Park People: James Dipple, CEO of MEPC
Published on 28 March 2022
In a special edition of our regular Park People series, this month we spoke to James Dipple, CEO of MEPC (which acquired Milton Park in 1984). After first joining in 1987, James will be retiring as CEO at the end of March.
With James’s time working at the Park drawing to a close, we thought this was the perfect moment for a catch-up, to learn some more about his career highlights, the things he’ll miss the most and his plans for retirement…
Tell us how your time at Milton Park began…
My first job at Milton Park was as Managing Director of MEPC in 1997. Back then, the Park was largely industrial in nature.
MEPC decided to support the science sector back in 1988 which was a brave decision, as leasing space to start-ups and spin-outs was considered to be a risky move by many at the time. At the same time however, it’s always been important to us to make sure we looked after businesses from other sectors who have chosen to call Milton Park home.
What have you enjoyed the most about your career at Milton Park?
Without a doubt, it’s been the people I’ve worked with – be that colleagues, investors, stakeholders or the local community. Milton Park is a dynamic small town in its own right and I've enjoyed working with others in helping to meet its needs.
We’ve achieved a lot together during my 25 years at Milton Park. For instance, many speculative buildings have been built here, a great deal of which were pre-let before being finished.
It’s also been fantastic to see how some of the buildings at Milton Park have evolved over time. Take the Bee House for example, our latest project which is due to complete in May 2022. This building was initially built for RM as a pre-let which housed a call centre and required a deep floor plate at the time. RM then moved across the road into a new building and we made the decision to re-purpose and refurbish the building rather than knocking it down, which is a much more sustainable way of doing things.
What has been the biggest challenge you’ve faced in your career?
Adaptability is key. From the credit crunch to Covid-19, there's always been bumps in the road, but it's how you deal with them that is important. After the credit crunch we spruced up property voids and offered shorter term flexible rents to help companies have confidence.
Another challenge closer to home was the rebuilding of the Potash railway bridge, which formed part of the works to electrify the line between London and Bristol. The new bridge was going to enable lorries to cross over the line and make their journeys more efficient, although the construction caused lengthy delays for people getting to and from the Park. We managed to get through it in the end and had lots of strategies in place to mitigate the disruption.
How has your work and life connected at Milton Park?
Cycling would certainly be a good example of this. Several years ago, the Anthony Nolan Oxford Bike Ride started and finished at Milton Park. Our involvement in the event inspired me to become the passionate cyclist that I am today!
What do you think the future holds for Milton Park?
The Park’s science and technology offering has really taken off and I expect this to carry on into the future. That said, we’ll need to keep on our toes to compete, in every sense of the word - not just office and lab space, but also in terms of transport, connections, facilities and amenities.
Milton Park has evolved over time from being an out-of-town trading estate to becoming an edge-of-town science, technology and business community. As the areas around Milton Park have become more suburban, people have been able to live closer to where they work and use more sustainable methods of travel when commuting to the Park.
The 2040 Vision represents the next chapter of our journey towards becoming an innovation district. The improvements we’ve seen in connectivity will mean that the Park will not only have good links for people travelling from Didcot and Oxford, but also further afield from West London, Reading and Slough.
What are your plans now?
I’m a big fan of modern architecture, so I’m looking forward to travelling and ticking off my must-see buildings. I recently visited Egypt and saw the pyramids - they can teach us a lot about design and longevity in the built environment.
Closer to home, I’m going to spend time touring the UK in my camper van, as well as having fun cycling among my other favourite hobbies.
I’m also looking forward to having lots of time with family, including baby-sitting my young granddaughter.
What will you miss most about Milton Park?
The people and the community that make Milton Park what it is today. I’ll be sure to return and say hello at some point in the near future. No matter when I return, I know I’ll be among friends.
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