For most people Weston-super-Mare sums up a traditional scene of donkeys on the beach, children munching on rock and pensioners strolling down the seafront.
But for anyone in the business world, this picturesque part of Britain is also becoming a major enterprise hub that aims to pack a punch with excellent commuter links, affordable business rates and an extensive skills base.
Junction 21 Enterprise Area (J21EA) may offer 72 hectares of employment land, which is ‘ready to go’ with planning permission and access, but the bottom line for this area is jobs; and this site aims to deliver 10,000 jobs by 2026 and bring a real boost to a region.
And with 47% of residents in Weston-super-Mare working in management, professional and technical occupations there is a skills base in the area ready to be tapped into.
J21EA, positioned at the ‘gateway to the south west’ off the M5, is laying the foundations to really put the south west on the business map, with forward-thinking enterprise areas aimed at bringing big business to the region.
Major developers are on board creating commercial and residential areas such as Weston Park, being built by Persimmon Homes, Locking Parklands which has St Modwen and HCA behind it and the Weston Gateway Business Park developed by Dowlas UK (Ltd).
Development progress in J21EA includes the completion and occupation of Knightstone Housing’s 40,000sq ft regional office (an amalgamation of six regional offices into the one site at Weston Gateway Business Park), North Somerset Enterprise Agency’s 20,000sq ft managed workspace (The Hive) currently under construction at Weston Business Quarter (Weston Park) and completion of 6,000sq ft offices by St Modwen at Locking Parklands, which are now available to rent.
J21EA will also be home to the new flagship North Somerset Enterprise and Technology College (NSETC). Following Weston College’s application submission earlier this year, the Government announced that its partnership bid has been successful on 22 May 2013.
Science, Technology, Engineering and Maths (STEM) subjects will be at the core of the curriculum. The new NSECT (due to open in September 2014, initially for 200 students), will offer different routes where students can follow straight A-level or vocational Diploma pathways. The pathways will fall into four areas: Health and Biological Science, Creative and Digital Technologies, Engineering and Physical Science and finally Business, Enterprise and Finance.
So what is J21EA’s secret weapon? Dowlas (UK) Ltd believes that what sets it apart from the rest is that the buildings can be tailored to suit an occupier’s needs, it is also within seconds of a major motorway network, has good rail links and Bristol Airport (which is located in North Somerset) is just 12 miles away, while the Royal Portbury Docks is a stone’s throw away.
Gemma Hughes, director of Dowlas (UK) Ltd, the developers of Weston Gateway Business Park, said: “North Somerset is a dynamic area in which to locate your business, enabling professionals to utilise the excellent transport connections yet live in beautiful surroundings.”
North Somerset Council is working hard behind the scenes to put everything in place, including creating a commercial development protocol and simplified planning measures (for J21EA), meaning once a company is interested in opening a site at J21EA, everything slots into place quickly.
Councillor Elfan App Rees, deputy leader and executive member for strategic planning, highways and economic development at North Somerset Council, said: “We strongly believe there’s never been a better time to invest in the area and we want to make sure businesses are aware of the opportunities on offer.”
There is certainly a feeling that the enterprise area is poised ready for great things with interest growing rapidly in the region.
Ian Guy, St Modwen senior development manager, said: “Locking Parklands new ‘own front door’ offices aimed at smaller businesses are now completed and there is interest from several companies and a regular stream of viewings.”
Persimmon Homes is also heavily involved in developing Weston Park as Richard Briggs, divisional strategic land director, explained: “Persimmon Homes is very committed in to doing all it can to aid the success of the J21EA.”
To find out more about J21EA visit www.innorthsomerset.co.uk/junction-21 or call North Somerset Council’s Economic Development Service on 01934 426 266.