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What a difference a decade makes

PUBLISHED: 13:43 16 September 2013 | UPDATED: 13:45 16 September 2013

Gloucester Quays

Gloucester Quays

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The future of retail isn’t selling stuff, says Gloucester Quays leasing director.
It’s about much, much more than that. Interview by Nicky Godding

Gloucester Quays’ Designer Outlet Centre’s Leasing Director Adrian Wright is a bit late for our meeting. It’s July, one of the hottest days of the year and he’s been celebrity-sitting for BBC’s Great British Bake-Off’s Mary Berry before she struts her stuff in front of a sell-out crowd at the Gloucester Quays food festival, (her co-presenter, Paul Hollywood, is busy with his buns in the US).

I spend the time marveling at the thousands of people enjoying the sunshine, the food stalls and the glorious Gloucester Docks surroundings. Go back just ten years and this scene would have been considered a miracle.

Little more than a decade ago, Gloucester Docks was an embarrassment for the city council. A failed attempt to regenerate the area in the 1970s had delivered not much other than a very small shopping centre anchored by The Edinburgh Woollen Mill. Need I say more? Then Peel Developments, one of the UK’s most successful companies which already owned an adjacent retail park teamed up with landowner British Waterways and presented ambitious plans to turn a neglected industrial hangover right next to Gloucester Docks into a 21st century retail centre.

The progression from wasteland to prime retail area was tough especially when the 2008 recession almost called a halt to BW & Peel Development’s plans. Practically overnight, of the 80 brands signed up, 40 dropped out and when the centre opened in May 2009 it was two thirds empty. But finally it looks like Gloucester Quays Designer Outlet’s luck is turning. In December a 10-screen cinema will open and in anticipation, new restaurants are moving in: Coal Bar and Grill, Ed’s Easy Diner, Zizi, Chimichange and Portivo Lounge. Wright is also talking to Cotswold restaurant operators, which will give a welcome local feel to the national chain line-up already committed to the centre.

So how is it now attracting a predicted 3 million visitors this year? It helps that Wright has a bucket-full of relevant experience, from his time as leasing director at BAA, managing director at McArthur Glen, CEO at Moss Bros, not to mention a spell as managing director at Bluewater shopping centres. He was also chief executive at the retailer High and Mighty (a good job for someone over 6’ tall).

Wright identifies three key mistakes made by Gloucester Quays when it first opened: “With brands pulling out before the centre opened, a number were allowed to open here which shouldn’t. Gloucester Quays was being promoted along the Bristol/Birmingham corridor, but people driving an hour and a half to get here were bound to be disappointed when all they found was a centre that could be shopped in less than an hour.”

There was also a less than rapturous response from the brands after the rent-free, high footfall honeymoon period of the first three months. By the second quarter of the year footfall was down and rents had kicked in. The previous leasing director left and Wright was drafted in, with a different perspective. “The future of retail isn’t retailing, it’s also about eating and drinking, and about entertainment. Gloucester is a food desert and we have an opportunity to create a food quarter not just for the city, but for the county too.”

On this very sunny day in July, the area around the Quays and the Docks teems with visitors; inside Outlet Centre things are quieter. Wright maintains that three quarters of visitors to the food festival go into the centre, but do they buy? Afterwards I walked around the centre and most were carrying bags from the centre’s shops.

A worry for the City was that opening a swanky new designer outlet centre would kill its retail centre. It’s difficult to confirm whether this has happened because city centres across the country have been decimated by the recession but the threat of a top-notch retail destination will have certainly knocked any complacency out of Gloucester’s city centre retailers, if they had any, and Gloucester Quays and Gloucester City Council are working closely together: The food festival wasn’t being held in the outlet centre away from the city, but at the Docks between the two. “The food festival is no longer a Gloucester Quays event, but a city event, like the Tall Ships Festival,” maintains Wright. “A strong connection between the city and the Quays is essential.”

The only blot on the landscape is the adjacent Baker’s Quay, owned by the Bishop family, which is now on the market. The formerly stunning building is falling to bits and it’s a stark reminder of what the area would look like now if Gloucester Quays’ development hadn’t been given the go-ahead.

Three years into his job and it looks like Adrian is the ‘Wright’ man for the job, and he says he won’t leave until it’s done.

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Gloucestershire’s manufacturing sector drives demand for commercial property

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Demand for office and industrial space across the Cotswolds is up, according to one of the region’s commercial estate agents.

Alder King’s latest report into the region’s commercial property also confirms that the county’s manufacturing sector, in particular its high technology manufacturing industries, made a significant contribution to the overall take up in the industrial and warehouse sector.

Take up of industrial space reached 200,000 sq ft at the mid-year point and with stock levels of larger quality buildings continuing to reduce, many occupiers are exploring opportunities through design and build. Rents remain constant at £6 per sq ft although the shortage of stock continues to push down the level of incentives.

Office take up also improved with a significant increase in demand across all size ranges in the first half of the year. The level of supply dropped and the shortage of larger Grade A stock is now particularly acute. Significant transactions in the first half of the year include the letting of 1250 Lansdowne Court, Gloucester Business Park to Lockheed Martin and completion of the first design and build pre-let transaction for five years at Stonehouse Park where Nine Group is taking a new 11,200 sq ft building.

The out of town retail sector is driven by the supermarkets, with completion of the new 70,000 sq ft Morrisons at Gloucester’s Triangle Park scheduled for completion this month and the new Asda at Kingsway now consented. Both stores are likely to trigger further development of smaller retail units.

Competition amongst house builders for good quality locations in the South and South West is strong and driving up land prices. The strongest demand is for mixed family housing sites but there are early signs of renewed interest in apartment schemes.

