Changing Swindon town centre for the better

Ian Piper of Forward Swindon at Fleming Way April 2014

Forward Swindon is responsible for changing Swindon by driving the regeneration and investment activity in the town on behalf of Swindon Borough Council. Ian Piper, CEO at Forward Swindon (pictured above) says “We will see the improvement of Swindon town centre over the years to come and as a result, Swindon’s external image will gradually get better.” He continues “Businesses have told us they support the regeneration. They want to see these changes happen.”A town of two halves

The view from the roof of Jury’s Inn (above) shows how Fleming Way splits Swindon town centre in two. Nowadays, the dual carriageway is used less, but it has a huge impact on the heart of Swindon – dividing up important parts of the town.  The main route for people walking from the train station, bus station and their places of work (Zurich’s Tricentre complex, for example), to the shops in Swindon town centre, is through a subway that goes under the road. It puts them off coming into town at lunchtimes and evenings.

So, as part of the regeneration of the town centre, the plan is to get rid of the subway completely and make changes to Fleming Way to improve the centre for everyone.

What exactly is happening – and when?

In about two years’ time, Fleming Way will be closed to all traffic except buses, and the road will be narrowed and lowered to the same level as the pedestrian area. It will become a pleasant, landscaped avenue that will allow people to walk easily between the retail and business areas. Fleming Way will become a “shared space”: for people, buses and cycles. Later in the regeneration, a new bus exchange will replace the existing bus station, sitting on the site of Cheltenham Street car park.

Fleming Way with the Debenhams building to the right, showing the new bus exchange

To help bring all this to life you can watch Ian Piper, CEO at Forward Swindon walking through the town centre and explaining everything: see our Changing Swindon videos.  If you’d like more information about the overall Masterplan for Swindon, a precis is available at Forward Swindon’s website. You can also download the full document, which has been adopted by the Council, and has cross party support. So plans made today will not be overturned if the administration changes.

Visual of the redeveloped Fleming Way showing the pleasant landscaped environment

Why announce this two years ahead of the changes?

These changes were detailed in the planning permission granted for the overall Kimmerfields central business district project in 2012, even though Fleming Way won’t actually close to cars until 2016. Forward Swindon, the Council and developers Muse, have started the process of communicating the changes to local businesses and residents so that people have as much notice as possible.

During this period before the works start, material will be produced which gives drivers, pedestrians and other road users all the information they’ll need to get around in the future. This may include detailed route planners, new signage and passenger information provided through the bus companies.  We’ll keep you updated.

Is the closure of Fleming Way really necessary?

Swindon is a great place to live and work. But there is no doubt it needs to continue to update itself. A pleasant town centre is an important “pull” factor in persuading organisations and their staff to relocate into an area or stay and invest. So Forward Swindon is changing Swindon for the future, and for the better.

If you have any suggestions about the information which may be needed when the changes happen, please contact us at info@forwardswindon.co.uk, or swindonuk@forwardswindon.co.uk.

See full presentation here:

Swindon’s economy in top 10 cities survey

Swindon rankingsSwindon’s economy is competing well compared to other major British towns and cities in this year’s Cities Outlook 2014 Report, which analyses the UK’s 64 largest urban centres.  Here are some highlights.

Innovation:

The Report claims that innovation is the driver of economic growth. Finding better ways to make and deliver goods and services improves the performance of businesses and Swindon is now ranked second only to Cambridge in terms of innovation, based on the number of patents created – thats an improvement from 6th place last year. When you think about it, given the town’s industrial heritage and high productivity, we’d hope to be doing well, but its a great coup to be compared with the likes of Cambridge.

A growing population:

Today, more than half the UK population live in cities, and of these, one third are based in London. Swindon ranks no.3 in the top 10 fastest growing cities, with a population of 211,900, growing at a rate of 1.5% since 2002. In the last ten years we’ve welcomed another 29,800 people to Swindon.

Marginally ahead of Swindon are new towns Milton Keynes and Peterborough – its perhaps no wonder that when Forward Swindon commissioned an independent survey of business people based outside Swindon in 2012, many of them perceived Swindon as a “New Town”.  Also in the top 10 of fast growing centres are our neighbours, Oxford (ranked 8th) and Gloucester (9th).

