500 jobs could be created in Bristol with warehouse plan
AS many as 500 new jobs could be created in the Bristol area thanks to the creation of two new warehouses near Avonmouth.
The new development, part of a recently-designated "enterprise area", is being built without an employer lined up to move in.
But the company building the development is confident it can find tenants wanting to open distribution operations in an area that has already attracted supermarket giants Tesco, Asda and the Co-operative. And the jobs would be a welcome opportunity for the 24,000 people currently seeking a job in the city and surrounding area – about one in 14 of the working population.
The massive new buildings will cover an area the same size as nine football pitches at the Westgate Distribution Park, between Avonmouth and Severn Beach.
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The area has become increasingly popular with companies looking to base their distribution centres in easily accessible areas. New arrivals in recent years have included Asda, John Lewis and the American owned household gift company Yankee Candle, as well as dairy firm Robert Wiseman, and the new development will be built behind a similar warehouse scheme currently operated by Tesco.
The Co-operative is also in the process of building a giant warehouse in the area which is due to open at the end of the year. The warehouse will employ 1,000 staff and will run the supermarket's distribution operation for the whole of the South West and south Wales.
The Co-operative had been looking for a new centre after its £1.5 billion takeover off the former Bristol based supermarket chain Somerfield.
The company behind the planned new development, Harrow Estates, is willing to push ahead with the development without a tenant signed up for the scheme.
The recession and financial crisis has meant that speculative developments have almost entirely ground to a halt over the last four years.
But the new warehouse is being built in the recently named Severnside Enterprise Area. The enterprise area is one of five in and around Bristol set up to encourage companies to invest in the area in return for perks.
There are also plans to build a new motorway junction which would make the Severnside area more accessible. The government has been asked for £18 million to pay for the new junction on the M49. South Gloucestershire Council and the Local Enterprise Partnership say the new junction will improve access and open up the area to developers.
Although the South West is still relatively more affluent than most other parts of the country, the unemployment rate in the region has increased steadily in recent months. According to official figures from the Office for National Statistics the total number of unemployed people in the area covered by Bristol and its neighbouring three councils now stands at around 24,000 – around seven per cent of the working population.
South Gloucestershire Council has approved the warehouse scheme even though concerns were raised from residents about the impact it will have on the local area. Pilning and Severn Beach Parish Council also objected to the scheme on the grounds it would affect people living in the area.
Barton Willmore, the country's biggest planning and design consultancy, was granted planning permission for the 38,000 square metre distribution centre, which will be built on open land behind the Tesco warehouse. The application was granted with a number of conditions attached to it.
The building will be made up of two storage and distribution units but could be used one big development.
The developers responsible for the planning application are Harrow Estates, a subsidiary of Redrow Homes, and Cheltenham-based developer Robert Hitchins.
Simon Prescott, partner in Barton Willmore's Bristol office, said: "This planning permission is an important step in creating new jobs for Bristol and is a statement of intent from local authorities about the potential of the new Severnside Enterprise Area."
Paul Hobbs, who works for property firm GVA in Bristol believes the massive scale of work taking place at Avonmouth has been overlooked in recent years.
He said: "Speculative commercial property development has been in the doldrums for over four years because institutional funding has dried up.
"But with the growth of new industries and technologies, such as waste to energy, buildings are once again coming out of the ground at a great pace in Severnside.
"Within the 2,000-plus acres that lie between the coast and the M4/M5 network, there is a mass of commercial development that is going to drive our regional construction and mechanical engineering economy over the next ten years.
"The landscape is changing with new buildings springing out of the ground to house new industries and cater for the increasing number of retail led companies looking to set up new distribution hubs here."