Major property developments are focused on, or close to, these roads and within Taunton. The towns of Bridgwater and Yeovil have also benefited from being close to arterial routes. Frome, the other major town in the north-east of the county, tends to look towards Bath and Bristol for its core business.
Somerset has enjoyed increased activity in the past 12 months. Taunton Town Centre, in particular, has seen good results from its enhancement scheme.
Marks & Spencer's recently established presence has affected trading patterns in the town. There has been more activity in the stretch of East Street surrounding Marks & Spencer and opposite, which has led to a dramatic rise in Zone A rents. Nearly 10 years ago, these peaked at just under £100 before falling to £70-£75. The latest letting at 8 East Street shows a Zone A rent of over £100. It will be interesting to see whether this level is supported by further transactions.
Taunton is a town which has grown substantially. This factor, along with the tight geography of the town centre, has led to high Zone A levels. It is expected that they will spill over to secondary areas in due course.
The office market in most Somerset towns tends to be dominated by professionals. With increased business activity, demand for professionals has risen steadily in the past decade and there is no sign of this halting. Several professional firms have outgrown their premises and others are looking to improve their office working environments. So the search is on for better quality buildings. Developers have found it difficult to bring forward schemes to satisfy this demand, which generally does not provide enough single large enquiries to trigger projects. This pressure will continue and it is likely that demand will lead to a development taking place eventually.
Industrial and distribution
The south-west is not a region which attracts heavy industry. The manufacturing base consists mainly of large numbers of small businesses, and this is set to continue.
The location of Taunton, Bridgwater and Wellington has attracted distribution centres such as Argos, with 27,870 sq m (300,000 sq ft) at Bridgwater and Leo, with 16,720 sq m (180,000 sq ft) at Wellington.
Recent schemes in Taunton have attracted motor dealers such as Alpha Romeo/Fiat into a new build property and Toyota and Mercedes into existing buildings. There is a new build for Nissan at Chelston and other dealers are seeking sites.
The A303 is often overlooked as a commercial artery but at Wincanton, there is a thriving light industrial base. Further land has been allocated for employment development in the draft local plan. There have been a lot of enquiries about this location and it is likely that development will proceed before too long.
The south-west will continue to attract light industry and the professional office base will keep growing. The structure plan is seeking to place 50,000 new homes in Somerset before 2011, and prospects for business and retailing look positive.
Alastair Mullineux, Associate Partner, Greenslade Taylor Hunt