Enterprise zone bid for Great Yarmouth and Lowestoft could create 10,000 new jobs
Businesses across Norfolk and Suffolk could be on the receiving end of a �200m boost to the economy aimed at creating 10,000 new jobs if the government gives the green light to ambitious plans to kickstart the energy industry in Great Yarmouth and Lowestoft.
Fresh from the success of campaigns to secure better broadband links for Norfolk and save RAF Marham, the county's MPs are teaming up with their counterparts in Suffolk to get behind a bid to create a enterprise zone for Great Yarmouth and Lowestoft.
Launched by chancellor George Osborne, the proposed enterprise zones are part of the coalition government's attempts to deliver growth and new jobs, as well as re-balancing the economy away from an over-reliance on the public sector and the City of London.
Businesses within the proposed zones would benefit from a reduction in business rates, a relaxation of planning rules to encourage development, and the roll-out of superfast broadband.
Details of the Energy for New Anglia bid, which has been submitted to decentralisation minister Greg Clark, by the New Anglia local enterprise partnership (Lep) are set to be released at a launch event in Lowestoft today.
Backers believe the initiative could help create 10,000 new jobs both in the area and across the two counties in the next 20 years and see the creation of 200 new businesses centring on six areas and beyond, including the outer harbour at South Denes and Beacon Park, in Great Yarmouth and Gorleston, and the Powerpark and Riverside Road in Lowestoft, as well as Mobbs Way, the South Lowestoft industrial estate, and the Ellough Business Park, near Beccles.
It would also draw in �200m of extra business rates, which the government has said can be spent in the area to support economic growth.
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Great Yarmouth MP Brandon Lewis said parliamentarians across both counties were four-square behind the initiative and he believed that united approach combined with the backing of business could help sway ministers to get behind the scheme.
'It's certainly the Norfolk Nine but also extended because we have managed to get all Norfolk and Suffolk MPs together to support this,' Mr Lewis said. 'It's potentially the biggest boost in the area for 30 years. It's not just Great Yarmouth and Lowestoft, it will put us on the map nationally and remind big businesses looking to invest that we are here and are a good place to do business. For companies that are already here and looking to expand, there's a really good impetus to do so.
'The point we have made to ministers is that we are one of the most deprived areas of the country and we just need that extra boost which this could give us. If we get this then Norfolk can more than play its part in helping the economic recovery of the country.'
Waveney MP Peter Aldous said: 'The message to government is that if we get this investment then we can deliver the private sector job opportunities they want.
'As MPs it's very important that we hunt as a pack, because when we do that and keep repeating the message, it gets across.'
'There is a great potential in the area to create private sector jobs within the energy industry and wider offshore field including oil and gas de-commissioning, and also nuclear at Sizewell. But the market left on its own isn't enough and, to make sure we fully realise that potential, we need the 'spark' to get it going and encourage businesses and encourage businesses to come here. The enterprise zone bid is very much that spark. When you look at the energy industry, there are supply chain businesses out there that aren't based in Great Yarmouth or Lowestoft but across Norfolk and Suffolk. There is the engineering sector at Hethel which can obviously something we can take advantage of.'
The bid is one of 30 vying to become the next wave of 10 new enterprise zones, with ministers expected to make a decision later in the summer.
And while it is centred on boosting the energy industry and supply chain in the towns, there are also hopes the extra investment will also 'substantially benefit' other businesses such as hotels, B&Bs, restaurants and other leisure and recreation businesses while also helping to offset the effects of seasonalism within the tourism industry.
John Best, chief executive of the East of England Energy Group (EEGR), which has been part of the business lobby for the scheme, said the bid builds on existing initiatives to develop the potential of the industry.
'This was not a structure that has been put together for the purposes of the bid, but it builds on the work that has been done over the years,' Mr Best said. 'The application for an enterprise zone was well received in Great Yarmouth and Lowestoft because it draws on the strengths of the energy industry built up over the last forty years. There is a very strong and deep supply chain, which will see obvious benefits if this is successful, and it's been a privilege to be able to draw on the huge amount of direct support from individual businesses to emphasise just how important this is for our industry and the area.'
However, the bid comes on the back of a warning from former East of England Development Agency chairman Richard Ellis that far from boosting the economy, the government's approach to economic development has seen the region starved of �140m of funding and the new Leps had no money.
Caroline Williams, chief executive of the Norfolk chamber of commerce, said: 'The announcement on Enterprise Zones in the budget was a welcome one and should the government engage properly with the business community on their development, we expect them to be a great success.
'Simplifying planning and removing red tape and regulatory burdens in the Enterprise Zone will enable GY and Waveney to take full advantage of the opportunities related to the energy sector in these area. it is important that Government, the Local Enterprise Partnership and the business community work together to create an environment which promotes sustainable development resulting in job creation and economic growth.
'Norfolk Chamber sees this as a great opportunity to attract new significant businesses into the area to enhance and provide new opportunities for Norfolk's supply chain.'
For full analysis of the enterprise zone proposal see the Business in Wednesday's EDP.