Hanson in 30m pounds shops plan: Retail and leisure project earmarked for Bristol factory site

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HANSON, the conglomerate whose interests range from bricks to whirlpool baths, is proposing a pounds 30m retail and leisure development in Bristol in its latest initiative to extract value from its surplus property.

The scheme, which is due to be submitted for planning permission later this month, would be built on the site of a Wills Tobacco factory that has been empty for about two years, but which costs Hanson pounds 1.5m a year simply to maintain.

A review by the Whicheloe Macfarlane Partnership concluded that the best use for the land would be to demolish the factory and create about 325,000 sq ft of leisure facilities, shops and 2,250 car parking spaces. The group estimates that the project could provide 1,000 jobs when it is completed, which, subject to planning consent, could be as early as next year.

Hanson is Britain's second-largest property company, after Land Securities, with a portfolio worth about pounds 4bn, according to DTZ Debenham Thorpe.

Malcolm Ablett, managing director of Hanson Properties, would not confirm those figures but said that the group had a 'large surplus portfolio built up through acquisitions'.

A large part of that is land, which is now being developed. The Bristol site was acquired through the takeover of Imperial Tobacco eight years ago.

Another scheme, which recently received planning permission, is for the pounds 500m development of a new town south of Peterborough, which will incorporate commercial and industrial developments, retail schemes and housing for 13,000 people. That is on land used to extract clay for brick manufacture by London Brick, acquired in 1983.

Hanson, which does not act as developer but enters joint ventures with property companies, would bear the cost of demolishing the Bristol factory and installing services. The remaining development is likely to be financed by institutions.

Mr Ablett said that yesterday's announcement of the Bristol scheme had already attracted calls from developers interested in participating. He would not disclose the profits his division contributes to Hanson. 'Like all divisions, we strive to make a return for our shareholders.' He added that the division was expected to make the same returns as other parts of the group.

Hanson aims for a return on capital of at least 20 per cent.