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“A different sort of business park”


A model for the future office park is being developed on the edge of Nottingham city centre. David Quinn reports on ng² and its unique features.

A development in the East Midlands is helping to redefine the concept of the business park, and could shape how such parks are perceived in future. The scheme, ng², has a couple of unusual features.

First is its name, which is not the most conventional of titles. Second is its location. The scheme, unlike many other office parks in the region, is not on the M1. Instead, it is in an untested location on the edge of Nottingham city centre. As such, it has few similarities with business park developments in any other UK regional city.

ng² is ostensibly an office park, but it will also be more. The scheme already has a retail offering – in the shape of a Homebase store – but is likely to eventually sport a much wider variety of retail and leisure uses, as well as an unconfirmed number of residential units. These elements will make it a self-contained business, leisure and residential community on the edge of the city centre.

Its distance from central Nottingham – approximately half a mile – means it cannot readily be compared with Manchester’s Spinningfields or Birmingham’s Brindley-place, which are much close to business cores. And yet it is close enough to the city centre to avoid comparisons with greenfield business parks.

According to Chris Hiatt, head of national offices at Jones Lang LaSalle, which, with local firm Capital, is jointly advising developer Miller Birch, ng² is symptomatic of the way the planning system is forcing business parks to change.

“Developers looking to create offices all by themselves just aren’t going to get consent. Also, car use is coming under pressure by the government, and we need to put developments where transport links are,” he says.

Luckily for developers, the demands being placed on business parks, from both the planners and from other forms of regulation, are not at odds with user desirability.

Neil Hartley, managing director of Miller Birch, believes ng²’s location is one of its main attractions. “There aren’t that many edge-of-city schemes about, and yet a lot of occupiers are looking at this type of site,” he says.

The site is that of the former Royal Ordnance factory on Queens Drive, which is one of the main routes into Nottingham city centre from the south. The factory – which manufactured warship weaponry, among other armaments – closed in April 2002. Its 38-acre site has the capacity for over 1m sq ft of development.

One of the site’s major advantages will be its link to the second line of the Nottingham Express Transit tram system, which will be capable of ferrying staff, residents and visitors between ng² and the city centre in a matter of minutes. NET’s second line, on which work could begin by the end of next year, typifies the alternative transport links Hiatt refers to as necessary for a new era of business parks.

Hartley suggests the NET link was a lucky bonus, rather than being the cornerstone of the scheme. “Queens Drive was a major bus route anyway, so the tram would not have affected the viability of the scheme. The tram was always coming close to the site. It’s not a case of lobbying to get it,” he says.

Architecturally ambitious
The front of the site, facing Queens Drive, is dominated by Experian’s flagship headquarters office building, which is under construction. Experian is a Nottingham company that has grown to be a world leader in financial data analysis, retail research and credit referencing. The first, architecturally ambitious phase, of its headquarters should be complete in August.

The fact that Experian is on board has been a massive boost to the scheme, according to Hartley. The company bought its development plot from Miller Birch on a “freehold turnkey” basis, meaning the developer is committed to building the first phase of the occupier’s offices, after which Experian is on its own.

Not only has the project benefited from the financial security that a 170,000 sq ft prelet affords, but credibility has been given to the idea of locating a large development on the site. It is also likely to have pleased Nottingham council, which was worried that Experian, a major local employer, was about to shift some of its operations away from the city.

Hartley is clearly pleased about landing Experian. “It’s always important to get the right people in on a scheme,” he says. “Experian had been expanding on an ad hoc basis in the city centre and had looked at whether they wanted to move part of its operation abroad. But the timing was perfect. We were able to do a deal to keep it here. It was a big win.”

According to Hartley, there is now very little scepticism about the nature of the ng² project, and the credit for this rests partly with Experian. “We are pleased with the commitment it has made – particularly with the high quality of the building, which has challenged us to raise our standards,” he says.

For the part of the site behind Experian’s building, two buildings, of 40,000 sq ft and 20,000 sq ft respectively are proposed. Hiatt confirms that several occupiers have stated an interest in these buildings, based on requirements of 10,000-25,000 sq ft, meaning a purely speculative start is unlikely to be necessary.

Legal and professional services
Hartley, hinting at the types of occupiers that are so far interested, says: “The health sector is important – I didn’t anticipate the number of enquiries from that sector – as well as legal and professional services.”

The aim for the site’s office provision is to go at least four storeys high in order to create less of a campus feel and more of a dense, urban fabric. Hiatt refers to this concept as an “office park in the sky”, and compares it with the likes of Chiswick Park in west London.

The density of ng² will be bolstered by the presence of a residential community, the nature of which is being debated through the local plan process.

“We’re not asking city-centre occupiers to swap their environment completely. We want to establish a clear step change in what’s available,” says Hiatt. “The whole thing has a sense of community, rather than a nine-to-five scheme.”

Another large development plot, referred to as phase 5, is being held back for potential inward investors. “We want something to offer if an occupier approaches us tomorrow. That’s why we’re keen to keep phase 5 clear,” explains Hartley.



Previous News

    19th April 2011
    19th February 2010
  • Speedo and major hotel buy into the success at Miller Birch's NG2 - more info.
    20th July 2009
  • Speedo Shows Ongoing Commitment to Local Economy - more info.
    26th June 2008
    15th May 2008
    20th November 2007
    8th November 2007
    23rd October 2007
    14th August 2007
    13th June 2006
  • Surveyors moving to prestige ng˛ site –
    - Nottingham Evening Post - more info.
    21st March 2006
  • Firm to develop ng˛ park –
    - Nottingham Evening Post - more info.
    7th January 2006
  • Record Nottingham Deal –
    - Estates Gazette - more info.
    3rd January 2006
  • Miller Birch banks HBOS letting at ng˛. - more info.
    21st December 2005
  • Halifax move set to give city extra –
    - Nottingham Evening Post - more info.
    20th December 2005
  • Bank set to move 150 jobs to NG˛
    -– Nottingham Evening Post - more info.
    29th October 2005
  • “Nottinghamshire - The centre for commercial property
    - Estates Gazette - more info.
    11th October 2005
  • Landmark move for city law firm –
    - Nottingham Evening Post - more info.
    16th September 2005
  • “Nottinghamshire
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    2nd August 2005
  • Pointing the way ahead in quality
    -– Nottingham Evening Post - more info.
    2nd March 2005
  • Arc up for award
    - Nottingham Evening Post - more info.
    29th September 2004
  • “We want to be a part of the region’s success story” - more info.