£1.5m deal to breathe new life into Temple Meads from Brunel's Engine Shed
A DEAL is being signed later today that will see £1.5 million invested in one of Bristol's most historic buildings as part of an ambitious scheme to breathe new life into the run-down area around Temple Meads station.
The city council has agreed to invest the money into Brunel's iconic Engine Shed building so it can be transformed into a "shop-front for Bristol and the surrounding area".
The Engine Shed building is the former Empire and Commonwealth Museum, which was the original station building of 1842.
The renovated building, which was built by Brunel as the terminal for his Great Western Railway, will be the home of the newly launched Invest in Bristol and Bath organisation.
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The organisation, made up of representatives from the area's four local councils is being tasked with attracting investors to Bristol from around the world.
The building will also house the UK Trade & Investment agency – which is responsible for helping business looking to win trade abroad.
The deal on the building is being signed today by Bristol mayor George Ferguson and Professor Eric Thomas, vice chancellor of the University of Bristol.
The building will be managed by Bristol SETsquared – the University of Bristol-run business organisation. SETsquared will take up most of the building and will manage offices for the high growth, technology businesses it has helped to set up.
Around 20 companies will move into the refurbished building with a further 40 businesses using the centre's resources and facilities including hot desks, breakout spaces and meeting rooms.
The area around the station has been designated as an enterprise zone and the aim is use tax breaks to attract hundreds of new creative and digital firms, creating thousands of new jobs in the process. It is hoped the new centre will act as catalyst for the area and attract other companies to come to the enterprise zone.
There are also plans for an arena on wasteland behind Temple Meads along with a multi-million pound refurbishment of the station itself.
Businesses are being offered business rates breaks and access to super-fast broadband in a bid to get them to come to the new zone.
Following the signing ceremony the mayor will head to the South of France to lead Bristol's delegation to the world's biggest property and business convention. The team will launch the new Invest in Bristol and Bath service and promote the city at the MIPIM conference.
A planning application has been submitted for the old station building which is likely to be dealt with in a matter of months.
Colin Skellett, the chairman of the Local Enterprise Partnership, said: "After months of planning, it is exciting to see the birth of the Engine Shed project.
"Entrepreneurial, high-growth businesses are the lifeblood of our economic growth. What better place to inspire them than Brunel's Engine Shed? Set on the direct line to London and on to Europe, this will be an exciting focus for innovation."
Mr Ferguson added: "Now we need to get out and tell the rest of the world that Bristol is open for business."
Professor Eric Thomas, vice chancellor of the University of Bristol said: "Bristol is repeatedly recognised as having significantly high potential for economic growth and the intellectual capital provided by world-renowned research and the activities of some of the country's highest performing students go a long way to supporting this.
"I am very pleased that the university, as part of the SETsquared partnership, will be among the first present at the Enterprise Zone."
Nick Sturge, director of the Bristol SETsquared Centre which is currently based at University Gate East in Clifton, hopes the move to the Engine Shed will allow it to support even more businesses and, in turn, create a predicted 750 jobs over the next five years. Other key partners in the Engine Shed project are Network Rail and the Homes and Communities Agency (HCA). With funding from the HCA, the city council bought the freehold for Brunel's Old Station in March 2012 from the Empire and Commonwealth Museum.
Network Rail is currently working on the masterplan for the redevelopment of Temple Meads station, which includes bringing back into use part of the Old Station and Engine Shed. They have modified their plans to enable the Engine Shed development to go ahead.
Patrick Hallgate, Network Rail western route managing director, said: "We are delighted that Brunel's iconic Old Station is being transformed for 21st century use."