Development sites at ports in Newport, Cardiff and Port Talbot feature in a new initiative by Associated British Ports to bring forward more than 1,000 acres of land to support the UK’s supply chain, manufacturing and renewable energy sectors.

ABP operates 21 ports around the UK and is making 14 sites, encompassing a total of 1,075 acres available for a range of business uses.

ABP’s chief executive officer, Henrik L. Pedersen, comments: “Our ports – with their superb connectivity both domestic and internationally, together with established infrastructure – already play a key role in the UK manufacturing, supply chain and energy sectors.

“This initiative will enable a growing number of businesses to leverage our land, property partnering expertise and power capacity. We believe this can make a significant contribution to the country’s economic vibrancy and supply chain efficiency.

“ABP is a strategic partner for UK businesses assisting the country’s post-pandemic recovery, and achieving the common goal of decarbonisation.”

The four Welsh sites encompassed by the initiative are: ABP Business Park, Cardiff (36 acres); Atlantic Side South Dock & West Way, Newport (two sites of 73 acres and 18 acres respectively); and Harbourside, Port Talbot (85 acres).

A first tranche of 14 sites is being brought forward which, in addition to the Welsh ports, are at locations including Hull, Southampton, Liverpool, Immingham, Grimsby and Ipswich. Next year will see the release of further opportunities. All locations benefit from strong rail and road connectivity plus renewable energy generation.

During the next 18 months, ABP has committed to spending more than £5m to make the sites ready for development, obtaining appropriate outline planning consents, technical understanding and carrying out essential land preparation.

Bruce Robertson, head of supply chain and consumer advisory at CBRE – which is advising ABP on the initiative – comments: “The country needs more distribution hubs adjacent to major conurbations with a good labour supply and which can connect into our road and rail networks. These ABP sites are superbly situated to do just that.

“The need for more warehouse space to fulfil online retailing – which is growing and was accelerated by the pandemic – plus ongoing labour shortages are putting unprecedented pressure on the UK’s supply chain.”

The UK currently has the third highest e-commerce penetration ratio globally at 24 per cent with annual online spend of approaching £100bn. The online spending ratio is forecast to rise to 32 per cent by 2025. It is estimated that for every additional £1bn of online spend around one million sq ft of logistics space is needed to fulfil delivery.

Port-centric manufacturing projects have already seen ABP partner with a wide range of businesses to co-invest in bespoke facilities. And as the UK reshapes its energy generation strategy, port locations will play an increasingly important role in supporting the offshore wind industry.