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New research identifies top business locations in England for quality without high cost

A new report by leading business and financial adviser Grant Thornton UK LLP's Place Analytics team has identified the most attractive locations in England for foreign business investment.  It identifies the key places outside the country's capital that offer high quality locations for inward investment, and also highlights some of the areas that offer investors the best value for money in terms of quality and cost.

While London remains a key location for investors, the analysis identifies a number of attractive locations outside London offering high quality yet more cost effective options. These include the cities of Birmingham, Leeds, Manchester and Bristol, as measured by economic, social and environmental criteria.

Other relatively high quality business locations offering lower operating costs are found in the East Midlands (Leicester, Nottingham, Derby), the North East (Newcastle upon Tyne), North West (Trafford, Liverpool, Cheshire East), South West (Wiltshire, South Gloucestershire, Swindon), West Midlands (Warwick, Coventry, Solihull) and Yorkshire & Humber (York, Bradford).

The report, based on Grant Thornton's Business Location Indexprovides a ranking of 324 local authorities in England on key economic, social and environmental criteria that influence business decisions. The analysis reveals that 7% of English local authorities offer relatively high quality business locations at relatively low costs. The aim of the research is to give local authorities and local enterprise partnerships (LEPs) the tools to better understand and market their strengths and assets to inward investment.

London Boroughs account for twelve of the top 20 best performing local authority areas overall. However, outside of the capital, it places Cambridge (and South Cambridgeshire), Birmingham, Leeds,  Manchester and Bristol, together with Wokingham and Watford  as the top performing areas.

The research identifies corridors of attractive locations for foreign direct investment (FDI) and business relocation along the main transport routes out of London. To the north these include Milton Keynes and parts of Hertfordshire and Buckinghamshire. To the west, along the Thames Valley, they include Berkshire and Wiltshire and Swindon, while along the M3 they include parts of Surrey and Hampshire. To the south, Crawley, Brighton and Hove and parts of West Sussex.

Phillip Woolley, Partner, Grant Thornton UK LLP, commented: "Inward investment is a major component of delivering growth helping to drive GDP, foster innovation, enhance productivity, support and create jobs and ultimately, develop a more vibrant UK economy.  However, the success rate in attracting inward investment varies significantly across the country and the unequal distribution of foreign ownership is stark. The Business Location Index has been created to help local authorities, LEPs and central government understand more about and ultimately redress this imbalance. 

"There are both national and local implications emerging from this analysis.  At the national level these include: the need to recognise the importance of the city region and wider travel to work patterns; using new infrastructure developments, such as HS2, to help shift London's sphere of influence in relation to inward investment; and helping to identify and support the development of specific ecosystems and sector strengths and using a range of fiscal levels alongside targeted investment to support the development of these. Giving true devolution to all local public services would allow local authorities to develop place based, outcome focused services with no Whitehall strings and enable them to design and deliver services based on people’s needs rather than nationally determined organisational funding silos."