‘New Brunel’ says green light key to city’s traffic conundrum

A dedicated traffic light warden should be appointed to make sure Bristol’s traffic controls are operating properly ensuring traffic is kept flowing along the key routes through the city.

The idea has won Bristol businessman Stuart Hignell the £5,000 top prize in the Federation of Small Businesses ‘Are you the New Brunel’ competition launched to find workable solutions to the city’s traffic gridlock.

The winning idea will be passed on to Mayor George Ferguson as part of a dossier of congestion-easing schemes.

Stuart Hignell pinpointed inefficient traffic controls as a major contributor to Bristol’s traffic congestion. He proposed a traffic light overlord should be appointed to ensure all lights are phased properly and to investigate opportunities to switch them off in certain locations or at certain times of day. He also suggested adding filters wherever possible.

Mr Hignell, managing director of Bristol Gas Supplies and Blast Event Hire in St Philips, faces the daily challenge not only of getting himself to work on time but ensuring his nine delivery vehicles meet their schedules.

He said: “Our success as a business is built on our ability to deliver orders quickly and correctly first time round and Bristol’s chronic congestion problems mean we have to factor in extensive delays every time a lorry leaves the site.

“We all have our traffic bugbears but mine is badly phased traffic lights. I have to negotiate nine sets of lights between where I live and where I work and there is nothing more annoying than sitting in the queue at a red light while the oncoming traffic lanes are deserted.

“There doesn’t seem to be any adjustment for traffic flowing in to the city in the mornings and hurrying it out again in the evening.

“If each one of our nine delivery vehicles is held up for two minutes longer than necessary at every set of lights they come across then it becomes clear we are talking about hundreds of wasted hours – not to mention wasted fuel – every year.

“This has a massive impact not just on Bristol Gas Supplies and Blast Event Hire but on every other business in the city trying to make a living and get the economy moving.”

City businessman Guy Kingston – who came up with the idea for the New Brunel competition said the FSB’s £5,000 cash prize had clearly inspired the public to think imaginatively and creatively.

He said: “We had hundreds of ideas on every aspect of Bristol’s transport system but Stuart’s entry is a common sense suggestion based on his own observations as a commuter and businessman. The appointment of a dedicated traffic light Tsar to ensure the city’s traffic control system is operating as smartly as possible could be introduced quickly, cheaply and make a real difference.”

Though there was no second prize, the runner-up was Matthew French, who suggested that all bus stops on busy routes should be recessed, ensuring that buses pull clear of the road to stop and don’t hold up other vehicles behind them. Again the judges felt this was another simple, common sense suggestion that could be implemented with ease yet have a huge impact on easing traffic headaches for everyone.

Other ideas presented to the FSB included a submersible dual carriageway rising from the New Cut, a huge underground car park beneath Clifton and a selection of monorail systems.

Guy Kingston said: “People really joined in the spirit of the competition and we think there is plenty for the Mayor to consider. As well as infrastructure changes people came up with common sense ideas such as staggering school and office start times to try and ease rush hour snarl-ups.

“They also called for more park and rides and for old railway lines to be re-opened.As business people, the FSB was looking for genuinely innovative schemes which paid serious attention to the needs of motorists but also looked at other aspects which could ease the entire transport network. We were also looking for ways to improve parking in the city.

“With such a wide range of clever original ideas, Bristol could easily become the country’s best city to drive in. We just need the Council to grasp this one-off opportunity and make the most of it.”

Business leaders judging the competition included Stephen Clarke, partner at Clarke Willmott solicitors, Guy Kingston of Russian Trade Consultants Kingston Rohdes, and formerly chairman of the Bristol Branch of the Federation of Small Businesses, alongside Peter Hargreaves of Hargreaves Lansdown.

Issued on behalf of the Bristol branch of the Federation of Small Businesses by Empica. For further information contact Martin Powell (01275) 394400.

Third West council sees future housing strategy run aground

Mendip District Council is the third local authority in as many weeks which has seen its strategic housing plans run aground.

And planning advisor Marcus Plaw from Colliers International said the signs were that more West councils could be forced to go back to the drawing board if their projected housing allocations do not satisfy Government requirements.

