“Gloucester is a city on the up and it is now really going places”, was the positive message to Gloucestershire business people.
Addressing a Business West networking breakfast of the Gloucester Chamber of Commerce, Marketing Gloucester’s chief executive, Jason Smith, said: “Gloucester is a city on the up. We are beginning to see a real sea change here—there are diggers everywhere”.
And the president of the Gloucester Chamber, Mark Boyce told the meeting: “Today is a good indication of the way Gloucester is growing and progressing. We are going places and you can see the momentum building.”
Jason Smith said an extra 1900 jobs had been created in the city over the last four and a half years from the tourism initiatives and events like the Tall Ships- created and run by Marketing Gloucester.
He added: “The city is holding its own in terms of retail footfall and our events have had a lot to do with that. Last year, we overtook Cheltenham with our number of tourists.
“Gloucester is now the premier tourist attraction in terms of the conurbations in this county. We can increase that by putting on more of these events and it is fact that tourism to the city has created an extra 1900 jobs in the last four and a half years”.
Jason said there had been great enthusiasm for the city’s BID (Business Improvement District) by companies in the city centre with over 700 interviews conducted to ask businesses what they would like to see happen over the next five years.
He told the breakfast at Bill’s in The Quays: “Gloucester is now recognised as the 11th most safe place in the country.
“It is the fourth in the country for the best type of customer service and the second friendliest city in the country.
“But it is number 1 according to a survey for community spirit, and that is indicative as to where Gloucester is at the moment”.
Voting by businesses in the city centre to secure the BID continues until the end of June. Jason said that the cash contributions by local businesses to become part of it could be as low as a decent cup of coffee a week.
“One of the things built into the BID business plan is for 200 hours a week of registered security guards on the streets of the city”, said Jason. ”They will have real powers to ensure we have safe streets.”
Mark Boyce said that his hundred Chamber of Commerce members were fully behind the BID, and that businesses joining would be offered free membership of the Chamber for a year.
He commented: “The initial scepticism has now faded away for the fiscal and social regeneration of Gloucester and we are only part of the way on our journey.
“The Chamber is fully supportive of the Gloucester BID. We see this as the next critical step in the development of our city centre”.
MEPC has announced the appointment of Knight Frank and VSL and Partners as letting agents for its new speculative development at Park Drive East, Milton Park.
The development was one of the first to secure planning permission since the EU referendum and will be the largest in Oxfordshire’s recent history, helping accommodate the continued demand for quality office, laboratory and high-tech space across the county.
Park Drive East comprises three separate buildings (141, 142 and 143 Park Drive East), totalling 110,000 sq ft, which includes a 42,000 sq ft Grade-A office building, as well as two hi-tech laboratory facilities totalling 68,000 sq ft sq ft. The Grade A office building is expected to complete by the end of the year, while the two remaining buildings are expected to complete in Spring 2018.
Philip Campbell, Commercial Director at MEPC, said: “Launching this scheme will pave the way for existing residents to grow and will offer the opportunity for MEPC to welcome new companies to Milton Park who we know will be in good company with the existing science cluster mix here. MEPC’s close links with the world’s premier university at Oxford continues to anchor Milton Park as a destination for science and technology and a premium destination for business. We’re really pleased to have Ryan Dean (Knight Frank) and Tom Barton (VSL and Partners) on board and look forward to working closely with them both.”
Ryan Dean, Partner at Knight Frank, said : “Park Drive East is a major development for Milton Park and we are excited to be working with the MEPC team again. I am confident that these fantastic buildings, in this world-class business location are already attracting good interest. There is currently a lack of existing options of this size in the marketplace and these buildings will fit the bill perfectly. We are looking forward to filling the buildings with best-in-class occupiers and believe that as an attractive proposition, businesses looking to move to the area will not be disappointed.”
Tom Barton, Partner at VSL added: “We are delighted to be involved in this scheme and have already had a good level of interest so far and urge any companies who are looking for this kind of space to register their interest as soon as possible to avoid disappointment.”
Located in the heart of the Science Vale UK Enterprise Zone, Milton Park is one of Europe’s largest and most successful integrated business, science and technology parks under single-ownership. It is now home to over 9,000 people and 250 organisations.
MEPC is the manager and developer of Milton Park and for further information, please visit www.miltonpark.co.uk
St. Modwen, land owner and lead developer of four key developments in Gloucestershire, is accelerating its programme of speculative building in response to continued strong demand for more commercial space across the area.
