Home Gloucester Enterprise Zone at the Railway Triangle – Is that Good for Gloucester?

Enterprise Zone at the Railway Triangle – Is that Good for Gloucester?

by Barry
Gloucester Cathedral from Painswick Beacon

Gloucester - Ripe for Business Growth?

The area within Gloucester that has been discussed, planned for with projects launched and shelved is the Railway Triangle.  Many people (myself included) have been rather critical of various plans to renovate or rejuvenate it.  But the news yesterday that there are plans to make it an “Enterprize Zone” has the potential to transform this area into a productive hub in the city.

But what is an “Enterprise Zone”?  In the 80’s, it was a government initiative to attempt to rejuvenate run down areas within cities.   They offered tax incentives and low business rates, while improving the local infrastructure.  The theory was that this would get businesses that would not normally think about moving there to go and set up shop.

It was quite successful in generating business hubs, Canary Wharf was set up in an Enterprise Zone,  as was the Metro Centre in Newcastle.   However it is not a guarantee for success, there are ones that have been developed and still stand empty.  Also the Tory Government at the time admitted that it could not go as far as it wanted to because of budgetary constrains, which is surely going to be an issue now.

Looking at other metrics, it was not seen as good value for employment.  As a job creation scheme it certainly did not get as many people employed as Labours “New Deal” programme, but that is only one measure.  I think that in the case of the Railway Triangle, comparison of Employment is not the best measure, we desperately should be looking at business growth which will lead to employment and not just instant employment.  We have a piece of land that needs developed at some point, and I would like to see it put to good use, not just any use.  The other thing that people want here is a new Railway Station, but having looked much further into it, then its just not going to happen, there are too many reasons why it’s not feasible.

I believe that a lot of the work done to make Gloucester more attractive to visitors is great.  I am a fan of the docks, revamping of the city centre and the proposed Kings Quarter project.  However I believe that we are at risk of pushing the balance too far to rely on Tourism.  In this environment of cuts to the taxpayers purse, then we can not expect the city to float on its tourist appeal.  That should be one side of the balance in terms of the income of the city.  The other side is to exploit our location and links to be attractive to businesses to come and invest.  At the moment we don’t seem to have that.  Many people complain that City Centres in general are so large-scale commercial and there are no small “bespoke” shops anymore, is it any wonder with the attitude of Gloucester City Council.  It is very bad at encouraging and helping Small business (look at the hassle “On Toast” is getting) having talked to a number of Small Business owners and people trying to start-up new businesses, then the City Council needs a strong leadership to support these businesses. 

I was critical of the fact that a Supermarket is to be built on this site, but if that is only a part of this bigger deal and it really is going to bring in business to the city then, while I still don’t believe that we need another supermarket,  the overall effect will be a good thing.  We do need to have an eye as to what type of business comes in too, because while competition is a good thing, it would be great to bring new industry in rather than just bring in a new business which kills a current business already here because of the tax breaks.

I hope that this Enterprise Zone will provide a good platform for new companies to start-up and encourage other bigger companies to come and make use of what Gloucester has to offer.

1 comment

James April 21, 2011 - 3:18 pm

An interesting article Barry. Not a great advocate of enterprise zones largely because they lead to disinvestment elsewhere. The London Docklands has helped to gentrify parts of the East End but there are still many parts of inner London and the wider south east that have seen little major inward investment since the 1980’s. Ultimately, this led to a growth in affluence nationally but also to weaker families and communities torn apart by the need to migrate/emigrate. From this stemmed the credit crunch and Cameron’s “broken Britain”.

However, I think this has great potential for Gloucester and the Forest of Dean. I agree that Gloucester does not really need another supermarket, unless it is integral to a larger, imaginative and sustainable development. One of the most surprising things about Gloucester City and County is that it does not make more of its status as an area of outstanding natural beauty.

We need to make more of the city and the Severn Vale in general. This area is steeped in history and beauty. If you visit Gloucester Cathedral, you essentially immerse yourself in England’s history. By visiting the docks, you can learn about the city’s trade links with the rest of the world and how it helped to power the industrial revolution. It has a strong nautical and industrial heritage.

An Eden type project for Gloucester with links to green or carbon friendly industry would derive tax breaks by their very nature. It would be a very economic way of attracting progressive employers to the area. It could also be developed to help nurture local people, entrepreneurs and resources. A hub that can help to incubate profit making and social enterprises for the 21st century. High Tech and Green Tech is the way forward.

Gloucester needs to find a way of marrying up its tourism credentials with employment to help see it through this and future recessions. Evidently, it is dependent on a few large employers/sectors which does make it vulnerable in a smaller economy with less investment coming in from government. For this reason, it needs to diversify and broaden its offering. If the enterprise zone can be developed to benefit the economy, local people and the environment, you will have three elements that can help to benefit those who visit, work and live in Gloucester. Those three elements can make the “triangle” successful.


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