The economy of Bristol is thriving and it is not only the South-West that is reaping the benefits.
Across the Severn Bridge, the towns and cities of South Wales are enjoying the ripple effect of its prosperity.
According to Management Today, Bristol is Britain’s third best city for business, behind London and Manchester.
Yet its success, which has attracted an influx of talented workers, has brought with it housing problems. There has been a 23 per cent fall in the number of homes on the market since February 2019.
The next big thing: Usk in Wales is just 35 miles from Bristol
Homeowners either cannot afford to move, or prefer to stay put. The outcome is the same — there are too few homes for sale. Worst affected are the first-time buyers. What to do? For many the answer has been obvious — go West.
Just 31 miles away, across the Severn Bridge, there is Newport, where the housing story is very different. While, according to Zoopla, in Bristol a two-bedroom flat costs on average £225,000, in Newport a three-bedroom terrace house is about £140,000.
Add to that the abolition of the tolls on the Severn Bridge (£5.60) and it is little wonder there has been a mini-exodus from Bristol into Newport.
‘You can get even better value for money at the top of the market,’ says James Thomas of estate agents Savills. ‘In Fields Park Road, you will find late Victorian or Edwardian homes, which in Bristol would cost more than £1million, selling for £600,000 to £700,000.’
It will be argued that Newport has nothing to compare with the attractions of Bristol’s city centre, with its galleries, parks and Harbourside Quarter.
However, regeneration is under way. Retail and leisure scheme Friars Walk, opened in 2015, has proved successful. To the east, Glan Llyn is a development of 4,000 new homes on the former Llanwern Steelworks site and the new International Convention Centre Wales at the Celtic Manor Resort is forecast to bring £70million economic benefit to the area.
On the market: Welsh wonders
Some commuters are now even venturing further down the M4 to Barry, the seaside town best known as the backdrop to the BBC series Gavin & Stacey. Although the 56-mile drive to Bristol seems a hike, for couples needing more space for growing families, it makes financial sense.
A three-bedroom semi-detached costs £325,000 in Bristol. Last year, in Barry, they cost, on average, £186,000. The town itself, which has 2,500 homes on its new developments, has an attractive beach and beautiful countryside nearby.
It also has a surprise — The Knap. This charming enclave of impressive properties overlooks a pebble beach and a manicured park. Detached houses sell for £400,000.
Sadly, the shopping streets of both Newport and Barry show signs of decline, with a proliferation of charity shops, tattoo parlours and takeaways.
However, local businessman Simon Baston, 51, plans to turn things around. In Barry’s Goods Shed, he is creating a new ‘urban high street’ at a cost of £9million. Targeted at the 20 and 30-something incomers, it will offer a gym, micro-brewery, restaurants and cinema, as well as a shipping container village where young entrepreneurs can sell their wares.
And in Newport, he plans to revitalise the old market. ‘I believe there is a backlash against the retailing behemoths,’ says Baston.
Some buyers are moving deep into the foothills of the Black Mountains along the A40, while Chepstow has seen a spate of new building. Usk, where the average price of a semi-detached is £275,000, has a historic centre with cobbled streets.
‘Some people only know it as the regular winner of Wales In Bloom, but it’s more than that,’ says Joe Parry of Archer & Co estate agents. ‘Only 35 miles from Bristol, we have some of the most beautiful countryside in the UK on our doorstep.’