The regeneration specialist has recently submitted a planning application, in partnership with Stroud District Council, to deliver nine more speculative commercial units, for sale or rent, at its £150m mixed use scheme, Littlecombe, in Dursley. Subject to planning consent, this flexible accommodation will offer occupiers 18,350 sq ft of new business space, in unit sizes ranging from 1,300 sq. ft. to 8,600 sq. ft. Littlecombe Business Park is already home to 11 business occupiers. This next phase of speculative commercial building will further strengthen the Business Park’s appeal for small businesses and provide the potential to attract up to 70 more jobs for the local area. The nine new units will be completed for sale or rent, in autumn 2017.
Additional commercial space is also underway at St. Modwen’s Gateway 12 development, off junction 12 of the M5. Scheduled to complete in October 2017, occupiers will have a choice of two detached speculative units, 39,000 and 41,000 sq. ft. in size, each capable of flexible subdivision of the internal space to accommodate the needs of any warehousing or industrial operator. This £4.4m construction contract is being delivered for St. Modwen by local firm, Barnwood Construction. It follows on from the completion and sale of the first two 40,000 sq. ft. speculative units last year to kitchen firm, ProCook and home furnishing supplier, Warwick Fabrics.
Pete Davies, Senior Development Manager for St. Modwen in the South West, says:
“Demand for good quality commercial space in Gloucestershire, as with much of the South West, remains buoyant and we are accelerating our speculative building across the region this year to satisfy market demand and attract more inward investment and jobs to the area.”
The £150m mixed-use development at Littlecombe, and the £22m Gateway 12 development at Waterwells Business Park, are two of four key sites being developed by St. Modwen in Gloucestershire, alongside Quedgeley West and neighbouring Quedgeley East Business Parks at junction 12 of the M5. Other St. Modwen developments with design and build opportunities in the South West include Skypark at junction 29 of the M5 near Exeter; Firepool in Taunton; Locking Parklands in Weston-super-Mare off junction 21 of the M5; Clevedon Business Park off junction 20 of the M5, and Access 18 Avonmouth off junction 18 of the M5.www.ashproperty.co.uk
Oxford commercial property agents, VSL & Partners has let offices at Oasis Business Park, Eynsham to lens technology specialists Adlens Ltd, which is soon to move out of the City Centre.
Over the last ten years, Adlens has grown from an extraordinary philanthropic initiative co-founded by venture philanthropist James Chen, into a global enterprise leading the development and sale of adjustable focus eyewear.
Adlens will move from three Oxford City locations to consolidate their headquarters, sales and marketing operations and state-of-the art R&D facility into one location. They will occupy two ground floor office suites at Chilbrook at Oasis Park comprising 8,479 sq ft with 33 parking spaces. VSL & Partners represented landlords Staffordshire County Council Pension Fund and agreed a 10-year lease.
James Milligan, CEO Office & Facilities Manager at Adlens explains of the move: “We have enjoyed significant evolution as a company which has meant that our current City Centre premises are no longer serving our needs. With our move, we will not only have better facilities for all teams to collaborate under one roof, but also the added space and the flexibility to evolve further in the future. We are currently going through an extensive fit out which will bring all of our departments together, not just boosting productivity, but company culture also. Although out of the city centre itself, we are still close enough to benefit from transport links, but without the longer commute that the city center traffic presented for mos.”Richard Venables, Director of VSL & Partners says: “It is interesting to see an Oxford City Centre based firm moving out of town. Oasis Business Park is a perfect fit for their business, not only does it combine their operations under one roof, but it also brings Adlens closer to like-minded research and development businesses like Polar Ventures and Amplivox who also operate from the park.”
Another former pub, this time at Gretton near Winchcombe is to be re-developed for housing, along with a period barn and adjacent land.
The Bugatti pub site is in the middle of the village and will be converted and extended to create a large four-bedroom home, with conversion and extension of a period barn to create a three-bedroom home and a new detached three-bedroom home to the south of the site.
Tewkesbury Borough Council granted full planning permission on January 27 2017 (planning ref: 16/00944/FUL).
Harry Breakwell from Bruton Knowles’ Gloucester office said: “The attractive scheme has been sympathetically designed noting the central location within the Cotswold village of Gretton.
“With another pub business close by, Enterprise Inns stated it had become increasingly difficult to sustain the Bugatti in its former role.”
The new homes will provide a total of 5,176 sq ft of living space.
“While there will be some sadness to see a pub close down, the new buildings will make an attractive addition and help maintain Gretton as a thriving village.”
Gloucester has been selected as one of the first 30 local authorities to take part in a partnership scheme aimed at delivering much-needed starter homes.
Successful councils will now be tasked with identifying likely building opportunities on Brownfield sites within their area.
