With the news of Asda coming into Kingsway, it prompted an article in the Citizen, and a reader contributed a comment that new places like this is further starving the City Centre and will be detrimental to the future of Gloucester. I thought that was a really interesting comment, and got me thinking about the businesses within Gloucester and just what we expect to see in the various areas of the city.
In many ways I got to thinking of almost a grouping approach, could you describe various areas of the city and cluster them in terms of what sort of businesses and amenities you would expect to see there.
For example, in the city centre (the main areas not accessible by cars) you would expect businesses that attract pedestrian consumers. The products should be things that can be carried on public transport or will be delivered by the company, are entertainment/food or are a service offering (Banks, Travel Agents, etc). The city centre needs to provide a good enough mix of business and “Gloucester things” like the City museum etc which sells the prestige of the city.
Then we look at further out-of-town, things like business parks where I would expect to see perhaps more start-up companies, food retailers and other shops/organisations that need better car parking and access, put not particularly shops you would pop into for a browse.
Then there are heavier industry, such as factories more specialist businesses which do not rely on footfall, but needs access for employees and larger than average things (deliveries etc) that requires much more thought in terms of access to arterial delivery.
The reason behind this thinking is what should be applied and encouraged in each area to grow the city. It’s maybe not surprising that Curries closed, when you consider just what it sold, carrying a big TV or washing machine to the car was a non starter, so that reduced the stock it could retail therefore maybe its future was always limited, but by the same token we should have realised that and worked with them before it became a shock.
To think in terms of this would be really beneficial for the city, we could have business parks really focused at startups and then others for Small/med sized businesses that will really attract new and growing businesses. (This is why, for me, the idea of a business park/enterprise zone on the railway triangle was quite exciting). It provides a growth path for businesses with locations that are suitably sized and the park themselves do not have one business overshadowing another and managed in such away to encourage competition and growth.
It is this thinking that makes me think that the arrival at Asda in Kingsway should not affect the City Centre, but it does mean that he Development of the Kingsway Business Park should be done in a way to bring the right sort of business to that sized business park.
This is where the City Council and County Council should be really working with businesses and thinking of
an overall business development picture. I fear that we are positioning ourselves too much towards of tourism, and we need to readjust the balance. I think the move by the City Council to address the Parking charges is a good one, and is to be applauded.
At the end of the day, while retail shops are great and provide an essential service, we need businesses that bring money into the Gloucester Economy and not just cycle or drain it. It is this money into the City that allows us to have the services we wish to have because it is the only source of money that will enable growth.
So the question is, just what can we do to make ourselves more attractive as a first option destination for new business and what can the City Council do to drive this forward as a priority? I think a very first step is to understand the capabilities of the City locations and really appreciate (and market) the true values of the locations with perhaps some incentives to bring new businesses in, and encourage established businesses to grow and move to newer/more suitable locations where possible, practical and appropriate.