He said: “The Government’s determination to stimulate the economy and using the planning system as a mechanism must be acknowledged by local authorities. This includes preparing for and assisting in the delivery of new housing and other development.

“This policy drive is increasing the pressure on local councils as they attempt to balance the need for thousands of new homes while containing development to planned extensions into rural areas and Green Belt.”

He said it was clear that councils in the West and elsewhere must respond positively and ensure that the supporting evidence is up-to-date and accurate to ensure future housing needs can be provided for.

Mendip District Council is the latest local authority to see its local plan evidence base for housing need questioned following an appeal by Silverwood Partnership, in seeking permission for up to 90 new homes at Evercreech. The developer had questioned the council’s ability to demonstrate five year’s supply of land for new homes.

Marcus Plaw said: “Mendip District Council was challenged on its ability to demonstrate positive planning and accurately forecasting housing supply in order to properly plan development in the area.”

North Somerset Council ran into similar difficulties, being made to review its housing supply and wider implications following a challenge in the High Court by Bristol University over hundreds of homes on a 70-acre green belt land between Long Ashton and the A370.

North Somerset Council has arranged a series of exhibitions for people to view the plans and have their say.

Meanwhile planners at BaNES Council were considering additional housing sites around the edges of Bath, Keynsham and Bristol having increased their target from 11,500 to 12,700 homes.

Marcus Plaw, Associate Director of Planning at Colliers International’s Bristol office, said it was clear that councils should be responding to the Government’s aim of growing the economy in part through the planning system.

He said: “The Government continues to stress the importance of the planning system to deliver sustainable development. Changes in the approach to preparing local plans, stripped back government guidance and initiatives to relax permitted development rights reflect this.

All enquiries should be directed to Marcus Plaw, Associate Director of Planning, Colliers International on 0117 917 2000.

Commercial Experts Report Improving Office Market Conditions

The level of occupied office space in Bristol City Centre is showing signs of improvement according to research by Colliers International. Despite take up in 2012 flatlining and being at a similar level for the last few years, the unique research known as Net Stock Absorption (NSA) tells a different story.

James Preece of the office team said: “Following a sustained period of decreasing occupancy of second hand offices since late 2008, 2012 showed the first upswing with overall absorption rising by just over 100,000 sq ft in the second half of the year. This brought the total for 2012 up to c. 220,000 sq ft.”

He added: “Notwithstanding the low take up in 2012, Grade A office occupancy has maintained its positive tone, mostly due to the complete lack of development.”

Steve Lipfriend, Director of the offices team in Bristol said: “Overall vacancy in the City Centre saw a reduction for only the second time in five years largely driven by the number of secondhand office transactions.

“The availability of Grade A offices continued to diminish in 2012 and with only one scheme due to complete in 2013 being PRUPIM’s substantial refurbishment of 1 Victoria Street of 47,500 sq ft. We are approaching a tipping point where rents may start to grow.”

The technology and media sector has shown good growth and this is predicted to continue. Occupiers of this type favour flexibility in their lease terms and with a reasonably high level of supply, many landlords are willing to offer it.

The research shows that over the last 12 months it has been the refurbished secondhand offices that have been absorbing the vast majority of demand and this is likely to continue in 2013.

We have already seen the city council purchase 100 Temple Street, which will allow them to occupy 70,000 sq ft of good quality Grade B offices immediately. This transaction will give take up in the city centre a significant and much welcome boost in 2013.

Issued by Empica Ltd on behalf of Colliers International. For further information contact Martin Powell or Simon Harding on 01275 394 400.

Back to the Drawing Board – Bright ideas sought for surplus school site

Innovative development schemes are being sought for redundant school space at the former Redwick and Northwick CEVC primary school in Pilning, South Gloucestershire.

Consultants from Colliers International have been called in to market the bulk of the former school site and the nearby playing field.

Consultancy director Chris Dawson said the rural setting close to the M4/M49 motorway networks opened up a range of possible uses.

He said: “The site has potential for a range of activities including office premises, nurseries, residential or live-work schemes subject to the appropriate planning consents.”

A detached playing field is also offered for sale.

