A development in Somerset shows why mixed use is the development pattern of the future. Or so its developer thinks
Do housing and commercial buildings work well together? Carl Haley, managing director of Persimmon Homes Severn Valley, certainly thinks so.
The building group is heavily involved in the creation of a new enterprise area where one of its housing developments sits among commercial buildings.
Throughout the country, more and more councils and developers are coming to realise that bringing homes back into town centres not only creates a vibrant, safer community but boosts the local economy as well.
It is also creating the Weston Business Quarter (WBQ), one of the employment sites in Junction 21 Enterprise Area (J21EA) which will include serviced office suites, a hotel, public house/restaurant and crèche, just off the M5.
The priority for the region is jobs growth, and as such J21EA aims to deliver 10,000 jobs by 2026, helping to reduce the need for commuting.
However, delivering jobs on such a large scale in turn creates a need for more housing and where better to build it than in the heart of the enterprise area?
Haley says: “For Persimmon we believe there is no chicken and egg situation here. If we build high quality homes the jobs will come, especially the sort of high end opportunities we are creating with local enterprises including the local authority.”
Workers will no longer face a daunting commute, which makes sense as fuel prices constantly increase. Such a development provides a chance not only to reduce people’s motoring costs but also their travel-to-work time. In an era where people are working longer hours, shorter and quicker journeys to and from work must be a bonus.
Some 47% of residents in Weston-super-Mare already work in management, professional and technical occupations, but most commute out of the area. J21EA aims to redress the balance by bringing big business to the area and with it jobs that keep talent within the local area.
Some progress at the site has already been made, including the recent completion of Knightstone Housing Association’s new 40,000sq ft HQ at Weston Gateway Business Park.
Further progress includes ‘The Hive’, a 20,000sq ft managed workspace currently being developed by North Somerset Enterprise Agency (NSEA) which is due to open in May.
And at Locking Parklands, St Modwen’s and and the Homes and Communities Agency (HCA) has completed a 6,000sq ft speculative office development along with high quality homes.
Haley adds: “In aiming to make the mix of housing and business work, it is essential to create a place that people can relate to and become proud of. Initiatives such as joint residents/employers’ associations can also work well in this environment.”
However the enterprise area goes even further with plans to build a new flagship STEM college (science, technology, engineering and maths) at Weston Business Quarter. North Somerset Enterprise Technical College (NSETC) aims to have a strong business ethos, helping to build on links between local businesses and residents.
Nigel Ashton, leader of North Somerset Council, says: “Youth unemployment is always a concern and we want young people growing up in North Somerset to have the opportunity to remain here, near their families, and still have plenty of opportunities to forge highly-successful careers.”
Companies in Weston-super-Mare, North Somerset and Bristol have been heavily involved in talks to create the new NSETC, which aims to give young people growing up in the area the chance to stay near their families while still pursing successful careers with big name companies. In turn that again creates a need for more housing.
Summing up Haley says: “The investment Persimmon Homes has made in Haywood Village, our Business Quarter and commitment to J21EA, means the benefits for future communities is a step change for the whole of the South West.”