Worcestershire is bucking the belt-tightening trend, with more than £95?million of redevelopment and refurbishment projects taking place across the county.
The multi-million pound investment is on track to boost Worcestershire’s tourism economy, which already nets £422?million for the county each year. Refurbishment projects worth more than £11?million in total are under way at four hotels and conference-centres across the county – The Elms, at Abberley, the Bromsgrove Hotel and Hillscourt Conference Centre, Rednal.
Major county attractions are under way at places like West Midland Safari Park and Sixways rugby ground, which is splashing out on a £23?million programme. Worcestershire County Cricket Club is also planning £10?million of work.
Worcester itself is also set to benefit from half a billion pounds worth of investment over several years, with a list that includes expansion of the University of Worcester, redevelopment of the historic Worcester Porcelain site and the ongoing regeneration of the city’s waterside areas.
The confidence shown by these venues reflects a wider optimism in the court, according to Emma Robinson, head of conference-worcestershire, which promotes the county to business tourists.
“This incredible level of investment is naturally a huge boost for the county, putting it on a par with the major players in the business tourism sector, like Birmingham,” says Emma, who reports redevelopments at more than a third of member venues this year.
“Tourism is key to Worcestershire’s economy, and this ongoing investment from our top venues and attractions should secure the county’s future economic legacy.”
And it’s not just business tourists who are coming to Worcestershire. Annual figures released this month by Worcestershire’s Property Service (WPS), show that commercial property enquiries rose by 4.2 per cent in the 2007/08 financial year compared with 2006/07, despite the current economic turmoil.
WPS, which helps businesses looking to start-up or relocate to new premises in the county, also reported that registrations to its online property search facility from January to March 2008 had risen by 19 per cent when compared with last year’s figures.
Most inquiries – 84 per cent – came from businesses within the West Midlands, and industrial property was once again the most in demand, attracting 40 per cent of inquiries. Interest in retail premises had increased from 22 per cent to 26 per cent of all enquiries.
Geoff Palmer, of WPS, says: “The current market unrest makes it increasingly difficult to predict how the commercial property market will react, however, for now at least, Worcestershire appears to be holding its own. The county has the advantage of being geographically well-placed for all major motorways and business centres, and benefits from an abundance of high-quality business units, so is in a strong position to weather the storm.”
He cites Easter Business Park, taking shape in Kidderminster, as an exmple. The development has attracted strong interest, according to Geoff, with four out of nine viewings currently under offer, and leading independent employee benefit adviser Johnson Fleming having just named a 10,000 sq ft unit at Bromsgrove Technology Park as its new home.