Office sale could bring relocation boost

AGENTS handling the sale of a multi-million pound employment site close to the A14 have reported an “extraordinary” response from potential buyers, bringing hopes of an employment boost.

AGENTS handling the sale of a multi-million pound employment site close to the A14 have reported an “extraordinary” response from potential buyers, bringing hopes of an employment boost.

Energy company E.ON announced last September that it was to close its offices at Wherstead Park, outside Ipswich, with the loss of more than 300 jobs.

However, with operations on the site now winding down, Bidwells has begun marketing the site on behalf of E.ON and the firm says the level interest indicates a deal is likely to follow relatively swiftly, with the possibility of new jobs coming to the area.

The Wherstead Park complex - previously the headquarters of the Eastern Electricity Board, which after privatisation passed to owners including Hanson and TXU before being acquired by E.ON in 2003 -ranges from a Grade II-listed mansion to offices dating from the 1980s.

John Spice from the Ipswich office of Bidwells, which has been advising E.ON on local property matters for some time, said that Wherstead Park was in some respects a difficult asset to market.

“There are not many listed building with modern offices attached and set in park land,” he said. “However, we decided it would be of interest to quite a range of people.”

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That hunch appears to have proved correct, with the launch of advertising and brochures earlier this month having attracted interest from developers, large potential owner-occupiers and smaller businesses interested in occupying part of the site.

Mr Spice said the existing buildings were well specified and well maintained, and would make a “ready to go” headquarters, representing an opportunity for a relocation from London, although they could also be split between a number of smaller occupiers.

From a development perspective, there was scope for ancillary uses such as hotel, conference and health/fitness facilities while a stable block on the site offered some residential potential. A neighbouring area of land, under separate ownership but also designated fro employment use, might also come into the equation, he added.

Two viewing days for potential buyers have been already been held and, such has been the level of interest, a third has now been arranged.

Mr Spice thanked the staff at E.ON for their understanding during the viewing sessions and acknowledged it was “not the best of times” for them in the period leading up to their departure from the site.

Bidwells is quoting a guide price for Wherstead Park of £6.5million. There is already one offer on the table and others are anticipated before the closing date, which is currently set at April 9 but could be brought forward subject to the level of firm interest.

“The response has been extraordinary, and in some ways counter to where the commercial property market might be seen to be at the moment,” said Mr Spice.

“Wherstead Park is a genuinely unique property and we are confident it will sell, and sell well.”