We’ve heard a lot from ‘over the pond’ about so-called fake news. Well, here are the undisputed concrete yet buoyant facts that ‘float the boat’ for Slough being one of the best places in the UK to live and work. (Yes, that claim is supported by a professional fact-based survey, as you’ll read below).
- Sited near London and major motorways, Slough’s location close to London and Heathrow makes it a natural UK and international transportation hub for global travellers and, importantly, inward investors to ‘UK plc’.
- Slough offers easy road links to the rest of the country, being located near the intersections of the M4, M40, M3 and M25.
- Slough has a large, skilled workforce catchment, established companies and business infrastructure – not least at the major employment providing SEGRO Slough Trading Estate, one of the largest in Europe.
- It has cost-effective business occupancy rates appreciably lower than London’s and almost 96% of local premises have superfast fibre broadband access.
- Unsurprisingly perhaps, Slough has the UK’s highest concentration of international corporate HQs outside of London. (SEGRO’s Bath Road office portfolio in Slough was purchased by AEW Europe for £325 million in 2016.)
In addition to these business attributes, last September, Slough was hailed as the top UK town or city in which to work – beating Manchester and Cambridge in the top three – following a nationwide survey by recruitment specialist Glassdoor. The survey compared the UK’s 50 most populated towns by assessing factors including location, employment opportunities, cost of living and job satisfaction.
Glassdoor’s research shows Slough offers a good quality of life for employees, with a median salary of £35,000 per annum, the average house costing £390,000, and an advertised 26,000 job vacancies.
With a GVA 30% higher than the national average, Slough was also rated as the ‘most productive place per worker’ in the UK, ahead of London and Reading, according to the Centre for Cities Outlook 2017 study.
From 2004–14, Slough’s population grew more than any other UK city, at around 1.8% per annum. Today Slough is home to 4,600 businesses and its highly competitive and dynamic business environment contributes around £8 billion to the national economy – double the UK average.
Nancy Lalor, acting CEO of Learning to Work, a member of the Slough Chamber of Commerce, was reported as not surprised by the Glassdoor revelation: “We’ve got so many head offices that are based in Slough, so many ‘corporates’, and an amazing trading estate with over 350 businesses on it, so I think it’s really on the up.
“There’s so much new-build, so much development going on in the town, every few months the whole look of the town is changing and I think people are inspired by what’s going on.”
Dr Andrew Chamberlain, Glassdoor’s chief economist, said Slough is in a part of the country that offers “pleasant environments” meaning “an increased quality of life for employees”.
He added: “Although people in London are generally satisfied, it has proven not only to be an expensive place to live, but also an ultra-competitive city in which to find a job.
“With large multinational businesses establishing themselves in Slough, along with high average salaries and close proximity to major transport hubs such as Heathrow Airport, the Berkshire town has now emerged as a prime spot to live and work.”
Lalor and Chamberlain’s comments may be somewhat partial, but their words about Slough changing and emerging as ‘a prime spot to live and work’ are supported by very real and solid local developments and town regeneration improvements.
A promising future based on major nationally-strategic developments …
Western Rail Link to Heathrow (WRLTH)
- Subject to final development consent, work may start in 2019 on the proposed five-year 5.5km WRLTH which is set to cut airport journey times from Slough to Heathrow T5 to just seven minutes. It will also provide the Thames Valley with direct access to Heathrow and, via one interchange, 20% of the UK population. Prime minister (and Maidenhead MP) Theresa May gave her backing for the WRLTH when questioned on it by Slough MP Tanmanjeet Singh Dhesi during Parliamentary PMQs on January 24.“I believe there is very strong cross-party support for this link to Heathrow. It would reduce journey times from the southwest and could support the Thames Valley economy as well. Development funding has been committed for this project and the Dept of Transport will provide further detail on the timing in due course,” she replied.
Final statutory public consultation is being undertaken this spring before planning permission will be sought from the secretary of state through a Development Consent Order (DCO).Consultations so far have gained detailed information on local needs and confirmed strong support for the proposed scheme from national and local stakeholders, says Network Rail, which is working closely with the Department for Transport on the estimated five-year development that includes a major tunnel under the M4.
- In October 2016, the Government approved the principle of a third runway at Heathrow. The planning process on the nature of Heathrow’s proposed expansion – set to be Europe’s largest privately funded infrastructure project – is now firmly underway.
Over the past year, Heathrow has been working alongside local stakeholders and airline partners to evolve the plans it submitted to the Airports Commission.
A parliamentary vote is anticipated in the first half of 2018 on a national policy statement for a proposed northwest runway at Heathrow.
As a Nationally Significant Infrastructure Project (NSIP), Heathrow’s expansion will need to be authorised via a development consent order. This key NSIP project will boost UK airport capacity and provide more direct flights to UK destinations and up to 40 new cities abroad. Also, it is estimated to deliver an additional 77,000 local jobs over the next 14 years.
Key rail and road infrastructure projects
- The Elizabeth Line (formerly Crossrail) will arrive in Slough from 2019 providing travel directly between the business hearts of London and Slough, Langley and Burnham, and the wider Thames Valley.
- ‘Smart motorway’ improvements – an NSIP scheduled to complete in 2022 – are underway between M4 junctions 3-12. Slough is served by junctions 5-7.
- The Slough Mass Rapid Transit (SMaRT) bus scheme is imminent. Backed by Thames Valley Berkshire LEP, SMaRT’s priority bus lane along the A4 will help ease Slough’s trafficflow and transportation.
… an ongoing town regeneration partnership …
Slough Urban Renewal (SUR) – the joint venture between Slough Borough Council and Morgan Sindall Investments (MSIL) – is one-third through its 15-year partnership to deliver regeneration across the borough, and has already won numerous local and international awards.
