Microsoft mega-deal could spark further industrial projects

Developer Harworth intends to build out a number of industrial schemes with the proceeds of a £107m land sale to Microsoft.

The South Yorkshire firm made a huge return on the Skelton Grange plot in south Leeds – which it bought for £3m less than a decade ago – even accounting for more than £30m of investment in planning consents, power enhancements and site extensions.

Technology giant Microsoft is expected to build a “hyperscale” data centre on the site as well as logistics space. Energy-from-waste, green travel and battery storage infrastructure are also planned.

Harworth said there was a “clear opportunity” to grow its investment portfolio through development of “high-quality logistics space with complementary energy uses”.

“Sites of this nature are well-suited to high-value use classes such as data centres and advanced manufacturing,” added the developer in a statement to the City.

Harworth said its industrial pipeline of 3.5 million square metres included more than 500,000 square metres of space about to enter into development, and more than double that amount just behind in the planning pipeline.

Chief executive Lynda Shillaw said the Skelton Grange sale was the group’s largest ever.

“It highlights Harworth’s capabilities in identifying and acquiring complex sites, creating planning-friendly masterplans that maximise site potential, and deploying timely and effective investments into remediation and infrastructure,” she added.

“This transaction further builds our expertise to include data centres and evidences the growing spectrum of industries that continue to be attracted to the schemes that Harworth brings to the serviced land market.”

She said Harworth currently did 60 per cent of its business in the industrial sector, and intended to increase that to 85 per cent this decade.

West Yorkshire mayor Tracy Brabin said of the Skelton Grange sale: “We’re building the transport infrastructure, talent pipelines and thriving ecosystem we need to create jobs and growth.

“This new investment from Microsoft is a major vote of confidence in our plans, and I look forward to working with them and with Leeds City Council to build a stronger, brighter region.”

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