Are industrial estates the new hotspots for independent businesses?

Picture shows: Norwich's Sweetbriar Industrial Estate.Varoius Aerial images taken on the Bidwells

An aerial view of Norwich's Sweetbriar Industrial Estate - Credit: Steve Wright

Industrial estates are proving to be the new out-of-town driving force in the city's economy.

Previously warrens of warehouses and garages, the estates are now attracting everything from independent gyms to hairdressers to coffee shops. 

Guy Gowing, managing partner at Norfolk-based property services firm Arnolds Keys

Guy Gowing, managing partner at Norfolk-based property services firm Arnolds Keys - Credit: Arnold Keys

Guy Gowing, managing partner for city-based estate agents Arnolds Keys, said the change in direction for the sites was sparked by an update in planning regulations in September 2020.

This meant units could be leased out or bought by enterprises which were not just light industrial bases or offices.

He said: "We are seeing an increasing range of enquiries for industrial units. It never ceases to amaze me in terms of what will work in a unit.

"Businesses on industrial estates can be a cafe, day nursery, health centre or recreation spaces.

"There seems to be a gym on every industrial estate. If you had said to me ten years ago this would be the case I would have thought it was nonsensical."

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And the demand is already pushing up costs, he explained: "Rents are rising for industrial units because of increasing demand.

"I think industrial estates will continue evolving - unless the government reverse planning regulations. There will be a big variety of uses on industrial estates."

He added that more distribution centres were being based in industrial estates because of rising numbers of online shoppers. 

But despite the rising rent prices, units remain cheaper than city centre locations according to business owners.

Woods Interiors cafe and interior shop on Roundtree close, Norwich. Lorraine and Daren Woods. Pictur

Lorraine and Daren Wood, who own Woods Interiors and Coffee Bar - Credit: Brittany Woodman

Lorraine Wood, 49, from Horsford, opened Woods Interiors and Coffee Bar in an industrial unit in Roundtree Close, Sprowston, with her husband Daren last October.

The couple previously ran Woods Interiors for 20 years in White House Farm, Sprowston, but moved into the new space next to their hub where they made curtains after it became available.

Mrs Wood said: "The coffee shop was a crazy idea that I came up with in the middle of the night. I thought: 'Wouldn't it be good if people could sit down and have a nice coffee in a pleasant place while they look at interiors?'"

Her husband transformed the interior of the empty unit.

Woods Interiors cafe and interior shop on Roundtree close, Norwich. Pictures: Brittany Woodman

People enjoying a drink in Woods Interiors and Coffee Bar in Roundtree close, Norwich - Credit: Brittany Woodman

The businesswoman added: "The cafe has got its own identity. It has got a following on Instagram.

"We are busier now than when we were in the previous shop. We didn't expect it to be as successful as it was. We get a range of people coming in.

"We have a lot of gyms around us and people drink masses of coffee after a workout.

"These areas are changing. They are becoming more retail-friendly rather than just warehouses. It is like little high street."

In the same estate is Tibbs Fitness which was opened in August 2020 by brothers Josh and Luis Tibbles, aged 23 and 25 respectively.

Brothers Josh and Luis Tibbles who opened Tibbs Fitness gym in Roundtree Close, Sprowston, in August 2020 

Brothers Josh and Luis Tibbles who opened Tibbs Fitness gym in Roundtree Close, Sprowston, in August 2020 - Credit: Josh Tibbs

Josh, who lives in Spixworth, said: "Industrial units are empty shells and you can do what you want with them. Everyone on the estate is friendly.

"We looked at other places but the price here was good.

"I think high street retail in the city centre is struggling because sites are extortionate to run."

Customers of Tibbs Fitness in Roundtree Close, Sprowston

Customers of Tibbs Fitness in Roundtree Close, Sprowston - Credit: Josh Tibbles

Another young entrepreneur, Jodie Rudd, 24, from Banningham, opened Unit Barbershop in Delta Close behind the B&M store in the inner ring road last December.

She previously rented a chair in a city centre barbers but then chose to open her own unit above Delta Four Skatepark, run by her partner Max Ward.

The inside of Delta Four Skatepark in Delta Close, Norwich

The inside of Delta Four Skatepark in Delta Close, Norwich - Credit: Max Ward

Miss Rudd said: "To rent your own chair is expensive. The shop is easy for people to get to and people don't have to pay for parking.

"Because there are lots of businesses in the area there are lots of parking spaces. It is easy access.

"A lot of my clients work from home and walk to my shop on their lunch break."

Jodie Rudd who opened Unit Barbershop in Delta Close, Norwich, in 2021

Jodie Rudd who opened Unit Barbershop in Delta Close, Norwich, in 2021 - Credit: Jodie Rudd

She has 200 clients, will soon be qualifying in women's hairdressing, and is opening up two rental chairs because demand is so high.