SUR is helping to radically change perceptions of Slough by delivering a wide range of improved residential, commercial, educational, leisure, health and social infrastructure projects.
In the wake of Slough’s strikingly re-styled rail and bus stations, and The Curve – an architecturally dramatic showpiece public facility, incorporating a library, cultural space, registrar’s office, a theatre, performance space, and other civic amenities – SUR town regeneration projects amounting to more than £1 billion are underway:
- In October last year, the final resident moved into Milestone – SUR’s first and flagship residential development on the former Town Hall site – a now 100% owner-occupied complex of 73 homes, one and two-bedroom apartments and two and three-bedroom houses. SUR is progressing its second residential scheme, Wexham Green a collection of 104 two, three and four-bedroom homes. The first phases are now occupied and further phased sales are ongoing.
- Through a combined sites initiative, SUR is transforming a selection of disused, small sites into new council housing. Phase one is now complete with a second phase of 16 units under construction. Phases three (25 units) and four (43 units) are progressing through planning.
- A massive redevelopment scheme potentially including 1,400 new homes and Grade A office space is planned for the former Thames Valley University site at the Bath Road and Stoke Road junction, which Slough Borough Council bought in March 2017.
- Further residential housing is anticipated across further SUR sites including Stoke Wharf, a proposed development of circa 240 homes near the Grand Union Canal, set to be delivered in partnership with specialist developer Waterside Places.
- The town’s former central library site is set to be transformed by a mixed-use development including two new Marriott hotels – Moxy and Residence Inn – with over 240 rooms, a ground floor restaurant and bar plus further residential development in this landmark High Street location between the station and town centre.
- SUR is also delivering the council’s major investment programme in leisure facilities to encourage more active healthy lifestyles. Having successfully improved Arbour Park amenities, work is now underway on extending and refurbishing the town’s Ice Arena; a new wet and dry leisure centre on Farnham Road; a new gym and refurbishment at Langley Leisure; and conversion of Absolute Ten-Pin to a family activity centre in Salt Hill Park.
- An ongoing multi-million pound investment in primary and secondary school buildings, extensions and new schools. For example, work progresses on Wexham Secondary School’s major expansion, due to complete this year. A new three-storey teaching block will provide 29 new classrooms, staff workrooms, a new student reception, welfare facilities, library, sixth form study centre, and enable the creation of two new science laboratories.
… plus market-leading office developments …
- Directly opposite Slough Railway Station, The Porter Building, a major four-storey new-build office development launched in November last year, embodies the town’s new progressive business nature – and it’s WELL different. At 120,000 sq ft, The Porter Building is Slough’s second largest office building after O2’s Bath Road HQ – but the first in the UK to achieve WELL Core and Shell ‘gold’ certification. Designed within a Landid and Brockton Capital joint venture to meet BREEAM sustainable environment standards, The Porter Building has now achieved WELL Building Standard certification, an internationally recognised ‘healthy’ building rating, focused on human health and wellbeing in the built environment.
- The Future Works, next to Slough bus and train station, is a 2.5 acre three phase 350,000 sq ft Grade A office development by U+I and AshbyCapital, Its first construction phase, set to complete this summer, will provide 99,862 sq ft of prime office space, and is set to achieve a Platinum WiredScore connectivity rating, the highest level achievable.
- The first major office development in Slough for several years – 25 Windsor Road – was completed last summer, providing a new Grade A 111,000 sq ft six-storey office headquarters at the former Observatory House. The XLB/LRE Capital development has exceptional town centre parking facilities along with high standard workspace, with open-plan floorplates, and contemporary, modern finishes throughout.
… and beneficial regional business trends
At the end of January, GVA’s Crossrail Property Impact & Regeneration Study: 2012 – 2026 Report concluded that the Elizabeth Line (Crossrail) will have a much greater beneficial impact on London and the South East than previously predicted. The major infrastructure rail project is already rejuvenating towns along its route, attracting more businesses and residents, bringing new homes and offices, growth and opportunities.
CoStar property market analysis reveals that many more occupiers are now consolidating their disparate offices, “reassessing locations that will be served by the Elizabeth Line.” CoStar acknowledges SUR’s development progress and that Slough’s recent town centre developments are “well-positioned to capitalise on any Crossrail-induced office demand.” Last year, Slough also recorded one of the highest rates of Berkshire and North Hampshire office rental growth, its average rents being around 5% above the market average.
South East business space agent RARE also highlighted the Elizabeth Line as driving decisions. RARE said prime occupancy costs increased last quarter by 3% along the M4 corridor with spikes in Slough – up by 20% due to its choice of new office completions.
Real estate consultant JLL agreed that the Elizabeth Line and strong market fundamentals made the Western Corridor market (West London/Thames Valley) well-placed for the year ahead.
According to Cushman & Wakefield’s Co-working 2018 report, UK demand for flexible workspace soared to record levels in 2017, leasing activity virtually tripling (from 6% to 17%) last year in the UK’s nine largest cities.
Two-thirds of the UK flexible workspace market is now outside London, Cushman revealed, with the trend spreading well beyond the capital for the first time, and across all types of business. Cushman predicts flexible workspace will account for 10% of the UK office market by 2027.
JLL also expects further growth, citing significant interest from co-working and serviced office operators acquiring space, which accounted for 18% of Western Corridor leasing transactions. Well-located, good quality space, remains a primary focus for occupiers.
The answers lie in the soil
If the above facts don’t make Slough’s case for you, then go to the town and see for yourself the changes that are happening there now.
You’ll no doubt discover that your answer really does ‘lie in the soil’ since the name Slough was first recorded in 1196 as ‘Slo’, likely derived from the Old English word ‘Sloh’ meaning muddy soil.