The pulling power of out-oftown commercial property developments is proving too strong for a growing number of companies - lured by cheaper rentals, plentiful parking spaces, motorway links and surroundings that are easy on the eye.
Prime examples of the successful campus-style schemes are Tempus 10 Business Park, an upmarket development at junction ten of the M6 which has just chalked up its first letting deal, and Wolverhampton Business Park, which has just signed up KGJ Insurance Group as its latest tenant.
Another out-of-town developer, HBG Properties, is confident that Parklands Reserve, Birmingham's first office development in the A38 high-tech corridor, will prove equally popular with footloose occupiers. Construction has just started here on more than 50,000 sq ft of headquarters-style office space alongside the regional centre of one of the city's biggest employers.
HBG is speculatively developing a three-storey 30,397 sq ft building and a two-storey unit of 20,258 sq ft, confident that companies will be keen to follow the example of Compass Group, the world's largest foodservice business, and locate in what HBG Properties regional director Peter Burford describes as one of the most strategically located and mature woodland landscaped office parks in the region.
Close proximity to the motorway network is increasingly popular with office occupiers who are put off by city centre office because of higher costs, the shortage of new space, parking problems and traffic congestion.
Mr Burford, who has successfully developed other major edge-of-town office schemes in the Midlands, says: "We have secured the city's biggest and best campus office scheme.
"The constraints of the city centre are all too evident and we believe that top-quality offices with motorway connections are a natural choice.
"By building speculatively, and offering freeholds or leaseholds, we can show any inquirer a cost-effective and state-of-the-art solution."
Parklands Reserve, which has the distinction of being inside the UK's first stamp duty-free zone, is being marketed by joint agents GVA Grimley and KWB.
Compass Group was the first occupier in 1998 and then occupied two further buildings two years ago, bringing the total number of staff employed there to 650.
Tim Mason, Compass director and company secretary, says: "Any expansion of our financial, IT or legal support teams would be accommodated via expansion on this site.
"It's a good, pleasant, workconducive location at the centre of the country. We looked at various locations as far afield as York and Plymouth but decided on Parklands as it's central to all our key offices around the country. We find we have a lot of meetings here because it is very convenient for people travelling by car."
His enthusiasm is shared by the company's property and insurance manager, Peter Maguire, who says: "It's a nice quiet place contained in a very green environment which is very conducive to work.
"Besides that, the employees are very close to all the shopping, eating and leisure facilities at Birmingham Great Park."
A few miles away, at junction ten of the M6, there's a similar buzz of excitement surrounding Walsall's Tempus 10 Business Park now that De Vere Group is signed up as the first occupier and the first phase can begin. Described as a high-quality, prime location for leading-edge businesses, the park is a joint venture between Lingfield and Maple Oak, a subsidiary of Mowlem.
It is estimated that the development will generate up to #50 million of regional investment as well as 1,000 or more new jobs.
A third of that investment total is already in the bag with De Vere Group's decision to build a four-star Village hotel and leisure club on the site.
De Vere's regional director, Adrian Trumper, says: "Tempus 10 is an outstanding location and we are privileged to be at the forefront of the exciting urban regeneration of the strategic corridor between Walsall town centre and the M6 motorway."
According to Lingfield director Jonathan Hart, the hotel and leisure club will be open in time for Christmas 2004.
'Phase one will also comprise of a drive-through restaurant, and we shall shortly be coming forward with a 120-bed budget hotel operator for part of the site," he explains.
"This will be followed by the launch next year of the business park, which comprises 80,000 sq ft of offices with added employment land and brings huge opportunities for inward investment into Walsall."
John Griffiths, of GBR Property Consultants, agents for the Tempus 10 development, says: "The major forward commitment by a leading brand such as De Vere Group to build one of their flagship Village clubs at Tempus 10 underlines the strategic significance of the site, and delivers highquality business conferencing facilities - a key ingredient for a successful business environment.
"This is an important first step in raising awareness of the development, and in attracting further inward investment."
Equally upbeat is B&R Properties, the developer behind Wolverhampton Business Park, which has just welcomed its latest tenant next to junction two of the M54. KGJ Insurance Group has taken 3,270 sq ft on the first floor of Venture Court One, part of the first phase of offices at the 30-acre business park.
Venture Court Two is already fully let to Alfred McAlpine and Persimmon. Jonathan Rogers, director of B&R Properties, says: "The arrival of a new tenant to Wolverhampton Business Park is always an exciting period as the business community grows and develops.
"We now provide office space to a diverse range of companies and are well on the way to creating a thriving and successful business location.
"I believe that key to the success of the park is the provision of highspecification office space that modern businesses require combined with an easily accessible location and the availability of a large labour pool."
Venture Court One and Two - a pair of two-storey buildings - are set around a landscaped courtyard, with flexible floorplates of nearly 7,500 sq ft and nearly 70 parking spaces. Joint agents for the scheme are GVA Grimley and BK.
KGJ director Richard Cox says: "We were keen to consolidate our two offices into one larger and more efficient space.
"We were aware of the developments here and, as our previous lease in Wolverhampton came to an end, we decided that the benefits of the location and the fact that we were able to accommodate all of our 30 staff on one floor made the move the best decision for our growing business."
Further north, construction is under way at Riverside 2, a new office scheme next to Michelin's Stoke on Trent offices.
According to developers, Business Homes North and Maple Grove Developments, the first phase of four units ranging in size from 2,760 sq ft to 4,888 sq ft will be finished in the spring.
But there is plenty more scope since the total development of high-quality office campusstyle buildings will amount to 60,000 sq ft.
LSH's Birmingham office is marketing the units on a freehold or leasehold basis with Lamonts, of Nantwich.