The school was closed in 2007 following amalgamation with Pilning Primary School to form the new St Peter’s Anglican and Methodist VC Primary School which opened in  2011.

Offers are invited for the main school building of 1,857 sq ft along with a 1.28 acre playing field, which can be sold separately.

The school site is located within the hamlet of Northwick six miles south west of Thornbury and about eight miles north of Bristol city centre.

The former school site dates back to 1842 and includes additional classroom space and a kitchen.

The playing field is 65m to the northeast of the school and is approached via the track between The Firs and the school building.

Grade II listed, the school is of special architectural and historic interest.

Presently carrying D1 (Non-residential institutions) consents, the site was subject of a previous planning application to switch to residential use in 2010.

Chris Dawson concluded: “There is clearly scope for an innovative developer to make new use of this key site in South Gloucestershire.”

Queues expected as Burford’s Highway Hotel goes on the market

Offering quirkiness, quaintness and dependable Cotswolds quality, the Highway Hotel in the heart of Burford is on the market with sector specialists Colliers International.

The characterful hotel in the High Street sits alongside the antique shops and stone cottages which help maintain the town’s reputation as a genuine Cotswolds honeypot.

With nine letting bedrooms and a three-bedroom flat for owners the Highway Hotel represents great value and is on the market at a cool £1.3 million freehold.

Colliers International Hotels Director Peter Brunt said the Highway exemplified all that is best in a traditional English inn.

“It combines a genuine period feel with the highest standards of comfort expected by today’s clientele. The characterful and cosy public areas feature flagged floors and exposed stone walls which held enchant locals and guests alike.

“The letting bedrooms are stylish, and a world away from the homogeneity of the chain hotel and owners have the luxury of a spacious three bedroom flat.”

Owners Tally and Scott fell in love with the medieval inn when they chose to spend their wedding night there – two years later they returned as owners and have spent seven years refurbishing and refining the premises to create one of the finest residential hotels in the area.

Former fashion executive Tally said: “When Scott and I bought this ancient building in April 2006 it hadn’t traded as an inn for 16 years, but as a shop and a B&B.

“We already had strong family connections to the area and are active in the community but what we enjoy most is that our visitors also fall in love with the place and frequently make return visits. One couple we know came back four times in one year.”

“The hospitality sector in the Cotswolds has changed dramatically over the past few years as large numbers of American and Japanese tourists have been replaced by people from Australia and New Zealand, along with a significant increase in domestic trade.

“We get lots of couples from London and Birmingham looking for a genuine weekend away from it all and they wind down within hours of arriving.”

Voted by Forbes Magazine as the 6th most idyllic place to live in Europe, Burford is situated midway between between Oxford and Cheltenham and boasts a delightful High Street sloping down to a picturesque bridge over the River Windrush.

The A40 skirts the southern edge making it one of the most accessible of the Cotswolds’ big name towns alongside tourist favourites such as Bourton on the Water, Chipping Campden, Stow on the Wold and the Slaughters.

Tally said: “One of our most appealing features is that people can catch a train in London and be in Burford in an hour. If they are coming by car they might add an extra half an hour.”

Parts of the Grade II* listed Highway date back to the 1480s but there have been plenty of later alterations and additions over the centuries to create a characterful, creaking board and exposed walls ambience – combined with all today’s creature comforts including free Wi-Fi, en suite rooms not to mention award-winning food.

With accommodation on basement, ground and first floors the hotel features a stylish bar for around 30 to 40 people as well as a snug, also overlooking the High Street, for about 12.

There is also a back bar which is used as an office but suitable for bringing back into full trading use if required.

The atmospheric private dining room can seat up to 22 and has a small lounge, while marquees have been erected in the garden to provide additional function space.

Towards the rear of the ground floor is a large flat comprising living room, kitchen, three bedrooms and a bathroom. There are also two staff bedrooms sharing a single bathroom.

The courtyard garden at the rear offers five picnic sets and a further five set out on the high street to the front (around 40 customers can be accommodated outside in good weather).

All enquiries should be directed to Peter Brunt, Hotels Director, Colliers International on 0117 917 2000.

Foodie haven makes ideal base to explore quintessential Cotswolds location

Nestled in the heart of the Cotswolds, renowned Warwickshire watering hole the Fox & Hounds in Great Wolford is on the market with go-to sector specialists Colliers International.

