Andy Howell, general manager at Slough Urban Renewal (SUR) which is a proud joint-venture partnership between Slough Borough Council and Morgan Sindall Investments, gives an insight into SUR’s recent successes and current pipeline and tells us why he believes Slough is finally hitting the headlines, for all the right reasons.
I would hope many of the business people and the residents of Slough would agree that over recent years, Slough has been experiencing some really positive change – making it a more attractive place to live, work and stay.
There is no denying that the town has previously been maligned by negative perceptions. Up until even very recently you would be hard pushed to find an article written about the town that resisted the temptation to quote Betjeman’s famous poem. However, with recent research depicting Slough as “the most productive place in the UK” (Centre for Cities report) and the “top place to work in the UK” (Glassdoor), Slough’s fortunes appear to be on the up and it is looking forward as a place to do business.
A new partnership driving positive change for Slough
It was back in 2013 when Slough Urban Renewal (SUR) was first established. Since then, we have achieved some huge milestones and shared some great successes. Not least, the delivery of The Curve, Slough’s flagship and award-winning new library and cultural centre. We have since gone on to deliver new housing (both private and social), new school facilities and new sporting and community spaces, with lots more to come.
A hidden gem
In development and investment terms, I truly believe that Slough is a hidden gem. Now is the time to make sure economic growth and development in Slough is accelerated. With the imminent arrival of Crossrail in 2019 and the Government’s commitment to the Heathrow expansion, Slough is ideally placed to drive forward growth and investment like never before.
2017: a year of successes
If we take a moment to reflect, 2017 represented a tremendous period for SUR in terms of changing perceptions and delivering projects that will make a positive contribution to Slough and its people. From delivering our first residential housing scheme Milestone (which enjoyed a sell-out success), to handing over to the council and the wider community Arbour Park – a new, award-winning, multi-million-pound Community Sports Facility (CSF) and completing school improvement projects for James Elliman Academy, Claycots Primary and the Priory School; we had a busy and rewarding year.
While we are already celebrating numerous successes within the town, there really is lots more to come. With so many projects under way or in the pipeline, all set to make Slough an even better place to live and work, we are continuing to be a catalyst for change within the town. In turn, we believe this will only help to attract more businesses, both big and small, and more talent, while improving and enhancing the existing services and facilities.
So, what’s to come?
The council is investing considerably in improving and delivering additional leisure and community facilities for the town, promoting active healthy lifestyles but also attracting more people and as a result, more business into the town.
More leisure projects underway:
The Ice Arena. Works are already underway for a major refurbishment and extension of the Ice Arena, home to the Slough Jets. A grand public opening of the new facilities is planned for the end of April 2018.
The Centre. We are in the process of delivering a new multi-million-pound leisure facility with a 25m swimming pool and learner pool, sports hall, gym and exercise studios.
Langley Leisure Centre. This is a major swimming pool refurbishment and extension of the gym facilities. Construction is now under way, with the centre due to re-open to the public this Summer.
Salt Hill Activity Centre. The former ten-pin bowling alley is to be transformed into a family activity centre including trampolining, high wires course, caving zone, six ten-pin lanes, soft play, café and bar all due to be open this Summer.
More school improvements
We are continuing to deliver improvements and enhancements to the town’s schools. In recent years, Slough has experienced an explosion in its population and demand for school places has increased. We have completed four primary school projects and we are progressing with three more, including a major extension at Wexham Secondary School and Haybrook College.
More homes for local people
We have a number of residential schemes in construction and in the pipeline – designed to directly meet the council’s need for more housing within the borough. Through our combined sites initiative to build over 130 homes across 25 sites, we are looking to meet the borough’s affordable housing needs, by transforming a series of disused, small sites into new council housing.
A Milestone for residential housing
Our first residential development, Milestone in Slough comprised 73 new homes and was completed in September 2017. The homes were sold to homeowners only, 88% were first-time buyers with 48% sold to local buyers. Over 80% of purchasers here used the Government’s Help to Buy initiative.
We are currently working on a series of larger residential and mixed-use schemes including:
Wexham Green. We are now selling at Wexham Green, our second residential housing scheme, which has transformed the former Wexham Lane Nursery into a residential community of 104 two, three and four-bedroom high-quality family homes in this leafy part of town.
85 High Street. Planning has been submitted to deliver two hotels as well as over 60 apartments and 5,000 sq ft of restaurant and retail space on the Old Library site. The hotels, both high-end Marriott brands (Moxy and Residence Inn), will provide a total of 244 guest bedrooms, as well as a bar, dining space and lounge; open to both residents and local people. This project directly aims to meet the need from local business for more hotel rooms and access to additional meeting spaces and facilities within the town.
Stoke Wharf. A proposed residential development of circa 240 homes adjacent to the Grand Union Canal, which we are going to deliver in partnership with specialist waterside developer, Waterside Places. Plans are due to be submitted this summer and we hope to commence on site by mid-2019.
The Heart of Slough. While still in the preliminary stages we plan to deliver a host of new local amenities, a public square, potentially 250,000 sq ft of Grade A office space and approximately 1,350 new homes on the site of the former Thames Valley University. This year the council’s cabinet approved SUR as its developer of choice and we will be working with them to create the masterplan over the coming months, with the aim to start works in 2019 on this major regeneration site.
Community benefits, skills and training
In addition to our many development and community projects, as a partnership with the council, we are also investing in the town’s people and have our own community benefits, skills and training agenda, which we pursue avidly.
SUR has positively made a difference through the range of events and initiatives that have already been delivered. We have participated in various school initiatives from the ‘Behind the Hard Hats’ STEM event organised by Learning to Work to organising and funding numerous Build up your Business events, which aim to help students build their employability and team skills. We have also been promoting skills and training by securing apprenticeships within the supply chain and through engagement with the Job Centre. In 2017 we created 25 new apprenticeships/training positions.
So, as you can see, there is a lot happening and we are driving some significant change across the borough. For businesses local to or operating in Slough, there is a lot to be feeling confident about. Not only can you benefit from the impending Crossrail, great connections by road and close proximity to Heathrow, but you will be benefiting from the council’s significant inward investment, providing you with access to improved facilities and accommodation and helping to further enhance the town’s reputation – which in turn will only help to attract greater talent.
The town really is changing for the better and we are proud at Slough Urban Renewal (SUR), to be a catalyst for making Slough a ‘regeneration hot spot’. Slough has a very bright future and we are delighted to be a part of it.