Private V public sector jobs:

Swindon has the 3rd highest proportion of private sector employment with four times as many private sector jobs to every public sector post.  A low reliance on public sector bodies for employment points to a strong and diverse economy, which Forward Swindon continues to support. Swindon’s economy offers a wide range of jobs in different types of industry: from financial services or computer technologies, to car manufacturing.

But are we happy?

The last measure in the Cities Outlook 2014 Report is that of personal well-being, monitored by the ONS.  This type of data tends to attract a lot of interest, but the report shows there is little difference between locations, in terms of “Life Satisfaction”. Using a 1-10 scale (10 being highest satisfaction), Aldershot comes top at at 7.7, and Swindon sits at 7.4 out of 10, so we’re definitely a half-full town.

What can we make of all this?

Centre for Cities provides a very worthwhile reference point for organisations such as Forward Swindon (who run the Swindon UK campaign) and their shareholders Swindon Borough Council – allowing us to keep an eye on the economy with the benefit of independent analysis.  For a relatively compact town without formal city status, we are proud that Swindon is ranking well against other much bigger locations.

Q&A with Forward Swindon’s new Chairman of the Board

We have just appointed a new Chairman of the Board at Forward Swindon, Alan Shepherd, and we interviewed him for this week’s Blog. Read about his initial thoughts on the role and Forward Swindon’s current remit.  We’ve laid out the discussion in a Q&A: if you have any further questions please contact us.

Alan Shepherd, Forward Swindon Chairman

Question: What attracted you to chair the Board at Forward Swindon?

Firstly, the opportunity to offer something back in terms of public service. Having only latterly worked in the public sector, with prior to that a long career in the private sector with organisations including Kraft Foods, Sainsbury’s and LloydsTSB, it is an important motivator for me to be able to offer help to an organisation such as Forward Swindon. Further, although I do not live in Swindon itself, I know the town well (and have had several years commuting into London via Swindon), so the opportunity to help an important part of the wider local economy is appealing.

Question: What is your first impression of the Company and the existing Board?

I think Forward Swindon has achieved a great deal and has good reason to be proud. Ian Piper, the CEO runs what is clearly a professional and motivated team, with a wide remit, and a lot of good progress has been made. Although it is early days, my impression is that the Board brings a wide range of highly relevant skills and experiences, and is keen to find the right blend between encouragement and appropriate challenge. In particular, Gavin Jones represents the shareholder, Swindon Borough Council, with enthusiasm and obvious commitment, which augurs very well for a productive relationship.

Question: Are there particular challenges which you feel are unique to Swindon?

It is clear that Swindon enjoys a particular opportunity related to its geographical location, with unrivalled communications links to a huge catchment area. Finding ways to leverage these links forms a key part of the challenge for Ian and his team; to convert the huge ‘footfall’ (in retailing terms) of people through the borough into practical plans for economic growth.

Question: Forward Swindon focuses on regeneration; business support and inward investment, with new activities such as developing a higher education strategy – is there anything you would like to add to this list?

I think the list is ambitious enough! Indeed, my experience elsewhere, such as in building brands and new consumer propositions, is that focusing on a limited set of aspirations is typically more successful than spreading always scarce resources across a wide range of objectives, so it would be counter to that experience to add to the team’s to-do list.

Question: Which areas of the business are closest to your heart – and your own expertise?

My background is in commercial development across a wide range of industries and marketplaces, including both B2B and B2C (business to business, and business to consumer), so I am fascinated by all the challenges presented to the Forward Swindon team. If there was an area of particular interest it would be in the retail developments underway, as with a background in a number of well-known retailers, including Sainsbury’s, the Co-operative and Iceland, I have some particular experience of what drives success in a retailing context.

Also, although I have no background personally in the field, I am keen to see how the higher education aspirations of the borough can be advanced, both to raise the skills and employability of the labour pool, but also at a more human level to see how the aspirations and horizons of the residents (including but not limited to young people in the town) can be advanced.

