If anyone has ever doubted that roads are the engine of economic prosperity, they need only to look at Gloucestershire. Important highway improvements along the M5 spine have made – and will continue to make – a big contribution to commercial property growth along the M5, while west Gloucestershire, in particular, the area around the Dean Forest will continue to struggle because of its relative isolation.
The construction of junction 11A on the M5 and the improvement to the A41, that links with Swindon and the M4, have transformed this area. You only have to look at the dramatic progress at Arlington’s Gloucester Business Park, that is being sustained by a further phase of 6,370 sq m (50,000 sq ft) of speculative development.
Highway to success
The next dramatic change will come as a result of highway improvements, with the opening of junction 12 to the south of Gloucester as a full access motorway junction. Currently, access is only to and from the south and is severely curtailed by weight capacity restrictions on the bridges. The finance is available for the project and work could start in as little as six months.
This will enhance accessibility to the southern side of Gloucester and consolidate the future of locations such as Crest Nicholson’s Waterwells Business Park, which is already a success. Britannia Park and Olympus Business Park have seen new development with the Post Office adding to the list of well known occupiers at Olympus Park, and Vodaphone moving into Britannia. Slough Estates will be hoping to secure planning permission for a comprehensive B1, B2 and B8 development at Javelin Park to the east of the motorway .
Gloucester and Cheltenham are reinforcing their positions as industrial city and office town respectively, in the way that occupational interest is panning out. Cheltenham has been the focus for office demand, although this is perhaps fuelled by lack of land availability for industry, which has always gravitated towards Ashchurch and Tewkesbury where impressive schemes from developers Ashville Properties and Robert Hitchins Properties, respectively, continue to grow.
There are no obvious signs of the status quo changing. Cheltenham continues to prove more attractive to office occupiers as evidenced by the growing needs of companies like Marlborough Sterling. The take-up of large chunks of old unrefurbished office accommodation by residential developers, notably Beaufort Homes, has helped to push up rents. There is now a limited supply of high-quality office accommodation.
There is little significant sign of office demand in Gloucester, and the indications are that the preferred location is to the east – towards the motorway – but Barnwood Fields is pretty well developed and the greenbelt separating Cheltenham and Gloucester will always prove a difficult constraint.
The differences between Cheltenham and Gloucester are also evident in the retail market. Cheltenham has an upmarket image with The Promenade hosting high fashion retailers. Gloucester still remains in Cheltenham’s shadow although it has a thriving A3/pub sector focused on Eastgate Street and King Square.
Stroud continues to hold on to its industrial heritage with manufacturing and distribution uses dominating the market. Industrial activity is focused on the Stroudwater and Old Ends Land area near to junction 13 of the M5 motorway.
The most recent addition to the estate has been a 18,580 sq m (200,000 sq ft) factory for Automold, and elsewhere, speculative construction has commenced on a terrace of small industrial units starting at around 140 sq m (1,500 sq ft) at Saville Garden Estates’ Bath Road Trading Estate.
The relatively prosperous circumstances of Gloucestershire undoubtedly have a good deal to do with the current burgeoning economy, but one of Gloucestershire’s main strengths is that it has a place for all sectors in environments that appeal to all occupiers.
Whether it be upmarket retail shopping or pub opportunities, business park office space or small industrial units, this county has space in which to grow and it is all linked by an improving communications network.