News of more progress towards the creation of much needed modern office space on the Bath Quays North site is very welcome. Legal & General and its development manager, Bell Hammer, have been appointed to develop the area and the buildings can’t come soon enough. Companies that are currently squeezed into unsuitable premises have been crying out for accommodation to help them grow and remain in the City.
However, latest figures have revealed a rather surprising answer to the question, when it comes to employment, which part of Bath and North East Somerset is growing the fastest?
It turns out that it’s not Bath itself, or the market towns of Keynsham, Midsomer Norton and Radstock. The biggest rise in job numbers is actually being seen in the rural areas of our district which seem to be out performing the urban parts. Some of that trend will doubtless be affected when the Bath Quays sites are completed, but it’s interesting to reflect on why there is such strong rural growth and whether it can significantly contribute to economic success in the long term.
You only need to drive through the countryside to see what’s happened to many former farmyards. Old buildings have been refurbished to provide space for a wide variety of businesses. Entrepreneurs such as Charles Hignett at South Stoke have created brilliant premises to meet the needs of the most modern and successful companies and there are plans to build homes close by which could allow people to live and work in their own out of town neighbourhood.
These mini businesses parks play a big part in reducing the pressure on urban centres. Employees love being able to drive to work without fighting through city centre congestion and having somewhere to park, whilst it’s also less stressful for client visits.
There is a lot of talk about long term sustainable growth but that often concentrates on urban centres, providing improved public transport and high density affordable homes. Perhaps we should pay more attention to what is already happening naturally, without much in the way of Government or Local Authority interventions.
Business folk have simply found a way of starting and growing their firms that suits them, their staff and their customers. They have seen an opportunity and unlocked an asset which spreads economic activity throughout the district and brings huge benefits to the whole community.