Aimed exclusively at first-time buyers between the ages of 23-40, the new homes will be sold at least 20 per cent below market value with support from the Government’s £1.2 billion Starter Homes Land Fund.
With construction due to begin on the first schemes later this year, Bruton Knowles’ Town Planner Paul Barton believes the cash could help activate sites not considered viable because of clean-up costs.
“The fundamental misconception is that every piece of abandoned or derelict industrial land is ‘shovel ready’ for new housing.
“But while Brownfield land with planning permission for housing can generally be bought more cheaply, sites have been slow coming forward as they often need expensive remedial works before they are ready for the bulldozers.”
As one of the first 30 local authorities chosen, Gloucester City Council will work with the Homes and Communities Agency to identify the best sites for the new homes.
Suitable commercial sites could include derelict or abandoned shops, offices, industrial premises or retail centres.
The HCA received 79 expressions of interest from 120 local authorities across the country.
Occupancy levels in serviced office and co-working space across Oxfordshire are at an all-time high according to a recent review carried out by leading commercial property agents, VSL & Partners.
The flexible office market has, for over 30 years, provided growing businesses with an effective alternative to the traditional office. The rise in start-up culture, the rocketing demand for short-term lets, and the OxLEP’s investment funding is fuelling further growth in Oxfordshire, with two new centres just opened and a further two to open in the next 18 months.
The VSL review carried out in December 2016, investigated the serviced and innovation centre market in Oxford and Oxfordshire. The report uncovers 42 different centres providing a total of 502,000 sq ft of flexible office space, of which 45% is located in and around Oxford. The largest provider is Oxford Innovation with 110,000 sq ft (22% of the total space).
The report finds that the average size of a centre is 14,000 sq ft. Over 25 centre’s were contacted with all reporting occupancy rates of between 85 and 100% and many reporting a waiting list.
Richard Venables, director of VSL & Partners says: “Not so long ago, serviced offices were considered a fringe element of the commercial property industry, suitable as a stepping-stone for startups and small businesses. But as the sector has grown, so too has its reputation as a sustainable workplace model for all sizes of businesses, including large corporations. Couple this with the growing number of start-up companies in the county and the potential for further growth in this sector is huge.”
“The attraction for business is that these facilities offer flexible licence arrangements which allow for growth and contraction and also the benefit of a fixed all-inclusive package to contain costs.’’
From start-ups to multi-national corporations, Oxfordshire continues to attract some of the brightest entrepreneurial brains and is noted as one of the five top Technology Innovation Ecosystems in the word, with more than 1,500 high-tech companies employing some 43,000 people.
According to figures released by StartUp Britain, the campaign group for entrepreneurs, there were 4,544 new companies created in Oxfordshire in 2015 this includes Oxford, South Oxfordshire, West Oxfordshire, Vale of White Horse and Cherwell. 2016 figures, released on 16th January 2017 show that across Britain more than 650,000 new ventures were founded, a rise of almost 50% on the previous year. 2017 is expected to be another record-breaking year.
The Oxford and Oxfordshire City Deal announced in 2014 allocated £30m Government finance and £37.5M private sector match funding for the development of four innovation hubs in Oxfordshire to support the county’s increasing number of innovative start-ups and university ‘spin-out’ companies.
This summer saw the opening of the first two at:
· The Begbroke Institute of Advance Technology - providing 20,000 sq ft of wet/dry lab and office space
· The Culham (RACE) Remote Applications in Challenging Environments facility - 30,000 sq ft of mixed engineering space
A further two centres are set to open in 2017:
· The Oxford BioEscalator, Old Road Campus, Headington which will provide 15,000 sq ft of innovations space within the world’s leading medical research hub to catalyze the commercialization of clinical research.
· Harwell Innovation Hub. A 40,000 sq ft innovation centre and amenity facility within a new building called The Quad.
Despite this huge investment into providing new homes for early stage companies, availability in Oxford is still very constrained according to the “Oxfordshire Innovation Engine Update” report published by OxLEP in May 2016. Equally the Oxford City Council “Oxford Economic Growth Strategy” published in 2013 also identified the need for greater innovation space in the city.
The OxLEP has identified five key business growth clusters in Oxfordshire which include: life sciences, electronic sensors, automotive engineering, creative, and digital and space. The challenge moving forward will be to meet the requirements of these businesses which have diverse operational requirements including the need for lab and starter workshop space. Even with the addition of the four new innovation hubs there is still limited supply to meet the current demand. The lack of new office development over recent years and the shrinking supply of space has means opportunities for new innovation or serviced centres are scarce. Not all buildings are suitable as they need to be capable of easy subdivision and new buildings often lead to prohibitively expensive rental costs.
