INITIAL ground work has started on new corporate headquarters and a technical centre at Solent business Park at Whiteley for Britain's National Air Traffic Services, to be handy to the Swanwick air traffic control complex.

The first phase of the development will involve three new interlinked buildings providing 200,000 sq ft of office accommodation to be built at the business park. It will enable the air traffic services to consolidate its present operations at Holborn, West Drayton, Gatwick and Basingstoke into a single headquarters and support services centre. Up to 750 staff are due to move in.

Business Park owner, Arlington Securities, has pre-let the office accommodation on 20 year leases, under a deal worth £3.43m a year. Arlington is also providing 23,000 sq ft of fully serviced temporary office accommodation - available for occupation by April, for a minimum of twelve months - for more than 200 personnel, allowing phased relocation into the new headquarters at Solent.

National Air Traffic Services will be paying £17.15 a square foot in rent for the new headquarters complex.

The first phase of the development on which construction has just started, designed by Aukett Europe, will consist of three interlinked buildings of 49,000 sq ft, 43,000 sq ft and 36,000 sq ft. It is due to be completed to shell and core in November this year. In addition, Nats has entered into a three year option for a further 70,000 sq ft in two adjoining interlinked buildings.

Angus Lachlan at Arlington Securities comments: "We are extremely pleased to have secured such a major pre-let as Nats. Not only will we provide the company with modern new HQ accommodation but it is particularly satisfying to have fulfilled its relocation brief by supplying conveniently located, high quality, temporary serviced accommodation as staff are moved into the new buildings.

Irene Spencer, partner with the Southampton property firm Vail Williams Partner said: "As the south's largest letting of 2002, this is a considerable achievement in what has been the regions' most difficult letting market for ten years and demonstrates that quality developments in strong regional centres can continue to buck the market.

"In addition, it underlines Solent's consistently good track record with pre-lettings since 1994 to companies including Zurich Insurance, Skanska and Exxon ."

John Wallace, group property manager, Nats said: "Solent Business Park is close to our main operational base at Swanwick and, with good road links and local amenities, is the best location for our new headquarters and technical centre. By consolidating as many of our technical and support activities as possible at one site, we will be able to rationalise our property portfolio and introduce new ways of working.''

Jonathan Edwards Consulting acted for National Air Traffic Services while Vail Williams acted jointly with Strutt and Parker on behalf of Arlington Securities.