Property News - Pipeline record smashed as big centres come to life

The UK is now in the grips of an unprecedented shopping centre development boom, with more floorspace in the pipeline than at any time since records began almost 40 years ago.

Research from CB Hillier Parker shows that there is just under 900,000 sq m of shopping centre floorspace due to complete this year, outstripping the previous record in 1976, when about 860,000 sq m was built.

The overall shopping centre pipeline, taking in space either proposed, with consent or under construction - rose to 5.6 million sq m at the end of 2002, up from 4.9 million sq m a year earlier. The last time such an active development market was seen was in March 1992, when the pipeline stood at 6.6 million sq m.

CB Hillier Parker senior director Mike Prentice said the figures reflect a trend among developers to concentrate on larger shopping centres.

'We see this trend continuing for the foreseeable future as, in a low-inflation economy, it is in the larger markets that the opportunity exists to make a radical shift in the levels of value,' he said. 'Festival Place in Basingstoke, which opened last year, and planned openings this year such as the Bullring in Birmingham, are prime examples of this in practice.'

Out of town, the development pipeline is also growing, despite tight planning restrictions on new development.

The retail warehouse park development pipeline reached almost 2.7 million sq m at the end of last year, up from 2.2 million sq m at the end of 2001, according to CB Hillier Parker's research.

Completions for 2002, at 370,000 sq m, were also well above the 230,000 sq m seen in 2001.