Question: Do you want to do anything differently – are there any issues which could be approached in other ways?

No. I am confident that Ian and his team, guided by the great work of the out-going chair and supported by an enthusiastic Board, are fully on the right pathway to achieve their objectives. If I have a role to play, it is to assist and offer support to that team.

Question: What would you say to the residents & business people in Swindon about what to expect from your chairmanship?

I’d like to invite them to continue to follow Forward Swindon’s activity and help us make a positive impact for the future of the town.  This is a very exciting time to be involved.

 

 

Swindon engineering expertise is promoted in Birmingham

Swindon UK set out its stall earlier this month when Forward Swindon exhibited at a huge engineering show at the Birmingham NEC. The aim was to promote Swindon as an option for advanced engineering businesses who may be looking to expand or relocate.

We chose the Advanced Engineering Show 2013 because a key success in the Swindon economy is its engineering industry.  We have world renowned companies in Swindon with a highly sought after workforce. The Forward Swindon team went to search for like-minded businesses, and showcase Swindon as a great place to trade from.

We were well armed: we had the backing of Swindon based companies like Intel, Plessey, Tencate, Retrac Composites, Recycling Technologies, Torin-Sifan, Cleeve Technology, BMW, Johnson Matthey Fuel Cells, Advanced Plasma Power and Honda. We also took the opportunity to promote the new Swindon UTC while we were there.

The banter on the stand was driven by people recognising these names: many had worked with them before, or currently work with them as suppliers, customers or research partners.  One of our aims is to encourage these existing links into stronger “clusters” of specialist engineering activity in Swindon.

A prime example of this approach, and one of most the compelling aspects to our proposition, was the lead that Swindon takes in the hydrogen market. Host to the first open-access hydrogen re-fuelling station in the country, and with an approved strategy to develop hydrogen technologies, Swindon is unique in its range of existing expertise, and its intention to develop this further over the next 20 years. A new partnership has just been created to direct this work: the Swindon Hydrogen Group will run its first conference early next month – watch this space!

Hydrogen vans

Hydrogen dual fuel vans in development in Swindon (2013)

The local media, BBC Radio Wiltshire followed us up to Birmingham to conduct interviews with ourselves and Retrac Composites. They also spoke to competitor locations, like Birmingham, Telford, Stoke on Trent.

It’s always useful to test the strength of your own campaign against others and we were re-assured that the quality of the Swindon offer, compared to other sometimes bigger players, was superb.

One of the things which struck us was the fantastic array of British companies exhibiting from all sectors – motor racing, medical, aero engineering and military – you name it they were all there and Swindon UK was in the thick of it.

Retail in Swindon – what’s in store?

Swindon retail

Swindon town centre retail

 

Retail in Swindon is improving all the time, and it’s the right time to explore new opportunities here.  If you are a retailer or food outlet looking to expand your existing operations or have a new concept, Swindon should be on your list of options. According to recent figures on Swindon’s retail market from data experts, CACI, companies seeking to expand their operations will find a wealth of untapped demand here. Commissioned by Forward Swindon and the Brunel Shopping Centre managers, FI-REM, the analysis shows a large catchment area of 777,000 people and potential annual ‘comparison goods expenditure’ (i.e. non-food) of £1.6 billion. For a compact borough of around 210,000 residents, this reflects a very healthy pool of potential customers. The retail catchment, coupled with Swindon’s many regeneration projects and housing developments, is set to provide incoming retailers and food outlets with a great future in the town.

A workforce to be reckoned with

Swindon is the base for an affluent and ambitious working population with lifestyle aspirations to match. Employed by a high proportion of global brands and a host of smaller enterprises, the workforce is diverse and talented. Many of these workers commute into the town each day, swelling the potential shopper base during the lunchtime and evening periods. CACI’s research shows that:

  • Workers have a potential spend of £7.2 million, in addition to the resident catchment. Add the Kimmerfields office workers of the future, and this figure could double.
  • 35% of workers are ‘Wealthy Achievers’ (Acorn category) – and 29% of the resident catchment are in this group too.
  • 15% of resident shoppers are ‘Wealthy Executives’ – almost double the 8% UK figure, while ‘Secure Families’ make up 17% of shoppers compared to a UK figure of 14%.
  • No other substantial regional destinations compete significantly with Swindon with such a large and affluent catchment. Compare this to the Borough’s own population of 210,000, and its clear there is a huge pool of untapped demand around Swindon.