A recent study by property academics* states the UK serviced office market overall could grow from the current £16bn to £126bn by 2025. It also says that the UK is the largest and most mature serviced office market globally, having grown by 31% since 2008. With approximately 2,300 serviced office centres nationally, the UK accounts for 36% of the international market.
“With national growth in the serviced office market in mind, the current occupancy rate in Oxfordshire and the ongoing growth in the science and innovation sectors in the county, flexible working is clearly here to stay. Those landlords who embrace the opportunities for growth in this sector, and adapt their thinking and space accordingly, will inevitably reap the reward“ says Richard.
Two Rivers Housing is building 22 affordable and energy-efficient one and two-bedroom homes at the former site of the old Gloucester British School in Wellington Street.
The school opened in 1841 but the site has been derelict and unsightly for many years after the majority of the school buildings were demolished in the 1960s. As part of the City Council’s bid to enhance the area, encourage investment and regeneration, the new homes will make a more positive contribution to the street scene as well as help to address the demand for affordable properties.
The site is within the Eastgate and St Michael’s Conservation Area and Two Rivers Housing has worked very closely with the Local Planning Authority and Conservation Officer to make sure the development does not impact upon any listed buildings or heritage assets and complies with all legal acts, guidelines and specifications. Furthermore, it has been reported as ‘an enhancement to the significance of the conservation area as it will positively respond to special interest and local detailing’.
The new development is being built using materials that respect those already established in the area. The design will be sympathetic to the surrounding Victorian terraces using both traditional and modern materials. The old flagstone and memorial stones that were present at the site have been carefully removed by Gloucester City Council and are now in their safe-keeping. The three plaques will be incorporated into the new building in positions agreed with the Conservation/Planning Officer.
Stephen Ingram, Development Manager for Two Rivers Housing, commented: “We were delighted to have the go-ahead for this development. It will help to provide much-needed affordable housing in the area and is ideally situated for people who want to be close to the town centre. It is also making good use of a plot of land that has been empty for a long time and will visually up-lift the whole area”.
Two Rivers Housing: for you – for your community – not for profitThe homes should be ready to welcome their new residents in March 2018.
Construction work at MEPC’s Park Drive East development at Milton Park has commenced – and is the first milestone in the 12-month development pipeline for one of the regions’ largest speculative office and laboratory developments.
Park Drive East will be comprised of three separate buildings (141, 142 and 143 Park Drive), and includes a Grade-A office building as well as two hi-tech laboratory facilities. The Grade A office building is expected to complete by the end of the year, which will quickly accommodate the ongoing demand for high-quality office and laboratory space in Oxfordshire. The two remaining buildings are expected to complete in spring 2018.
The development is situated on a 7.6-acre site located towards the eastern end of the leading science and business park. It falls within the Science Vale UK Enterprise Zone, which means businesses taking space in the new scheme can apply for business rates discounts of up to £275,000.
Park Drive East will respond to the ongoing demand for quality office and laboratory space in Oxfordshire and neighbouring areas. The buildings are designed and specified with a high level of flexibility in mind to appeal to science and technology companies embarking on research and development activities. New occupiers will benefit from being close to the already impressive occupier mix at Milton Park.
A breaking ground ceremony took place on Friday 3rd February at Park Drive East to mark the start of construction. In attendance were James Dipple, CEO of MEPC, Philip Campbell, Commercial Director at MEPC, local MP, Ed Vaizey and the onsite team of multi-disciplinary contractor, Buckingham Group Contracting Ltd, which has been appointed to carry out the construction work.
Ed Vaizey, local MP for Didcot and Wantage, said: “I’m pleased to have been a part of this exciting ground breaking ceremony marking one of the largest speculative development builds in Oxfordshire. MEPC’s commitment to this project shows that Milton Park is still one of the top performing Enterprise Zone’s in the country and I’m looking forward to seeing the life sciences cluster in Oxford grow as a result. ”
James Dipple, CEO, MEPC said: “Milton Park is firmly established as an anchor destination for life sciences in our region, particularly due to its close links to nearby Oxford University and its Life Science Division, which ranks first globally and therefore an attractive space for upcoming companies. Park Drive East will provide businesses with the opportunity to join an established community of like-minded businesses, helping to satisfy requirements from within our existing customer base. We look forward to announcing new lettings at Park Drive East in the near future.”
In developing workspaces suitable for the thriving science and technology sector, MEPC is able to drive job creation and growth in the region. The new development at Milton Park has the potential to create 1,000 new jobs, which will support the Vale of White Horse and South Oxfordshire District Councils’ plans to deliver 20,000 new jobs over the next 20 years.