Discovering space for growth – in conversation with Greg Lacey, ABP Head of Property Humber

What does your job at ABP entail?

As a member of the senior leadership team in the Humber, I hold overall responsibility for the estates, asset and development management of a £1.2 billion port centric industrial and logistics property portfolio across the UK’s busiest ports complex in the Humber, including Hull, Goole, Grimsby and Immingham. As well as leading our Humber property function, I work closely with our Commercial, Finance, Operations, Marine, HR and Engineering leads.

I enjoy the role as no day is truly the same in a port environment, there is constantly something new to learn and some fascinating projects being undertaken, especially on emerging energy sectors.

What attracted you to ABP as a business? 

Previously, I was Senior Asset Manager at Tilstone Partners, responsible for the asset, development, and property management of Warehouse REIT PLC’s North West and Yorkshire industrial and logistics portfolio comprising 40 single and multi-let assets across 3.1 million sq. ft. When I started with the business the portfolio was £150m by value, within four and a half years, we hit £1 billion.

I was keen to step back into a larger business and having specialised in industrial and logistics for the last couple of years, a move into the Port industry was very appealing as a new learning curve – I very much see long term growth and opportunity for this niche part of our industry. ABP is primarily and will always be a port business, but we are also a significant property business, and it’s a very exciting time to be embarking on a new strategy with Helen and Ian to move more into strategic asset management and unlock our significant landbank of 1,800 acres plus through new development opportunities.

What three words best describe ABP’s culture?

Pioneering, ambitious and collaborative.

What are the biggest changes you’ve seen at ABP since you joined?

Principally, Helen, Ian and I have worked over the last six months to devise our new property strategy and secure buy-in from our Board. We are now at the exciting stage of implementation and unlocking our new growth pathways.

ABP more recently has also launched Ready for Tomorrow, our new sustainability strategy, there are numerous strands to this strategy, but the standout is 2040 as the target year to achieve Net Zero emissions from our own ABP operations.

Tell us about your portfolio at Humber. 

The portfolio totals 4,000 acres with around 220 customers and a rent roll now in excess of £50 million per annum – in 2023 alone our rental growth is double that of the market which is a real credit to the efforts of my team and it’s clear that demand continues to outweigh the supply of buildings and land. The Port of Immingham is very much the operational heart of the Humber and one of our busiest ABP run operations, whereas the Port of Hull is a more traditional landlord model and also includes our significant development site, HIEP (Humber International Enterprise Park) which has outline planning consent for 4.3m sq. ft. of B2 and B8 uses and half of the site sits in the Freeport area. The Port of Grimsby interestingly is the largest offshore/wind hub in Europe and also home to the Kasbah and Grimsby Dock, once the World’s largest fishing port.

Talk us through your team – who are they, and how does what they do fit into the wider business?

I am responsible for a team of five chartered surveyors – traditionally our focus has been on driving value through active estates management, lease renewals, new lettings, rent reviews and L&T matters, the team also hold excellent knowledge of our Humber wide portfolio and support the wider functions with any property related queries, as well as supporting some of our larger £100m+ infrastructure projects, such as the new Immingham Green Energy Terminal and also the new Immingham Eastern Ro-Ro Terminal.

What big changes are happening in your team right now?
In October we will be joined by our new graduate, Josie which is really exciting. Josie is currently finalising her Masters degree and will then enrol onto her APC and be fully supported by myself and the team to become a Member of the RICS. Josie will be involved in all aspects of Commercial Property, acquisitions, estates management, asset management and development.

I am also ensuring that I continue to support the team with our focus on asset management and acquisitions moving forward, as this is very much my background.

Our new asset management lead and development management lead will work closely with the rest of the team to attract new customer requirements, in-turn, driving new commercial volume over the ports and unlock new development opportunities.

What are the key challenges which you’re excited to overcome in the coming months, and how will the new hires support this?

Our route to revenue growth at ABP is via development. It’s clear in the market that development has become more challenging, land values have not cooled off and there is less transactional evidence to demonstrate such, build costs remain a challenge although I expect them to fall slightly, debt is less available and yields have shifted out . On top of this, Biodiversity Net Gain is set to become statutory planning law in November this year, and development will need to achieve a minimum 10% net gain… another cost line in the appraisal! That said, ABP’s USP is that we can achieve both commercial port revenues through new volumes and rent, when we get this right, our ability to make development viable is far stronger than most ordinary developers. What is very exciting, is that we are speaking daily with new international requirements due to the strong interest in the Freeport and its associated incentives, it will be the role of the new hires to turn such interest into reality. There is a huge amount to go after, onshoring is now a real thing and I believe manufacturing is the new e-commerce for the UK industrial and logistics market.

Contact Daniah Williams MRICS, Business Director – Real Estate, to learn more about working for ABP.

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