Invariably the areas with the largest economies, and hence the most active property markets, coincide with the largest cities. But there are some areas where this does not apply. One of these is the so-called M4 corridor. So in this report we will look at the market in the eastern section of the M4 corridor stretching broadly from Slough out towards Reading.
Traditionally a mainly rural area, the economy of the M4 corridor developed quickly once the motorway opened up fast road access to London in the 1960s. The area has a particularly high concentration of large high tech. companies, with an emphasis on IT and telecoms, leading it to be dubbed Silicon Valley. Major global companies including Oracle, Cisco, Microsoft and Huawei have a presence here. A survey by Tech City UK says that Reading and Bracknell are home to the largest 'digital cluster' outside London, and have the most productive workers in the UK digital sector who contribute £10bn to the economy.
There is a large number of business parks in the area, with more planned. Thames Valley Park at Reading employs 7,000 people, many working in the digital economy. Construction has recently commenced on the £36m first phase of Thames Valley Science Park at Shinfield. The 42 acre site will be developed over 25 years and could provide 5,000 jobs. Slough Trading Estate has a more traditional business base, with companies such as Mars UK and many global names. Around 500 companies employing 20,000 people are based here.
The economic rise of the M4 corridor has not been entirely unproblematic however. A 2014 report by 'The Economist' states that rising property prices and skills shortages have prompted some employers to relocate staff back into London. In a separate move, Royal Dutch Shell has recently announced plans to move 800 jobs from Reading to central London. A further issue which is proving a challenge for planners and local authorities is the trend for companies to move out of dated office space in town centres and into purpose built accommodation on green field business park sites.