Bristol’s centre of gravity is moving east - with a host of multi-million-pound development schemes set to transform areas such as Old Market and St. Philip’s.

Global real estate advisor Colliers International says the University of Bristol’s acquisition of the Royal Mail sorting office near Temple Meads station will be the catalyst for this radical change.

The demolition of the long-standing Royal Mail eyesore is now under way, which will make way for the university’s £300 million Temple Quarter Campus, which is due to open by 2021.

This has unlocked areas of redevelopment to the east of Bristol’s existing city centre beyond the railway line, which has always acted as a natural barrier for further development.

But Tom Watkins, associate director in the industrial and logistics team at Colliers International in Bristol, says this raises a question mark over many long-established industrial sites currently operating in the area.

“The amount of redevelopment which has gone on in this area in the past 18 months or so is amazing. The university has been the catalyst for a whole raft of schemes which are now coming on stream and there is a real momentum behind what amounts to an eastward shift of the city centre,” he says.

“There are a number of key redevelopment sites with residential potential that have recently been transacted, most recently a large plot on Silverthorne Lane in St. Philip’s, early plans for which show hundreds of new homes, offices, shops and accommodation for around 800 students.

“Silverthorne Lane will also be the site for a new secondary school which will be home to some 1,600 students, including a Sixth Form. Oasis Academy Temple Quarter will be the second largest school in Bristol, and most of the places will go to children from central and eastern areas of the city.

“One of the areas which will benefit tremendously from this transformation is Old Market. This was a thriving area until the mid-20th century, when Bristol’s historic central shopping area at Castle Street was moved to Broadmead.

“In the 1970s, the value of what remained started to gain recognition and in 1979 Old Market was declared a Conservation Area. Since then many of its at-risk buildings have been restored and a more sensitive approach to development has done much to improve the area. 

“In recent years, it has seen continued growth and more areas have been zoned for redevelopment, and it is this which will begin the eastward shift of Bristol’s city centre.”

Tom Watkins says that while the eastward shift of Bristol’s city centre will bring many advantages, this should not be allowed to happen at the expense of industrial employment.

“There is a major caveat to this positive development,” he said.

“I suspect the St. Philip’s flyover will act as a natural barrier for further expansion to the east - which begs the question as to where all of the industrial occupiers currently based in this area will relocate.

“While plans to regenerate large swathes of St. Philip’s is great for growth in the city, we need to work with Bristol City Council to start unlocking new industrial development opportunities elsewhere – as it stands, we could be facing real problems with a lack of industrial supply in years to come, and it can’t be ignored.

“Bristol’s industrial market is booming and availability in the city, especially in St. Philip’s, is at an all-time low. If occupiers, for whatever reason, do not want to relocate to other industrial areas such as Avonmouth, then they will be asking themselves: ‘Where else can we go?’”