Research article

Where does Bristol sit in the regional hierarchy?

A wider context

There has been strong performance on employment and economic output

Over the past 10 years, Bristol has gone from strength to strength becoming one of the UK’s most successful cities. This is highlighted by it being voted the best city to live in by The Sunday Times twice in the last four years. But how does it compare to its regional counterparts? And how does its current ranking compare to a decade ago?

To answer this we have looked at Bristol and eight of its regional peers, Manchester, Birmingham, Leeds, Edinburgh, Oxford, Cambridge, Reading and Cardiff.

For each city we compared a wide range of metrics covering factors from housing affordability and delivery to employment, workforce skills, and economic performance. We combined the rankings on each of these metrics to arrive at an overall rank.

This analysis shows that in 2007 Bristol was ranked in the middle of the pack, coming in 5th place. In particular, Bristol ranked highly for business start-ups and economic participation.

However, during the 10 years to 2017, as the city has undergone a period of strong growth and regeneration, it has moved up the rankings to 3rd. It continues to attract a high number of business start-ups, has low unemployment and has seen economic output per worker grow significantly.

Savills City Index ranking

FIGURE 2 | Savills City Index ranking
Source: Savills Research

Staying ahead of the pack

Housing delivery continues to rise and edges closer to pre-recession levels

Bristol has been one of the highest delivery housing markets out of its regional peers. Over the last 15 years, over 29,500 new dwellings have been delivered in the city. Only Leeds and Manchester have delivered more. This level of delivery is the equivalent to increasing the city’s housing stock by 18%. Over the same period, only Cambridge and Manchester have seen their stock rise by a greater proportion.

In the years prior to the recession, Bristol was delivering on average 2,400 net additional dwellings each year – or adding an additional 1.3% to its stock. This was second only to Manchester in terms of growth in stock and was one of the foundations that allowed the city to undergo and sustain consistently strong growth.

However, in the wake of the financial crisis, housebuilding collapsed and reached its nadir in 2012/13 when only 880 net additional dwellings were added to the stock. This lower rate of delivery has been one of main contributing factors behind the city’s worsening affordability.

Since then the rate of housing delivery has been rising each year and reached nearly 2,000 in 2016/17, the equivalent to 1% of stock, its highest level since 2009/10.

The increasing rate of housing delivery is to be welcomed and will be key to ensuring Bristol remains competitive. However, the city needs to do more. Based on the new standardised approach, the city’s annual housing need is over 2,400 homes a year or 1.2% of stock. The delivery of alternatives tenures, such as build to rent development will be crucial to expanding delivery. There are currently 200 build to rent units under construction in Bristol and a further 1,100 in the planning pipeline.

Key performance areas

FIGURE 3 | Key performance areas
Source: Centre for Cities using HESA

Infrastructure of the future

Bristol’s rail infrastructure is undergoing improvements, with the electrification of the Great Western mainline. However, moving forward, businesses and residents will be increasingly concerned about the city’s digital infrastructure.

Over the past 15 years, the internet has become an intrinsic part of our lives, both at home and at work. Businesses are increasingly concerned about connectivity when choosing where to locate.

This is an area where Bristol performs well. Almost 87% of the city’s premises have access to ultrafast broadband, defined as a connection faster than 100Mbps. This places the city third behind Cambridge (93%) and Edinburgh (87%) and well ahead of Manchester (67%) and Leeds (74%).

Ensuring that the city remains at the forefront of digital connectivity will be of paramount importance, especially as the city seeks to attract and retain employers in the fast growing creative and technology sectors.

Other articles within this publication

4 other article(s) in this publication