Building the business parks of the future

Property experts discussed the future of business parks at a panel event hosted by the MEN in association with Airport City Manchester and BCO North. 

Business parks must be sustainable, well connected and accessible in order to stay viable for the future. 

Peter Baird, an associate and urban designer at architect firm Perkins & Will, said there had been a lot of misunderstanding around business parks. 

"There is a perception that all business parks are buildings in the middle of nowhere with lakes and a foundation but from research and visiting parks around the UK, there's a lot more diversity in the way they're operating. 

"There is transformation taking place in a lot of locations to pool in more activity so they don't have that picturesque isolation feel that they used to have." 

The event saw Baird deliver a presentation drawing on extensive research published by BCO and co-authored by Perkins+Will, project managers 3PM and cost consultants Exigere, which identified four key emerging trends of bsuiness parks. 

"There's going to be a greater shift towards universities, research and commercialisation of the intellectual property coming out of the universities within business park locations," said Baird. 

The report showed that many successful business park developments benefitted from close proximity with universities, with many succesful science parks located close to Oxford and Cambridge. 

He continued: "Secondly, they're also going to change more with the environment, which will push residential accomodation. 

"Trend three, as we are here in Airport City Manchester, there's going to be a bigger picture of how we can use the international connections, how we can get connectivity, not just regionally and nationally but globally.

"The fourth key trend is the increase of urban districts, an urban subgroup of research-focused business parks, which create opportunities for idea sharing or creative collision." Baird said. 

Connectivity was also a key theme. Strong connections to a business park was important but also crucial for staff retentiion, said Baird. 

"The more choices you can give to your employees, the happier they're going to be in terms of how they organise their day. 

"Recruitment has always been important part of deciding where you locate your business. 

"So, rentention is linked to the amenities and accessibilty, which is now driving where companies choose to locate as one of the three factors alongside, internet download, speed and quality of the property."

Baird was joined by 3PM project manager Rob Burborough, Airport City Development Manager, Gareth jackson, Planit-IE managing director Ed Lister and JLL's Richard Wharton for a panel discussion, chaired by BCO North's Phil Doyle. 

Wharton said one of the main challenges for business parks is their competition with city centre locations, as more businesses move to the city to attract and retain staff. 

"Business Parks that succeed will be the ones that complement the city centre offer. 

Not everyone wants to be in the city centre and not all staff want to work in the city centre, so that fight for talent is still absolutely paramount and the better business parks, the ones that succeed will be the ones with a coherent master plan." 

Burborough said technology were driving the change of business parks with companies using both city and more remote locations. 

He said; "Tech is now going into science in a big way, so business parks are now becoming science parks or technology parks where they're maxing out the use of sheds, manufacturing and using all their horsepower off out into the regions, while their intellectual property in in the city offices. 

"Technology is also changing the way science is done so you need a small space, more agile space, and that's what we see."

Wharton stressed the difference between "genuine" out of centre and "fringe" business parks, such as Spinningfields, which has the " best of both words."

They have city centre connectivity but allied to that they have the coherent park where they're able to invest in wellbeing and amenity to create a campus feel." 

He continued, "So it's a district within the frindges of the city centre rather than the genuine out of town which is very much public sector, sector, car-driven which is fine but it's not for everyone. 

"Having those two complimenting each is important and it's something that Manchester and the North West have done very well." 

Making busienss parks less car-dependent was also a priority, as Mr Lister stressed "cars aren't the future." 

He said, "The cycle infrastructure isn't there yet and I think we're all aware of that, and they're a doing a great job in Manchester at the moment with the Bee Networks. 

"But we've got to get more people cycling, we've got take pressure off the raods, we've got take pressure off the roads and we shouldn't be building business parks that are dependent on cars." 

Jackson added, "At the moemnt, busines parks are gnerated from histroric infrastructure, and I think you've got to take the view going forward that redevelopment will be focused on pedestrian and cycling and less reliant on cars. 

"We need to think about a different approach and we need that kind of thinking to get that off the roads. 

"People need to have a more of cerebal approach to thinking of connectivity, access and site access."

Baird also said the number of companies providing their own transport services, such as shuttle buses will also increase. 

He said: "If you are a location that has got about a thousand employees, they can employ techonology to understand where the employees live, where they need to get to, how they're going to move from that last part of their journey and can provide services. 

"That's something that we'll probably see more of." 




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