Developing footfall potential

Swindon is undergoing unprecedented change. CACI expects that major developments will deliver new footfall and increase comparison goods spend potential by 15%. The calculations include the following developments:

  • Kimmerfields – Swindon’s new central business district – due to bring 3,500 workers to the town centre, with an additional spend potential of £6.9 million.
  • New leisure and catering brands at Regent Circus, including Cineworld, Morrisons, Prezzo, Nandos and ASK.
  • 40-acre Oasis Leisure scheme. Featuring an indoor ski slope and major events arena, it will be the only development of its kind between London and Cardiff. The much-loved Oasis leisure centre is also being refurbished currently.
  • New housing across the Borough

The home of high demand

Swindon’s new housing developments are adding to the town’s compelling retail opportunities. The area’s affluent population is also particularly attractive to premium and upper mass-market retailers. CACI’s figures show that 13,400 new homes will increase comparison goods spend potential by a further £18.3 million, from the current market potential of £185.2 million.

Ready to set up shop in Swindon?

Swindon is a growing and successful base for business, bringing more shoppers into the town every year. Talk to Forward Swindon if you’d like to learn more about meeting that demand. Our bespoke, free service will introduce you to the right contacts to help you secure the best retailing opportunities in one of the South’s most affluent areas. To find out more, call us now on +44 (0)1793 429 250 or complete our enquiry form.

 

Work experience – second instalment

Our blog post this week is the second instalment from our Year 10 work experience students from Isambard Community School in Swindon.

As part of their time with us we asked them to write a blog post about their experience and what they learnt about Swindon along the way. This second instalment was written by Chris Brady.

Why Swindon is an alright place to live.
By Chris Brady

When asked what words to be used to describe Swindon, the usual responses would be “Average”, “Normal”, or “Boring”. But are these words to be used in a negative manner? Swindon boasts one of the lowest crime rates in all of the UK, has some of the lowest unemployment rates, and offers some of the best education facilities. Swindon may be “Normal”, but that doesn’t mean it has nothing to show off.

Seeing the Honda hydrogen refuelling facility really pushed that point, as it’s one of the very few facilities capable of delivering hydrogen fuel in the world. Swindon offers some of the latest in technology, and is continuing to expand with more modern facilities. It’s not just a benchmark of an average British town; it’s a goal for what a town can be. Swindon offers almost everything someone could hope for in a town, from several cinemas and restaurants, to a leisure center.

Having to improve the map of Swindon also helped me learn something else. Seeing how often the buildings changed hands showed me that the economy vastly changes over such short periods of time, a river to the usual lake.

When the improved leisure center is fully erected, Swindon will become a location ideal for tourists to visit, and therefore will get many more people constantly visiting. It’s certain to blend with the fast-adapting industries present in the town, which is likely to mean that the already large opportunities present for businesses in the town will only expand.

Work Experience – why it’s worth getting your company involved

In June Forward Swindon decided to offer two work experience placements to Year 10 students from Isambard Community School in Swindon.

We felt it was important to support the local schools and to give two students the opportunity to learn about Forward Swindon’s work in the town and experience working life in a busy office.

In order to make it valuable for the students we organised a timetable of activities which gave them an insight into each department at Forward Swindon.

As part of their time with us we asked them to write a blog post about their experience and what they learnt about Swindon along the way. This is the first of two instalments which was written by Megan Grundy.

What I didn’t know about Swindon- Work Experience 2013
By Megan Grundy

Swindon is a small town off the M4 motorway; it is in direct connection to London via the M4 and Rail Networks.

