50,000 sq ft, as well as 10 acres of land for commercial development.
The company hopes to submit a planning application by the end of the year. “We will sell the land for residential on to a residential developer, but the commercial parts we might do ourselves,” says Mitchell.
Manse has previous experience in this regard: it gained planning permission for 900 residential units on an 82-acre site on the banks of the Don in Aberdeen, which had a former paper mill on it when Manse bought it in 2010.
Palmer Capital, which backs Manse, funded the £10m acquisition of the site, and after planning permission was granted, the project was sold for more than £30m.
But what about the opposition in East Kilbride? Mitchell says that while some have been critical of the move the local council has been positive.
“There’s an East Kilbride action group to promote the site and we’ve met some of those people,” he explains. “We’ve been impressed with their attitude.”
Palmer’s chairman and founder, Ray Palmer, says the council’s help reflects the firm’s past experience.
“When you get a big employer leaving an area it actually attracts greater enthusiasm from the council to be active in assisting,” he explains.
If the plans go ahead, East Kilbride could benefit from new homes and commercial space and the blow of Rolls-Royce’s departure could be softened.
Author: Property Week