A Conservative Government, if elected, would establish an Enterprise Zone in north Northumberland, it was announced today.
The aim is to build on the expected economic benefits of the planned dualling of the A1 to attract new and relocating businesses to the area.
Enterprise Zones – established in 2012 as part of the Tories’ economic policy – aim to create jobs and boost businesses with advantages such as up to 100 per cent business-rate discounts, simplified planning regulations for certain developments, Government commitments on superfast broadband and other tax relief.
Cities Minister Greg Clark was in Berwick this afternoon to make the announcement following the go-ahead from Chancellor George Osborne.
Speaking to the Gazette, he described it as a ‘big moment for Northumberland’.
“An Enterprise Zone sends a clear signal to start-up businesses and businesses relocating from elsewhere, often overseas, that this is the perfect environment to come to,” he said.
The location of the proposed Enterprise Zone would be the subject of consultation, but would likely incorporate multiple sites, similar to the North East Enterprise Zone, which features ten sites in three clusters around the Port of Blyth, on the north bank of the River Tyne and adjacent to the A19, south of the Nissan plant in Sunderland.
Mr Clark cited a number of benefits – the holiday from business rates, the knowledge that the area would be populated with like-minded businesses, other commitments like faster broadband and the zone being a focal point for further investment.
Asked if it would be impacted by the fact that the dualling is only proposed to go up to Ellingham, Mr Clark said: “We shouldn’t underestimate the impact that will have.
“That major step forward is going to be of clear benefit. That’s why the timing of this is important so that you capitalise on that even if it’s not quite to the border, it will benefit everyone that travels north. Obviously that is the first phase.
“People have an increasingly clear idea of the beauty of the area. This is a moment to say, ‘actually, this is a good place to locate a business’.”