In this report we will take our first look at the market in the northern part of England’s south west region, with a report on the market and prospects for it in the adjacent towns of Cheltenham and Gloucester.
Background and economy
Cheltenham’s economy is based mainly on higher added value employment, with some employees commuting in from affluent residential areas in the nearby Cotswolds. It has an unemployment rate that is substantially lower, and an average salary that is substantially higher, than the national average. Key sectors include electronics, aerospace, finance and public administration plus tourism/hospitality. Significantly, the Government Communication Headquarters or GCHQ is based here. It employs 6,000 people directly, making it the largest single employer in Gloucestershire, while it also occupies around a third of the area’s total office accommodation.
Cheltenham has a population of 117,000. ONS figures suggest there will be only modest growth in the population here to 121,600 by 2026.
The City of Gloucester has a population around 128,000. Forecasts suggest this will grow by 8% to reach 139,000 by 2026. Key industries in Gloucester include aerospace, technology, engineering and banking/finance/insurance. EDF Energy is one of the largest single employers, employing 2,000 at Barnwood. Horizon Nuclear Power, which has plans for a number of new UK nuclear power stations, is headquartered here.
Both locations have good access to the M5 offering a direct link to the West Midlands and south west. The Government has recently agreed to a plan to upgrade the existing limited access J10 M5 to full access, which could open up the surrounding area for extensive development. There are also long-standing plans to dual a ‘missing link’ in the A417 dual carriageway which, if progressed, could considerably improve journey times to Swindon, the M4 and south east England.
Cheltenham and Gloucester have direct rail services to London, Birmingham, South Wales, the south west and northern England. The current relatively slow journey times to London have attracted much criticism from local businesses. Upcoming new trains should mean Cheltenham will be within two hours of London Paddington, a time considered viable for business travellers. There will also be two direct services per hour at peak times instead of the current one, although full implementation has been delayed from this December to May 2019.