Northampton’s track record of delivering regeneration, as well as nurturing, supporting and encouraging enterprise has been at the forefront of the changing town over the past year, says Richard Baker BSc MRICS, a Director of commercial property agents Prop-Search:
Having one of the best geographical positions in the country, coupled with one of the UK’s strongest-performing Enterprise Zones – and plenty of people willing to take calculated risks for the rewards they can bring – it is not surprising that Northampton has maintained its position as one of the most entrepreneurial places in the UK. This is according to the latest report from the Centre for Cities, which annually monitors the economic performance of the largest 63 cities and towns in the UK.
Cities Outlook 2017 identified Northampton as the place with highest level of business start-ups outside London. The town also took sixth position for the number of businesses per 10,000 population and had the greatest year-on-year growth in this area.
Plans to create a hub for creative industries in the centre of Northampton have just been given the go ahead by the Borough Council. The £12 million Vulcan Works project will create 49 business spaces – from 150 sq ft to 860 sq ft – in and around the former Vulcan Ironworks building in Angel Street and Fetter Street. It will also incorporate a centre of excellence for leather, run and funded by the University of Northampton.
Cranes also continue to tower over the town’s Waterside Enterprise Zone – which is promoted as an ideal location for businesses to grow and success, including growing small businesses as well as global brands – as work progresses on the University of Northampton’s new 58 acre Waterside Campus; the largest to be built in the Country since in the 1960s. The £330 million campus is being constructed on a brownfield site and will provide a 21st century campus with a new generation of buildings. It will become home to some 14,000 students – with 1,000 living within a new village on the site – and 2,000 staff when it officially open in September 2018.
The Enterprise Zone already boasts a strong high-performance technology and automotive sector with companies such as Cosworth, Mahle Powertrain and GE Precision Engineering, and building upon on Northampton’s 300 years of shoemaking expertise, Church’s has also expanded its operations within the area.
Nearby, the former Northamptonshire County Council offices at John Dryden House on The Lakes Business Park, Bedford Road have been sold to the energy firm Opus. The move will consolidate the expanding firm’s four current sites into one, allowing it to grow the number of employees based in Northampton to 800 by the end of the year. Opus, a subsidiary of energy giants Drax, is planning a ‘state of the art’ refurbishment of John Dryden House, which could see the premises made carbon neutral.
Significant new development has also taken place on Brackmills Industrial Estate with the completion of a new 67,200 sq ft speculative trade park, driven by the lack of sufficient amenities to support Brackmills’ some 150 companies and 11,000 plus employees, as well as the provision to encourage additional trade counter operators. This has reaped rewards for the developer, Tungsten Properties – represented by Prop-Search – with the scheme already 70% to occupiers including Screwfix, Pizza Hut, Subway, Digraph, Greggs, Topps Tiles and Costa.
A Northampton leisure park is set for a revamp as plans for two new restaurants look to be finally moving forward. The long-awaited extra restaurants next to Cineworld on the Sixfields Leisure Park were first announced by Legal & General back in 2012, but have since been put on hold due to issues over drainage and ground remediation. Revised plans to build two new restaurants have recently been approved by Northampton Borough Council, and it is understood that pre-let agreements had been reached with chicken eatery Nando’s and Italian restaurant Prezzo. The developer says this could create new 25 jobs.
Legal & General has announced that Menkind, the popular gifts and gadgets brand for Men, will be returning to the Grosvenor Centre on a permanent basis – due to open late May. The new 1,800 sq ft store, located on the ground floor of the scheme opposite iStore, has been signed a 10-year lease. The company previously occupied a unit on a temporary basis back in August 2015.
This news follows Trespass’ recent relocation within the Centre to accommodate a new tenant, Cardsdirect – a supplier of greetings cards, gifts and partyware; and the expansion of Superdry. The popular fashion brand has doubled the size of its existing store to 5,000 sq ft so is now able to offer a far wider range and showcase its concept as seen in Manchester Arndale and Berlin Kranzler. The Entertainer toy shop also opened in its new outlet in April.
Nowadays towns are really not so different from businesses, they need to keep recreating themselves. A key aspect of unlocking Northampton’s economic potential is the fostering of entrepreneurial spirit, to build on a continuing success of the town.