Town centres that work

Most UK urban centres have at least one business park on the outskirts of town and congregating businesses within a given area has many benefits. They can provide an attractive working environment and the opportunity for resident companies to network and do business together.

For instance, Milton Park near Didcot in Oxfordshire is internationally recognised as a major hub for science, technology and commercial enterprises. There are over 250 businesses on site and a range of excellent facilities and appealing activities in place to enhance the experience of those that work there.

Businesses can also play a positive role in the regeneration of UK town centres, which is widely recognised as a nationwide priority. Barriers to town centre development can be related to the existing infrastructure and local heritage, which may not exist to the same extent when developing an out-of-town business park or trading area.

However, town centres can have a great appeal for businesses and their employees, particularly when the environment and facilities are geared to making them attractive to companies and their stakeholders. A thriving business oriented town centre should not be competing against the outlying business park but be a complement to it, each supporting the other.

Iconic features

The Berkshire town of Reading is using imagination and strategic collaboration to create a very attractive environment in which a range of businesses can successfully operate. Its Abbey Quarter is an excellent example of how to establish an exciting and vibrant town centre development, drawing attention to the iconic Abbey ruins, the famous Reading Prison and the delightful Kennet & Avon Canal as just some of the features that make the area unique.

The Reading Abbey Quarter shows how a forward looking local authority can work with dynamic business interests to create a cohesive, distinctive and characterful area that offers a unique range of facilities for work and leisure.

Perception and Branding

As experienced commercial interior specialists, we understand the importance integrating elements of corporate branding into our office designs for clients. The development and promotion of the Abbey Quarter to businesses has been an excellent branding exercise, building positive perceptions of the area as a great place for business, which in turn reflects positively on the businesses that work there.

When Hull was named UK City of Culture in 2017, a hugely successful campaign was launched that radically altered public perceptions of the city as a depressed area. As reported in an analysis by the publication Marketing Week, it resulted in hugely increased visitor numbers and the creation of many new jobs in the creative and tourist industries.

Reading starts from a far more favourable position. It was named in DEMOs/PwC “Good Growth for Cities” Index as the highest performing city in the UK along with Oxford. It has also been ranked among the top 25 European business cities for encouraging direct foreign investment.

So there are and will be tremendous opportunities for industrial and business prospects in Reading and the Abbey Quarter is certainly a very attractive asset for this thriving town.