Corby: Officially the greatest
Corby refuses to stand still in terms of business expansion, as well as population growth and is now officially the greatest town in the UK and Ireland.
Whilst known to many as ‘Little Scotland’ - when in the 1930s the town saw a massive influx of Scottish immigrants to work the Stewarts & Lloyds steelworks - its revival has been phoenix-like; emerging from post-industrial decay when the works closed in 1980 with the loss of some 11,500 jobs.
Now halfway through its 30 year growth plan - as set out in the Regeneration Framework in 2003 - the town has demonstrated what can be achieved through civic ambition and a commitment to growth; today being the fastest-growing borough outside of London. Housing and commercial growth, new and improved infrastructure and public facilities have shown how Corby is challenging old perceptions and creating a vibrant town. This has resulted in the Academy of Urbanism awarding Corby the coveted title of ‘Great Town’ in its 2018 Urbanism Awards - beating off competition from Coventry and Milton Keynes.
Today Corby hosts a diverse blend of companies - though engineering, logistics, manufacturing, and food and drink - and continues to attract inward investment that attracts new employers to the area, increasing employment opportunities for both its current and potential new residents.
A deal to provide forward funding for a proposed £81.8m distribution centre in the town, pre-let to Eddie Stobart - one of the UK’s leading logistics businesses working across the full supply chain in the UK and Europe - has recently been agreed. Tritax Big Box REIT has exchanged contracts, conditional on receiving full planning consent, to provide the funding for the development of the new 844,000 sq ft regional distribution centre at Midlands Logistics Park (MLP). Practical completion is targeted for winter 2018.
MLP is a new logistics park to the south of the town, which is capable of accommodating up to 2.6 million sq ft of logistics space with outline planning permission granted. Eddie Stobart is the first tenant to commit to a new facility within the Park, which has a 500-metre rail siding and yard, providing enhanced connections for the site to the UK’s ports and cities.
A further £40m is being invested into a new state-of-the-art bakery by Jacksons - part of the William Jackson Food Group which also owns the Aunt Bessie’s, Abel & Cole, MyFresh and The Food Doctor brands. Corby Borough Council has approved plans for the new bakery, to be built on a 10 acre site at Genner Road, on the Willowbrook Industrial Estate, which will provide additional support to Jackson’s main bakery in Hull making bread for sandwich manufacturing and food service customers. Initially around 100 new jobs will be created in Corby.
An additional 100 new jobs have been created as multi-temperature supply chain specialist, Oakland International has expanded operations to assist its growth plans. With facilities already based in Redditch and Ireland, the company has opened its third site in Corby to supply the UK and Irish retail, discount, convenience and wholesale markets. Having acquired the 58,000 sq ft facility a year ago - originally purpose-built for Eismann in the last 1980s - the company has since invested in a £1.5 million refurbishment programme.
A prime 1.5 acre site on the Southern Gateway Business Park is also to be forward funded by a private investor to deliver 7,800 sq ft of retail accommodation. Pre-lets have already been agreed to provide for a McDonalds Drive-Thru restaurant, Costa Drive-Thru facility, a Domino’s Pizza outlet, with an additional unit of 1,000 sq ft which is still available to let.
In recent years, the Southern Gateway area has been transformed with the development of a Jet Petrol Filling Station and Londis Convenience Store - recently rebranded as a Shell petrol filling station with a Greggs - a Beefeater pub/restaurant and a Premier Inn hotel. The adjacent site has recently been sold to Lagan Homes for the construction of 48 houses, and the development of this is now underway and scheduled for completion later this year. Reportedly only four of the new homes remain available. A new Aldi supermarket is also scheduled to open imminently.
Further development, subject to planning, will also shortly commence on Centrix Industrial and Distribution Park, with the speculative construction of a 50,500 sq ft headquarters industrial/warehouse unit, fronting onto Phoenix Parkway. The facility is being developed by CWC Group, which is fully funded. Simultaneously, the developer will also speculatively construct a terrace of six brand new business units that will offer space from 2,150 sq ft up to 24,475 sq ft in combination. Both projects will offer leasehold and freehold opportunities for occupiers.
Nearby, on the Peel Retail Park, The Food Warehouse - a new store format by Iceland - has opened its doors in the former Poundstretcher unit. The shop, which has created 30 new jobs for the area, offers a wide range of frozen, chilled, fresh, branded grocery and homeware lines. The Food Warehouse is a relatively new ‘kid on the block’ that has now been trading for over two years - typically from units that offer twice the floorspace of a regular Iceland store.
In the town centre, a rejuvenated car park and more shops look set to be destined for the southern end of Corby’s town centre. Major plans to create a southern gateway have recently been approved by Corby Council planners. The plans by Sovereign Centros will see the multi-storey car park demolished and a new department store built, as well as a retail extension to Market Walk. However, whilst this is a welcome addition to the ongoing redevelopment of the town centre, the new shop units will be built only when an occupier for the large anchor store is identified.
Corby continues to achieve what many towns in the wider ripples of the ‘London effect’ hope to - a desirable, affordable, well-connected place to live and work within its thriving economy. There is still more to do but Corby has demonstrated a coordinated regeneration framework, which has provided the basis for transformation of the local economy through a programme of investment in key projects and infrastructure.