Described as the quintessential unspoiled English country inn, the Fox & Hounds is within easy reach of the tourist hotspots of Chipping Campden, Stow on the Wold and Moreton in Marsh.

The inn – a true foodie haven – has been at the heart of the village since 1540 and lies at the centre of a network of ancient footpaths and bridleways which makes it particularly attractive for walkers.

Colliers International hotels director Peter Brunt said the Fox & Hounds was a stunning and characterful inn ideally placed to explore the region.

He said: “This delightful pub is everything you would hope to find in a pretty Cotswold village. The trading areas simply ooze character and atmosphere and there is considerable scope to develop trade.”

With three  lovely lettings bedrooms, flagged floors, low beams and huge open fireplace, the Fox & Hounds makes a great base to explore the surrounding market towns and countryside.

Peter said: “The inn has a set of very stylish letting bedrooms allowing guests to extend their stay in this wonderful part of the world.

“As a location to trade, the Cotswolds is second to none, drawing tourists from around the world and day visitors from a very wide area. In addition it is one of the most desirable places to live in the country.”

On the market at £675,000 freehold, the Grade II listed property has two main restaurant/bar areas either side of the beautiful open fireplace. There is a low-beamed ceiling and a charming brass top bar servery.

Peter Brunt concluded: “Our clients bought the property in 2006 and have really enjoyed their time living in and operating the Fox & Hounds but will now move on to a well-deserved full retirement following the sale.”

The three letting bedrooms will sleep six (two double and one twin) two have en suite bathrooms and the third an en suite shower room.

Arranged over first and attic floors the spacious owner’s accommodation includes a large lounge, kitchen and office as well as two en suite double bedrooms and a further single bedroom.

All enquiries should be directed to Peter Brunt, Hotels Director, Colliers International on 0117 917 2000.

Chance to keep the party going in The Kitchen

The Kitchen in Minchinhampton – a favourite destination for tourists and locals alike – is on the market with go-to Cotswolds specialists Colliers International at £750,000 freehold.

Owners Werner and Dianne Bunt elected to put the popular café/tea room on the market so they can retire and slow things down – but say there is plenty of potential for new owners to come in and take the business forward.

Australian Dianne met Austrian Werner in the early 80s when they worked in the cruise ship industry. Later, they married, returned to Dianne’s homeland and opened their first café in Queensland, Australia. During the 10 years they owned it, the cafe grew from a small 30 cover shop to a thriving 120-cover restaurant.

While visiting friends in Cheltenham, they fell in love with the Cotswolds and subsequently purchased a small hotel in the town, which they successfully operated for eight years.

Dianne said: “The main thing that attracted us to the area was the fact it is an unspoilt, typical Cotswold village. Business is steady throughout the year. Spring and summer brings families and walkers on The Common, and in the chilly autumn and winter months the locals continue to come in and have a cosy coffee or meal.”

“It’s a perfect all-year-round business, with strong potential for someone who might consider adding outside catering, funeral teas, Sunday lunches or evening meals. We are regularly asked if we are available to offer these additional services.”

With consistent turnover of £196,980 in 2012, the couple attribute their success to quality of service and offering locally sourced, good home-cooked food.

Werner said: “It’s a wonderful cafe, with great ambience. Definitely the hub of the town. There is nothing comparable on the market in the area.”

Colliers International Hotels Director Peter Brunt said the delightful big village location offered the best of both worlds, with loyal regulars being served alongside tourists and visitors.

He said: “The Kitchen includes a superb spacious self-contained flat with a lovely garden which makes it ideal for couples or families and is perhaps the best accommodation I have seen in a business like this.”

Two parking spaces are also included, as well as a couple of good sized outside storage sheds.

“At present it is only open Tuesday to Saturday, 9 to 5, so there is obviously scope to significantly increase the already consistent turnover.

“The tea room is a genuinely important part of village life and has a high percentage of repeat business because, unlike many in the area, the business is not dependent solely on the tourist trade.”

The Kitchen draws considerable drive-out trade – regulars come in significant numbers from Cheltenham, Cirencester, Bath & Bristol, to supplement the local business.

