Jobs in Basingstoke, United Kingdom
Location is Everything
England’s South East Region is the most populous in the UK (slightly larger than Greater London). It is both a feeder for London, and an important regional economy in its own right. Basingstoke is a good example of a once-small market town that has been able to take advantage of its location at the heart of the region. Since it was designated as an ‘expansion town’ by the London Overspill Plan in 1960, it has grown nearly fivefold, and was rated as the 3rd fastest-growing town in the UK and 7th most affluent in 2015.
Basingstoke has held a Wednesday market since 1214, and for a very long period cloth was the mainstay of local industry. During the Industrial Revolution Burberry gabardines and Milward shoes got their starts in Basingstoke. After 1898, when John Thornycroft started producing steam-powered lorries, his firm became the town’s largest employer. Although the town never developed into a major manufacturing centre, a number of breweries did become established there. When the Salvation Army arrived in 1880 it was met with violent protests from brewery employees and the pub trade. These lasted over a period of some months, until troops were called in. This episode gave the townsfolk the reputation of being ‘angry’.
During the 1960s, many office blocks and large housing estates were built, along with a ring road. Low overheads, coupled with easy road and rail links to London and its airports, as well as to other large secondary cities in the South West region, attracted many global businesses to establish their UK headquarters there. Young graduates came to Basingstoke because of the large number of big name employers offering entry-level positions and the reasonable cost of living. As it expanded, Basingstoke absorbed much of the surrounding countryside to make way for new suburban housing developments, many of which included basic community services and amenities as well as affordable apartments, cottages, and modern family homes. With a fast train service to London Waterloo and easy access to motorways running in six different directions from the town centre, commuters also began to choose the Basingstoke suburbs as an attractive place to call home. Shopping centres, cultural attractions and employment opportunities for local workers were slower to develop, however, and for a time this gave the town the additional reputation of being somewhat dicey and boring.
The Anvil was constructed in 1994 to fill the cultural desert in the town centre. It is a concert hall and performing arts centre which hosts a variety of touring productions, stand-up comedians, live bands, opera and widely-acclaimed classical music performances, and has developed a faithful following over the years. Basingstoke Area Cycling Strategy was announced in 1999. Since then, an extensive cycle network has been developed running on or parallel with road routes. Basingstoke was linked to Reading on the National Cycle Network in May 2003 and its network was extended southwards in 2006.
The true turn-around began in 2002, however, when a local newspaper launched the ‘Basingstoke – A Place to be Proud of’ campaign, aimed at changing people’s perceptions of the town. This campaign was aided considerably by the opening of the Festival Place shopping centre, currently ranked number three in the country for in-town shopping; the refurbishing of an older, more traditional in-town shopping centre – The Malls; and the opening of the Aquadrome at the Basingstoke Leisure Park, all in the same year. The park site has been managed by the borough council since the 1980s and is continuously upgraded.
Besides the Aquadrome’s three swimming pools and water flumes, the Leisure Park currently features the Milestones interactive family museum, a skating rink which also hosts a national ice hockey team, skydiving and ski centres, a bowling alley, indoor bowls, a 9-hole golf centre, multi-screen cinema and a range of restaurants. The growth in the retail and service sectors has provided jobs for previously unemployed local workers, and helped stabilise the economy at a new, higher and more mature performance level, indicating that perhaps the town’s growing pains are coming to an end.
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