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In its biggest deal to date, Howard Group has sold St John’s in Bedford, one of the region’s largest bulky goods retail parks and a long-standing asset of the company, to Schroder Real Estate Investment Trust (SREIT) in a transaction worth £31.8m.

The 130,000 sq ft estate, which opened as a retail park in 1989, is currently occupied by household name tenants including PC World, Homebase, Mothercare and Halfords. The sale follows a £2m investment in the park over the last two years which included a complete refurbishment of the signage and fascias, as well as the creation of new retail space to house Majestic Wine, Costa Coffee and Hobbycraft.

St John's Retail ParkThe group started developing the site in 1987 and it became home to the company’s headquarters in the 1990s, sitting alongside the Group’s transport, warehouse and garage divisions. Howard House, the Group’s former Bedford purpose-built head office has for many years been occupied by the Environment Agency but DHL recently took over a significant part of the building, which is included in the sale.

Nicholas Bewes, Howard Group’s CEO, commented: “The sale of St John’s represents an important step towards repositioning our £100m investment portfolio and is about looking ahead to our next 80 years. As we move forward, we continue to acquire and develop well situated, quality property in Cambridge and the wider region as the city’s prosperity and growth shows no sign of abating.”

St-Johns-3Duncan Owen, Global Head of Real Estate at Schroders, commented: “St. John’s Retail Park offers good fundamentals and an attractive initial income return. The acquisition follows the disposal of low or non-income producing property and results in SREIT being substantially invested with a fully covered dividend.”

Howard Group will retain its £10m investment in the nearby Interchange Park in Bedford. The company’s 53,000 sq ft B&Q development in the town was sold in late 2013 and it is close to completing the second phase of the development, occupied by M&S Simply Foods, Costa Coffee and car dealership Motorvogue.