Slough was originally a small village used as the stopping point for coaches between London and Bath, for the 22-hour round journey. The construction of the railway station helped slash journey times to a quick 25 minutes (Slough – London), writes Caroline Waldron, Lambert Smith Hampton.
The railway was the impetus of Slough’s rapid growth, taking the population from 2,405 to 11,000 people within 60 years. Slough fast became a potential hotspot for businesses and learned gentry.
Slough was a bustling business district, and although it had changed from a small haven to a more industrious town, its strategic location and quick connectivity to London made it a popular choice to both work and live. To a degree, some argued to its detriment, such as poet Sir John Betjeman who called for the “friendly bombs to fall on Slough”; however, this poem was not linked to his dislike of Slough but his sadness of watching Slough turn into an industrious town. The war efforts also assisted the town’s growth, with the construction of more depots and factories. Post WWI the area now known as Slough Trading Estate reached over 600 acres and became home to Citroën, Gillette, Horlicks, Johnson and Johnson and Mars.
Now known as Europe’s largest trading estate, the estate’s business reputation is second-to-none. The once former army “dumping ground”, is now an internationally recognised area for industry and datacenters. Despite the mock-umentary of The Office filmed on the estate over 17 years ago, it is now unrecognisable. I find myself revisiting series one of The Office looking for some form of recognition, yet, I am simply amused by the office décor, overgrown pot plants, fax machines, floppy disks and Gareth’s infamous mobile phone shoulder holster. Was The Office really such a negative connotation of Slough, or a satirical programme linked to crass management styles?
Fast-forward to 2018, business focus is very much on Slough. History seems to be repeating itself in terms of development, with regeneration projects totaling over £1 billion, and 350,000 sq ft of office construction seen in one year alone, not to mention the future development of the Observatory shopping centre and the former Thames Valley University site. There is definitely a shift in sentiment – Slough is fast becoming a location where young talent is choosing to locate to and businesses to relocate.
Both the Elizabeth Line due in 2019 and WRAtH (Western Rail Access to Heathrow) arriving 2022 are also major catalysts for attracting new businesses to the area. The fastest train to London Paddington is 17 minutes; the Elizabeth Line is set to revolutionise direct travelling between the Thames Valley through to central London, negating the need for the underground; and WRAtH will provide Slough with a direct rail-link to Heathrow in just 6 minutes. With its already quick access to London’s Orbital M25 and the new improved bus station, Slough is becoming the Thames Valley’s fastest connected town. We predict that there will be a number of major corporates in the coming years leaving less-connected locations in favour of new and better specified office buildings, located on top of the Crossrail station.
The focus is most definitely back on Slough. With prime office rents increasing from £22 per sq ft in 2016 to £34 per sq ft in 2017, investor appetite in Slough is at an unprecedented level. The town is embarking on a new developmental wave and a period of growth, change and rejuvenation. With the offering of new office buildings, AEW’s new positioning off The Bath Road Central, the two new Marriott International hotels, and the much improved connectivity in the area, Slough is now on the radar for a new sort of occupier.
It is safe to say that there is certainly life after Brent and Betjeman.