Some views from local well-informed business individuals on ‘Reading: a greater town than many cities’

Nick Gray, city development director, CityFibre

“According to Tech Nation, Reading boasts the highest density of digital and tech companies in the UK, and now with pure-fibre digital infrastructure to support business growth, Reading will undoubtedly become one of the primary business hubs in the UK.”

Neil Seager, partner, Haslams Chartered Surveyors

“Reading’s strategic location, first-rate connectivity and diverse labour-pool should not be underestimated. It provides businesses of all types with the perfect platform to thrive. Not only does it meet the needs of the modem office occupier, but with the new logistics parks it can now consider itself a city in all but name,”

Head of office for Savills Reading, Phil Brown

“Having come out of the recession, Reading is now performing extremely well again. There are obvious national challenges ahead, but the Thames Valley has proved its resilience, and we (Savills) have made ourselves resilient by the variety of services we offer.”

Ed Keeling, head of development, Savills Reading

“If you wander around Reading you can feel its economy evolving and growing in front of your very eyes. There are cranes up everywhere and it’s a good sign, showing the local economy firing on all cylinders.”

David Thomas, Thames Valley regional managing partner, Vail Williams

“Describing Reading as a town and not a city is a misnomer – Reading has such importance from a population, size, and character perspective. It has shaken off the historic legacy of biscuits, beer and bulbs and replaced this with a great place for business, bytes and bon viveur.”

Nick Coote, head of Thames Valley, Lambert Smith Hampton

“Increased commercial critical mass in the town centre will provide the scale to support Reading’s ‘city’ ambitions. Station Hill is the key. Planners need to act strategically, resisting any pressure to morph the 1m sq ft of consented offices into residential use”.

Bill Gornall-King, partner, lawyers Boyes Turner

“Reading’s business networks and public-private partnerships work together to create a sustainable success story that means it is unrecognisable from the town I came to in 1980 – as is my law firm.  But, our values are unchanged and reflect those of Reading – open, friendly and hardworking – and, from adherence to those values, success has followed.”

Giles Blagden, MD, Hicks Baker

 “Reading may not yet have formal ‘city’ status, but it has attributes that many cities would envy; a diverse and established business and retail community, a skilled workforce, a high-performing university and schools plus a vibrant cultural scene; all underpinned by the best regional transport infrastructure in the south-east with an impressive railway station at its centre.”

James Silver, development director, Landid

“Reading is a city to me. It has an incredible business community, with its food scene and cultural piece now responding quickly. Thames Tower is working hard to ensure it is a microcosm of all of that with our recent office lettings, restaurant and café units, and a Reading International and Reading University link-up that will allow us to hold public exhibitions and art.

Simon Perkins, chief executive, McKay Securities

“Reading continues to go from strength to strength.  Having spent three years as a Reading University graduate in the 80s and the past 22 years working both in and out of town, it is rewarding to see its transformation. We will continue to invest in Reading, which is now the undisputed capital of the South East. Who needs city status?”

Scott Witchalls, partner, Peter Brett Associates

 “We have delivered on Reading Station, and M4 junction 11 improvements; Green Park station and the western rail-link to Heathrow are coming, but we still need a bus-based mass rapid transit system. We are starting to build that out in Reading and Slough, but need to keep it progressing to join-up all the Thames Valley towns.”

A visionary approach

We should add fulsome praise for the strategists, planners, administrators and supporters of the town, who have had the vision to help make Reading fit for 21st century businesses.

‘Greater Reading’ is now overseen by Reading Borough Council, and partly by the Wokingham and West Berkshire unitary authorities, with assistance from Reading UK CIC, the economic development company for Reading.

Reading also has two long-term residents of the town as supportive MPs – Rob Wilson, Reading East, who arrived as a University of Reading student, and Reading born-and-bred Alok Sharma, Reading West.

Based at Green Park in Reading, the business-led Thames Valley Berkshire Local Enterprise Partnership has provided an engine of growth by drawing together representatives from the local authorities, education, private, community, voluntary and business sectors such as the CBI, IoD and Thames Valley Chamber of Commerce to help strategise the future needs of the sub-region – the UK’s most productive according to the ONS.