The Grade II Listed property is believed to date from the seventeenth century and features a delightful trading area with room for approximately 36 covers indoors and weather permitting, four tables outdoors.

The self-contained flat has its own ground floor entrance as well as a conservatory, which links the first-floor living accommodation to the garden at the back. There is a large attractive lounge with a wood-burning stove, a fitted kitchen/diner, one large double bedroom, a single bedroom and on the second floor there are two good-sized attic rooms, which are presently used as a bedroom and additional lounge area.

“Dianne and Werner bought The Kitchen in May 2007 and have increased the revenue by more than 50 per cent. Retirement beckons, but their legacy to the purchaser is a very well set-up and profitable business indeed.”

For further details contact Peter Brunt, Hotels Director, Colliers International, on 0117 917 2000.

Landmark Hotel must sell as former Welsh Rugby League Star struggles to walk – Ideal opportunity to take over the reins in superb Brecon Beacons location

Pub sector specialists Colliers International are stepping up efforts to find a buyer for the Llanwenarth Hotel near Abergavenny.

The hotel – owned by former Wales rugby league international and Bristol rugby stalwart Richard Wallace and his wife Anita – is in a tourist hotspot on the A40 near the Sugarloaf Mountain.

Colliers International Hotels Director Peter Brunt said ill-health had forced the owners to put the  17-bedroom hotel on the market after a ten year spell at the helm. The company has produced a special promotional video on the distinctive hotel in a bid to attract a buyer.

Peter Brunt said: “Richard’s old injuries are beginning to come home to roost and combined with increasing ill-health have obliged the couple to sell up.  He is really struggling to walk now and has no choice but to find a buyer quickly – it is almost an auction type situation and consequently there is a potential bargain to be had. They have already reduced the asking price to £575,000 freehold demonstrating their determination to sell.

“The last few months have seen a dip in trade as Richard has struggled with his health but the underlying business is very strong and the hotel comfortably has potential to generate well over  £100,000 profit per annum.”

With outstanding views towards the Sugarloaf mountain and Brecon Beacons National Park the hotel is an ideal base for visitors looking to explore the region.

The well-presented 17-bedroom country hotel and restaurant overlooks the Usk Valley and offers guests a genuine rural escape whilst still being situated on the main A40 – handy for Crickhowell, Brecon, Llandovery and Carmarthen.

Peter Brunt said the hotel was a straightforward and unpretentious offering which had gained a reputation in South Wales for great value for money.

“The location is fabulous as it is the main gateway to the Brecon Beacons National Park and the Wye Valley. Cardiff and Bristol are within a comfortable drive.”

He went on: “The Riverside Restaurant is spacious and well laid out and is the centrepiece of Llanwenarth. The bedrooms are also well-equipped with modern décor and many have balconies overlooking the valley.

“The hotel has been refurbished and well-maintained by the current owners, with all bedrooms presented to a high standard. The popular restaurant provides a relaxing environment for diners, supplemented by the covered outdoor terrace in the summer months.”

Richard Wallace played 90 games for Bristol in the 1960s and 70s before turning professional and moving north to play rugby league. He turned out for Wales against France in the 1975 rugby league world cup. On retiring from the game Richard transferred to the hotel sector and ran a business in Winchester before moving on to the Llanwenarth Hotel ten years ago.

Richard commented: “With a replacement hip and a damaged spine mobility is becoming more difficult and it is time to let new owners take over this lovely location.”

The 17 en suite letting bedrooms include 15 double or twin and two family Rooms. There is also a good two bedroom flat that has its own external access along with living room, kitchen and bathroom. There is  an outside dining terrace with a retractable awning which provides an additional 30 covers on fine days plus a courtyard garden and large car park.

The bar has seating for up to 20, the attractive restaurant providing up to 60 covers and the conservatory seating for a further 20.

Richard concluded: “This is a lovely spot near the Sugarloaf mountain in an area which has successfully marketed itself as the “foodie” capital of Wales.”

All enquiries should be directed to Peter Brunt, Hotels Director, Colliers International on 0117 917 2000.

