High tech innovation will support Bristol’s longer-term recovery

Jo Davis, managing director, Avison Young Bristol

The expanding high-tech innovation sector will add to Bristol’s continued resilience and longer-term recovery as we enter a new year, according to Avison Young’s 2021 Forecast Bristol.

The city will be strongly influenced by the high-tech sector, with major occupiers and emerging start-ups fuelling demand growth. With the tech sector being an influential employer within the city, Bristol will look to continue to grow its innovation hubs, with incubator spaces across the city such as Engine Shed providing a budding supply of promising start-ups.

Speaking as Avison Young launched its 2021 Forecast Bristol, Jo Davis, managing director Avison Young Bristol said,

“Prior to Covid-19, the outlook for 2020 was positive for Bristol, with business investment and hiring anticipated to increase over the year following lower growth in 2019. Despite restrictions, Bristol showed its economic resilience in activity in the latter half of 2020, and we expect this to continue as we go through Lockdown 3.0.

“The city is driven by a strong community infrastructure. Its historic, independent identity has helped produce powerful local community ties which have shone through in the Covid crisis.”

The 2021 Forecast Bristol also predicts a continued focus on sustainability in the city, with this critical issue being a key part of the upcoming city and regional Mayoral elections. Bristol City Council continues to progress its pledge to achieve net zero carbon on its entire real estate portfolio by 2035, with new developments focussed on encouraging sustainable travel and use. The One City Plan provides a guide to encourage public bodies, private companies and local residents to work together to achieve a ‘healthy, fair and sustainable’ Bristol by 2050, a direction away from a purely fiscal focus.

Jo continued, “In terms of longer-term recovery, we expect the Bristol economy to be supported by growth in the consumer services sector through to 2024, alongside moderate growth in professional services, while the manufacturing sector struggles to retain ground lost in the first half of 2020.

“One of the interesting trends of 2021 will be Bristol’s status as an attractive relocation destination with its now only 68-minute commute to London potentially bolstering its attractiveness and competing with cities in the North.”

The relative strength of the Bristol office market looks set to continue with many deals moving forward alongside a growing demand for flexible offices. As the key office location in the South West, the city benefits from a highly skilled workforce, quick transport links to London, and good quality office stock being improved through its development pipeline.

Similarly, the industrial market has shown significant strength during 2020, with that also expected to continue into 2021. In fact, industrial take up in 2020 (IAS) has just been recorded at 2.38million sq ft for Greater Bristol alone – a 63% increase on 2019.

Avison Young predicts 2021 will see major logistics development growth in the Avonmouth area and adjacent motorway corridors with international inward investment. Occupiers have had to adapt very quickly to a new retail world of doorstep delivery and the quality standing stock to serve such demand has diminished very quickly in the last six months of 2020.

Leisure facilities in the city have emerged over the past year with significant success, such as The Wave, which has diversified its already popular facilities with a greater range of wave types as well as a 25-tent ‘glamping’ site – the largest of its kind in the UK. There’s the new ice rink at The Venue Leisure Park, set to open in 2021, and the 17,000 sq ft YTL Arena Bristol at Filton, which secured planning permission with the programme set to start on site this year.

Reflecting the city’s strong independent and community identity, several innovative initiatives have adapted and emerged in the retail and hospitality sector over the past year with significant success, despite the high street as a whole experiencing well documented hardships.

A Covid-driven initiative, ‘Breaking Bread’, established itself on Durdham Downs with a group of Bristol’s most popular restaurants and bars providing a socially distanced outdoor pop-up environment. Other examples of innovative restaurateurs include Little French who opened an al fresco dining area in the Westbury Park courtyard, and El Jefe Jose, who opened a Cuban street food restaurant during the first lockdown before expanding into another two sites.

Avison Young’s ‘2021 Forecast Bristol’ is part of a series of city reports, which explore the evolving realities of the UK commercial real estate landscape in the coming year. The report highlights key trends affecting Bristol, informed by data based insights and sector specialist advice as part of Avison Young’s 2021 Forecast campaign.

Rhys Gregory
Business Editor of Business-247 online magazine.