About Swindon
In the years to come Swindon will have developed even more, it will include a multiplex cinema with a Nandos at the top of the town, this is where the old college used to be. At the bottom of the town there is a car park and offices being built opening up jobs for people. Also the Oasis Leisure Centre will be renovated to become a dry ski slope in many years to come. Projects like this can take from 10-15 years to complete.

Engineering in Swindon- Honda
The Honda plant in Swindon produces thousands of cars a year and they also manufacture engines too. There is a hydrogen filling station at the Honda plant in Swindon which is run by  ‘BOC’ which is the British Oxygen Company.

Plan 500
Today I found out that Plan 500 aims to help local businesses employ or consider young people in the community. Writing a CV is actually harder than you think, you don’t anticipate how much detail you can put into the CV itself.

Other Aspects
The other side of Swindon is the businesses in the town itself, the goad map named after Charles E.Goad is a detailed map that every town has showing every individual business and their name. This can help to indicate vacant spaces in the town for new businesses moving into Swindon or expanding businesses. It gets updated by someone walking through the town and noting down what businesses are in the town centre and what spaces are vacant for future reference. In Swindon there are many construction projects for the future and some are happening now, the plans for the future are very beneficial for  Swindon’s reputation. Seeing some of the development in the town is amazing, you can see and hear the insight from the developers at Forward Swindon and how much the development makes a difference to Swindon itself.

Forward Swindon
Forward Swindon’s aims are to bring new businesses to Swindon, they are a very helpful and friendly team of people and offer helpful advice to new businesses wanting to come to Swindon or wanting to expand in Swindon.

Opportunity knocks for young people in Swindon

Swindon has a wealth of multi-national companies with career opportunities for graduates and young people, but what attracts people to working in the town?

Alice Lipczynski, 25, has worked as an accountant at Nationwide in Swindon for 7 months. Having spent three years in London working for a large multi-national on their graduate scheme, Alice decided she wanted to live closer to family and friends in Bristol and embarked on looking for a job in the South West.

Initially she concentrated her search on Bath and Bristol but her research into large companies in the South West brought up Nationwide in Swindon where there was a suitable position advertised.

Alice had only visited Swindon once before but after spending a few months working and living in the area, decided to make the move permanent.

“I had originally planned to commute from Bath to Swindon, but after spending a few months working and living in the area, and considering the relative affordability, I decided to make Swindon my home.”

She has embraced many of the leisure activities on offer in Swindon and spends time in the pubs and restaurants of Old Town as well as visiting other local towns such as Marlborough, Salisbury and Oxford.

Alice believes it’s not just the number of companies that make Swindon such a good choice for graduates but the large size of the companies, which allows young people to develop within them.

As well as the finance sector Swindon is well known for its manufacturing and construction heritage.

Beard Construction was established in Swindon in 1892 and is still a family run concern employing over 170 people.

Jon Mann, 20, has been on their Trainee Programme for 4 years. He joined as a school leaver at the age of 16 having met the Chairman at a school careers event.

“I was really interested in working in construction so I decided to apply for the programme as I liked the structured education I received whilst working. To be able to study for a degree at Swindon College in the town where I grew up is great”.

The interview process involved guided tours around some of Beard Construction’s projects and a formal interview in front of a panel. Jon was delighted to be accepted onto the programme as it’s in high demand.

The programme involves studying one day a week at college for 7 years where participants gain ONC and HNC’s in the first 4 years followed by an HND in year 5 and finally a BSC in Engineering and Construction in years 6 and 7. His ambition is to become a Senior Project Manager in time and work his way up in the family business.

“I was attracted to Beard Construction because it offers a fantastic plan for my education and has a real family feel to it”.

Jon particularly wanted to stay in Swindon to be near his friends and family and enjoys a varied social life including lots of sports and athletics and shopping at the Designer Outlet Centre.

He’s also saving up to buy a house and hopes to have enough to purchase in the new Marlborough Park development in the next few years.

For young people in Swindon there are many different routes available into their chosen careers and these case studies show some of the great opportunities on offer from Swindon’s extensive and varied business community.

If you have a business related story about Swindon that you would like to tell us about please email Juliafalcon@forwardswindon.co.uk