Gordon Isgrove, Regional Senior Director at property adviser GVA, Bristol, gives his thoughts:
“We are all keenly aware that Bristol has regularly outperformed the UK’s economic growth trends. Outlook is positive for the South West region – since 2013 Invest in Bristol and Bath has attracted 110 companies here, creating 3,000 new jobs and contributing £200m to the regional economy. We’ve seen strong market take-up in 2016, 60% up on the previous year. GVA’s Evolving Bristol 2017 report showed that Bristol is expected to outperform both the South West and the UK in terms of economic growth by 2020.
“Yet we face a big question – is there enough development in the city and surrounds to ensure the city’s status as a regional business capital can continue throughout the next decade? And how will our new Metro Mayor, Tim Bowles, ensure that there is a focus on getting things done.
“Compared to Manchester and Birmingham, Bristol as a core city does appear to be behind the curve in presenting itself for investment from both the Government and the international markets. Of course, we have quality in Bristol – and yes, we have some good developments and infrastructure projects in planning stages, but with the market for occupiers hotting up and demand for housing outstripping supply, if greater Bristol doesn’t deliver a competitive edge we will lose out to others in the UK and Europe.
“So what can we do? In terms of planning and investment we need to address our transport infrastructure and in Bristol install a gateway to the city with the wow factor- Bristol Temple Meads is inadequate in capacity, sense of arrival and supporting amenity, and Bristol Airport needs improved transport links to the city and surrounding network.
“Developments such as Bristol University’s investment at the heart of Temple Meads Enterprise Zone, which will remove the acute eyesore of the former Sorting Office at the entrance to the city, will create circa £100million per year investment and act as the centre piece of the Enterprise Zone. Yet alongside, there’s still a big question mark hanging over the Arena.
“These bigger ticket items must get the focussed attention they deserve. We need to start getting things done. Politically we must have a voice in government and our Metro Mayor must lead and maximise investment to move the Bristol region forward. We have a collective responsibility to embrace devolution for without that strong voice and regional commitment, we are at risk of losing traction as a regional business capital.”