In the 18-month run up to the General Election many of the Coalition Government’s actions to improve the economy will be under the spotlight and one of these will be Enterprise Zones.
A total of 24 new EZs were announced across England in 2011, with the target of achieving 30,000 jobs by 2105. While I do not know the number of jobs created so far, it’s generally understood that the EZs did not take off as expected.
In May, media reports suggested that only arund 1,700 jobs had been created across the country and that the Government’s target had been overly ambitious. If the recent improvement in economic conditions continues, we may see rapid growth before the next election (May 2015) but it’s too early to tell.
Each EZ offers incentives to companies locating there. This includes is 100% business rate relief up to £275,000 over a five-year period and a straightforward planning process that can save time and money. In some EZ sites, Enhanced Capital Allowances can be claimed, while others offer lease payment holidays, low-rent incubator units and development funding.
Each EZ has a sectoral focus, and in the North East we focus on advance engineering and manufacturing, automotive, energy, green technology, and marine industries – in other words playing to the region’s strengths.
While the national picture for EZs may be wanting, I am pleased to say that the North East region is performing well ahead of the rest.
We have three EZs in the region. Land adjacent to the A19 and Nissan at Sunderland, known as the A19 Ultra Low Carbon Vehicle Corridor, deals with advanced manufacturing and engineering, automotive, low carbon electric vehicles and research and development. Sites on the North Bank of the River Tyne and at the Port of Tyne, concentrate on advanced manufacturing in subsea technology, offshore oil gas and renewables and port-related activity. Land adjacent to the Port of Blyth has office, R&D, light industry, energy and renewable energy facilities and also port-related activities.
So each of the EZs has different strengths and market focus – all are programmed to have super-fast broadband connections – and I think that this is what is making the North East one of the, if not the, most successful EZ locations in the country. There are some good stories. The development for Vantec at the A19 Sunderland EZ has been hailed as one of the fastest construction projects to meet Vantec’s operational needs.
Funding has also been allocated to improve the road infrastructure and accessibility to that EZ. Meanwhile, the North Bank of the River Tyne is seeing major changes with significant investment in the infrastructure and remediation of land to attract the sectors in subsea and offshore technologies.
So the region’s EZs have a lot going for them, to attract new industries and to create jobs. The concern going forward must be that we do not suffer from the broad brush strokes of a government trying to wipe out failing EZs, but rather our success sparks additional financial and fiscal resources so that we become even more successful in a shorter time.
:: Kevan Carrick, partner at JK Property Consultants LLP, policy spokesman for RICS North East, a member of the RICS Dispute Resolution Panel and chairman of Northern Dispute Resolution