Somerset firm signs Apprentice Saw Doctors

A Somerset company is the first in the country to take on three apprentices to train to be saw doctors.

The apprentices have joined EPS Services and Tooling at its base in Wiveliscombe, Somerset where they are learning skills in tooling technology and processes, enabling them to provide new saws, servicing and repairs for the UK wood and timber industry.

Charles Wallace, Rob Owen and Bradley Wilson are on the pioneering course with EPS Services planning to expand the programme further with a further two apprentices in  2014.

EPS Services Managing Director Nick Palmer said he had been looking for a qualification to recognise the skills of his workforce and set a quality benchmark for the wider tooling sector.

He said: “Apprenticeship qualifications have until now been out of reach to those working in the tooling sector of the wood and timber Industry. We are proud to be leading the way in formalising skills in the sector.”

The 30-year-old business, which employs 24 staff at Wiveliscombe and a further eight at its factory in Kirkcaldy, Fife, manufactures and services bandsaws and other tools for the UK timber industry.

With UK softwood production forecast to rise to around 3.3 million cubic metres in 2013 Nick Palmer said there was significant demand for new skill sets within the industry.

He said: “We are seeing many of our traditional skills being replaced by high-tech and mechanical alternatives but a significant number of processes still demand hands-on knowledge.

“A saw doctor’s skills are something of a dark art but we are determined this special knowledge is maintained for new generations. Our apprenticeships will play a key role in this.”

The original qualification was developed by the Saw Doctor Association as an NVQ. However with the added attraction of Government funding, EPS Services worked with specialist trainers Didac and the national awarding body PIABC to formulate the Level 2 Award in tooling technology, which will form the core qualification of the 12-15 month apprenticeship training programme.

All the apprentices have been recruited locally and were given a thorough grounding in the business before being put forward for the qualification.

They are spending a year on the shop floor learning how to operate specialist machinery as well as carrying out precision tasks by hand. By learning more than one set of skills they will have a job with variety and help EPS Services by having the ability to cover a number of roles within a compact workforce.

Didac Ltd is the only training provider in the South of England approved to deliver this qualification and is already working with the new apprentices.

Managing Director John Gibson said: “In the current economic climate it is refreshing  to work with employers who want the best for their staff, whilst at the same time benefiting from training and developing their business profile and quality.

“In National Apprenticeship week it’s great to have a good news story in rural Somerset where retention of skilled workers is particularly important for the local economy. We’re happy to be involved and look forward to successful achievers in the coming year.”

Flurry of deals in Bristol – Manufacturers jostling for best space on roadside

Automotive specialists at Colliers International in Bristol have helped broker a number of deals at Bristol’s competing motor showroom sites.

A flurry of recent deals has seen the major motor manufacturers jostling for the best positions at Pioneer Park in the south of the city and Cribbs Causeway on the northern outskirts.

William Jolly, Director of Colliers International’s specialist Automotive and Roadside team said: “These two locations have become THE place for manufacturers to display their wares. There has certainly been a great deal of activity in the sector as manufacturers continue to demand the best possible sites.”

Heritage Automotive has taken the former Renault showroom on Whitby Road, Pioneer Park for VW Commercial vehicles whilst Colliers re-let the adjacent Audi building to the Sytner Group as a Land Rover showroom.

In the meantime, Audi has re-located to Cribbs Causeway, where the Automotive Team has also been trying to track down a new base for another manufacturer.

Back in the centre of town, another manufacturer is looking to relocate existing facility to the A4 Bath Road in a bid to increase market penetration whilst Colliers are offering the former VW Commercial Vehicles showroom on Albert Road which is attracting strong interest.

William Jolly said the movements signalled increased confidence in the sector.

“We are seeing people return to the market to expand their network in the West. A number of operators are on the expansion trail at a time when they are not coming up against as much competition for sites from the residential and retail sector.

“We have active requirements from manufacturers and dealer operators in Yeovil, Torquay, Paignton, Plymouth, Swindon and of course Bristol. It seems that operators and vendors alike have accepted that the current market is the “new norm” and decided to get on with business.”

Colliers International’s specialist Automotive & Roadside team are recognised as one of the leading property advisers to the UK automotive industry with offices across Europe, the Middle East and Africa.