Demand for office space on West Midlands business parks is set to continue throughout 2006 - new figures show an increase of 18 per cent in take up on the previous year, which corresponds with Wolverhampton Business Park where record levels of activity have been achieved.

The research, carried out by joint agents Park Bulleys and GVA Grimley, shows an increase in the level of larger inquiries coming to the Midlands' marketplace.

Ralph Jones, of developers Broadlands (Wolverhampton) said: "Continued investment in the region from both the public and private sectors, including the M6 Toll Road, is a key contributor to the development of the local marketplace and is driving up interest in the area. This is ultimately leading to an increase in enquiry levels.

"Early indications from this research show that this increased annual activity will be sustained, and that development in Wolverhampton is now strategically well placed to benefit.

"Wolverhampton is now a recognised office location, competing strongly against the M5 and M40/M42 corridors. This is reflected by the type of enquiry that is coming to the market, which is larger than has been recorded historically as occupiers recognise its excellent transport links and ready labour pool.

"Additionally, the magnitude of enquiries has reached an all time high, illustrating the upward trend the marketplace is enjoying."

The strategic importance of Wolverhampton Business Park was reflected in the decision by the Office of the Deputy Prime Minister to locate the West Midlands Regional Control Centre for the Fire & Rescue Service at the Park.

With a footloose requirement, it is arguable that as recently as three years ago, Wolverhampton would not have come into the equation.

The opening of the M6 Toll has also played a pivotal role in strengthening the commercial property market to the north of the West Midlands conurbation, improving access and changing the perception of the region's transport infrastructure.

The proposed construction of a new Parkway Rail Terminal, north of Junction 2 of the M54, will improve links between the North-west, Wolverhampton, Birmingham and London.

Joint agents Rod Spiby, Bulleys and Andy Venables, GVA Grimley, say Wolver-hampton Business Park is generating strong interest on the back of providing the area's highest quality office accommodation.

"Occupiers in the area are increasingly willing to pay the appropriate rental levels to substantiate high specification office space," said Mr Spiby.

"It was not until rents reached £13.50 per sq ft at the Park some three years ago that a Grade A scheme became reality with the development of Venture Court."

The success of the scheme, which is now fully let/sold, reflected the latent demand in the City and has been surpassed on the current Charter Court scheme, with current asking rental levels of £15.50 per sq ft. ..SUPL: