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22 August 2016

Dacorum Investment Takes the Gold

Dacorum is a rapidly evolving borough, with areas of outstanding natural beauty as well as being a prime location for business. The largest business park in the South East of England, Hemel Hempstead's successful Maylands Business Park is home to 700 businesses and 20,000 employees – and growing. Brands currently operating from the area include Amazon, Britvic, Gyron Internet, Henkel and Sopra Steria, to name but a few.

Maylands' inclusion in a new Enterprise Zone is set to incentivise further growth, attracting hundreds of new businesses, generating thousands of jobs and unlocking key development sites.

Focusing on the enviro-tech sector, the newly designated area covers Maylands Business Park and the surrounding area. Both new and expanding firms locating there will be able to benefit from government backing such as business rate discount and simplified local authority planning. 

Cllr Andrew Williams, Leader of Dacorum Borough Council, is excited by the news: "The Enterprise Zone has the potential to become of international importance for global investors wanting advanced manufacturing and distribution space, as well as high tech, potentially exemplar sustainable office provision. This opportunity also paves the way to supply business start-up/small business incubation space (at the research establishments) and move on space for growing businesses." 

"Hemel is the location to do business," agrees Richard Boyle, Global Technology Champion for Henkel and Hemel Ambassador (pictured right with Andy Cook, Managing Director at FFEI). "Our employees travel extensively to work with their customers and their colleagues. It was no coincidence that Henkel moved its UK Headquarters to Hemel Hempstead, with trains to London in less than 30 minutes, four international airports within 60 minutes and close to the motorway network. We also wanted a great place for our staff to relax. Here we can enjoy the local countryside, and have easy access to great schools, housing and social activities."

Shop vacancy rates in Hemel Hempstead town centre have declined by two thirds as investors take confidence from its on-going £30 million regeneration. 

Just 6% of units were empty during July compared to the national average of 10.1% according to recent Springboard figures. The rate stood at 16.5% in October 2014 as Dacorum Borough Council's Hemel Evolution transformation of the main shopping area began, showing a 64% overall reduction. 

Dacorum's Portfolio Holder for Planning and Regeneration, Councillor Graham Sutton, explained: "Hemel Hempstead is proof that the British high street can bounce back if you create the right conditions for development. The news came just as we've submitted our entry for the Great British High Street Awards 2016 - and confirms that our Hemel Evolution regeneration is working.

"We should all be very proud of Hemel Hempstead. The transformation of the main shopping area, the new modern bus interchange, the Jellicoe Water Gardens restoration, The Forum, our new shared services hub, and not forgetting our beautifully preserved Old Town – it's all come together."

Large scale commercial operations as well as independents have spotted Hemel Hempstead's potential. Capital & Regional real estate investment trust explained its recent acquisition of The Marlowes Shopping Centre and neighbouring properties for £53.8 million earlier this year: "Hemel Hempstead is a strong south-east commuter town located just outside of the M25, which has recently benefited from significant investment from the local authority. The opportunity exists to reposition this asset and potentially consolidate it with other retail properties adjoining the scheme, as part of a regeneration of the wider town centre."

Another change to the town's landscape is almost completed. The borough council is coordinating the construction of landmark shared services hub "The Forum". On target to open early 2017, the modern energy-efficient building will house a state-of- the-art central library and voluntary organisations as well as the council's own services. A major 200-plus residential scheme surrounding the hub has been given the go-ahead. 

Further life has been brought to Hemel Hempstead through the refurbished, reconfigured and rebranded Jarman Square leisure quarter by Tesco Pension Fund. The out-of- town redevelopment has attracted leading casual dining and family restaurant brands which enjoy external terraced seating areas, including Prezzo, Nandos, Coast to Coast and Chiquito. These sit alongside a new gym, an ice rink and a 17 screen IMAX cinema, which it was recently announced has been acquisitioned by Cineworld as part of their ongoing expansion plan.

Meanwhile, Aviva's 150,000+ sq ft new retail scheme on Maylands Avenue has been given planning approval, and Smith's Detection – a world-leading designer and manufacturer of sensors that detect and identify explosives, chemical agents and other hazards – has relocated from Watford, renovating 65,000 sq ft premises and bringing with it 300 jobs. 

Further investment opportunities within the borough include Maylands Gateway, including 6.3 hectares of employment land available, Spencer's Park, 1.92 hectares and Hemel Station Gateway, consisting of 4.2 hectares of prime retail and housing land available. 

Dacorum Borough Council has funded the establishment of a place marketing initiative, led by local businesses and stakeholders, to actively promote Dacorum as a place to invest. This scheme has been running for a period of 9 months and has already been hugely successful. The "Hemel Hempstead Business Ambassadors" includes businesses such as Hightown Housing Association, Martin Brower, Hertfordshire Chamber of Commerce and many, many more. The scheme not only promotes the place of Dacorum on a large scale, but allows businesses to share information on investment, planning and future business trends, share ideas and spread the word about why Hemel is their number one choice. 

However, investment in this prosperous area doesn't just come from businesses and the local borough Council, but also in the shape of Tourism and Filming. Attractions within Dacorum include the Snow Centre, the Natural History Museum in Tring, as well as a range of breweries and high quality accommodation. Just outside the borders of Dacorum lies Warner Bros. Studios and the largest zoo in the UK, ZSL Whipsnade.

Due to its stunning rural areas, Dacorum has been home to the production of films such as Maleficent, Guardians of the Galaxy and even the new Bourne film, which made use of Maylands for one of its scenes. Investment into the borough from filming for 2015/16 was estimated at £5.8m. 

Sally Marshall, Chief Executive of Dacorum Borough Council offers businesses an open invitation: "Regeneration has repositioned our town so that businesses, residents and visitors benefit equally in its bright future. If you're considering relocating, expanding or investing, look no further. Our door is always open."

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