Adrian Rowley, partner at Alder King, says: “It’s pleasing to see that, after a challenging economic period, our manufacturing sector now feels sufficiently confident to forge ahead with plans to expand.”

Local businesses who have recently confirmed relocation plans include Lister Petter which has agreed a 40,000 sq ft pre-let at Quedgeley West, Lister Shearing which announced last month plans to take 43,000 sq ft at Stroudwater Business Park, Stonehouse and Smart Stabilizer Systems, part of Weatherford, which has taken 39,000 sq ft at Tewkesbury Business Park.”

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Barwood and British Airways Pension Fund to create 1,000 New Jobs for Banbury

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Banbury will benefit from more than 1,000 new jobs and £100m of investment as Barwood and British Airways Pension Fund (BAPF) are to fund and develop ‘state of the art’ Production and Warehouse buildings fronting the London to Birmingham M40 at Central M40 www.centralm40.co.uk

Buildings from 100,000 sq. ft. up to 1,250,000 sq. ft. are to be designed and built by Barwood and BAPF to suit companies’ specific accommodation requirements and will provide new employment opportunities and substantial investment into the region.

White Commercial Surveyors having acted for the landowner, Thames Water, in the disposal of 60 acres to Barwood and BAPF and are now advising the new development team alongside CBRE.

Barwood Director, Henry Chapman, said, “We are delighted to bring forward this major development along the M40 which will provide an excellent opportunity for occupiers looking for large scale modern quality buildings in the centre of England at Junction 11 of the excellent ‘fast running’ M40 motorway”.

White Commercial Surveyors, disposed of the first 13 acres of development land on the site to Albion Land Developers, who have already built and handed over new facilities of 130,000 sq. ft. to First Line Distribution Ltd and over 140,000 sq. ft. to Goodrich CTG providing a high quality office and a production building for

their UK Composite Centre of Excellence.

Norbar Torque Tools, the world’s leading torque specialist devoted exclusively to the design, development and production of torque tightening and measuring equipment has acquired a 170,000 sq. ft. (15,800 sq. m.) premises on the Wildmere Road Industrial Estate, Banbury – from Hella UK Holdings.

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The King’s Head Hotel in Cirencester to reopen next March

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The hotel, which is set in a grade-II listed building, closed for redevelopment in 2007. It is to open as a 45-bedroom hotel next year and there are also plans for a spa.

Owner Wildmoor has appointed The Vineyard Group to manage the property.

Andrew McKenzie, managing director of The Vineyard Group, said: “We are passionate about all the projects we take on board, but the King’s Head is a little bit special; it’s in a great location and has some stunning architectural features.

“It will be exciting to see this historical gem rejuvenated to become part of the social fabric of Cirencester.”

A spokesman for Wildmoor said: “Under Vineyard Group’s management, we believe the King’s Head will become a stylish and vibrant addition to this prime part of Cirencester, whilst retaining the essence of the building’s historic past.”

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Power to the people

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A series of grants and loans to pay for renewable energy feasibility studies and planning applications in rural areas in England has been announced by the Government. A grant of up to £20,000 is available under the Rural Community Energy Fund (RCEF) to local community groups to undertake feasibility studies and a loan of up to £130,000 to support planning applications.

New research by Forum for the Future, a not for profit organisation, that is based on a survey of 700 farms shows an increased appetite in the farming sector for renewable energy opportunities.

Headline research figures identified that 40 per cent of respondents were deploying renewables, with 61 per cent of those not yet involved in on-farm renewable energy generation looking to invest in it in the coming five years. Just under one third (30 per cent) using renewable technologies utilised wind installations and 76 per cent felt that potential in the renewable sector had yet to be met.

“There is a real synergy between the energy and agricultural sectors and while many people have an ambition to use renewable energy they don’t know how to go about determining its viability for them or their wider community,” explains Simon Pallett, a rural partner with Carter Jonas in Newbury.

“Rural communities often have many different ways to exploit renewable energy options, including anaerobic digesters, wind power, solar PV, and biomass – the specialist energy team here can help reveal which is best for each circumstance.

“The RCEF will help communities maintain ownership of renewable energy projects themselves, with 100% of the benefits being returned directly into the local area, rather than as profits to commercial developers.”

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And they’re off! £45m Cheltenham Racecourse gets planning consent

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Cheltenham Racecourse is set for a £45 million development following the granting of planning permission to the Jockey Club for its flagship racecourse.

The proposed development will create a state-of-the-art new grandstand alongside the existing main grandstand, replacing the circa 1920s ‘A&R’ block. It will include new annual members’ facilities, general public viewing areas, private boxes and Royal Box. There will be improvements for owners and trainers, and a focus on enhancing the customer experience at the racecourse, including elevated walkways to ease mobility and multi-tiered viewing of the parade ring.

The main development is scheduled to begin immediately after the 2014 Cheltenham Festival with a planned completion date ahead of The Festival in 2016. During the construction period, Cheltenham will continue its race programme.

The development will be The Jockey Club’s largest single investment in facilities and builds on more than £80 million invested in facilities at Cheltenham in the last 30 years. The Jockey Club, which is the largest commercial group in British horseracing, raised nearly £25 million towards the funding of the Cheltenham Racecourse development through the first retail bond in British sport. The remainder of the capital will be funded through cashflow, commercial agreements and bank financing.

Ian Renton, Cheltenham and South West Regional Director for Jockey Club Racecourses, said: “ The new development will enable us to provide facilities for our racegoers in keeping with the quality of the National Hunt Racing on offer at Cheltenham and ensure that Cheltenham Racecourse enhances its status as a world-class sports venue for many years to come.”

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