Strawberry Fields Forever - in Chorley?
"Let me take you down,
'Cause I'm going to Strawberry Fields,
Nothing is real,
And nothing to get hung about,
Strawberry Fields forever.”
Fans of the Beatles will recognise the opening few lines of the 1967 hit Strawberry Fields Forever.
I would love to say the song title gave its name to Chorley Council’s impressive new £9m digital hub but the name comes from one of the neighbouring roads which overlooks the development.
Few things shock me but as a long-term resident of the borough I was impressed and surprised in equal measure that such a state-of-the-art facility was available in Chorley rather than in the middle of Manchester.
The 54,000 sq ft building boasts super-speed broadband and is already attracting a flurry of interest from companies interested in the hot desks, innovation pods, micro offices and larger office suites ahead of its opening later this summer.
Rental costs are £25 a sq ft, which translates to a £150 a month for a hot desk, £175 for a pod and less than £1,000 for good size ground floor office.
Strawberry Fields Digital Hub consists of two identical looking three-storey wings and is aimed at businesses in the digital sector.
The ground floor is home to the hot desks, pods and small offices and is already 70 per cent pre-let or under offer.
The layout has been created to facilitate business collaboration, with business advisors and university researchers on site to help companies grow.
Strawberry Fields claims it will be one of Lancashire’s most advanced environmentally friendly buildings and has been designed to a BREEAM ‘excellent’ rating.
Each floor has climate control and intelligent lighting but the stand-out feature that struck me was how companies will be able to move up through the building as they scale.
Mark Lester, director of business growth and development at Chorley Council explained: “A small business can start of the ground floor and literally work their way through the building.
“We open later this summer and we’ve been overwhelmed by the level of interest we’ve had and the quality of the tenants who have been approaching us .
“The criteria for the scheme, as part of the European funding, is around SMEs who fit within a digital and creative industry.
“We’ve had web designers, software engineers, graphic designers and some more niche businesses.”
The venue’s close proximity to the M6, M61 and Buckshaw Parkway Railway Station has attracted interest from Manchester businesses.
The building can accommodate 420 people and could be followed by the opening of a similar building nearby.
“We own an adjacent site,” said Lester. “Hopefully we can bring it forward for commercial use because there is that demand in Chorley.”
Massive credit must go to Chorley Council, who secured more than £4m from the European Regional Development Fund (ERDF), for building speculatively.
Visitors to the facility should brace themselves for a pleasant surprise. Strawberry Fields Forever!