Chinese get VIP treatment during Norfolk and Suffolk wind energy visit

Civic leaders and business bosses pulled out the stops to showcase the benefits of the region's energy sector to potential Chinese investors in the hope of attracting multi-million pound inward investment to Norfolk and Suffolk.

Businesses and trade officials from the Jiangsu province in China are carrying out a two day whirlwind tour of local businesses and tourism hot spots including Great Yarmouth's outer harbour, the Orbis Energy Centre in Lowestoft, and an official civic reception hosted by county council chairman Ian Monson and his Suffolk counterpart Jeremy Pembroke at Norwich Castle on Monday night.

The visit is the latest stage in the joint initiative by Norfolk, Suffolk and Essex county councils to work with China to create new export and inward investment opportunities, which the three authorities hope will lead to more joint ventures between the Chinese and local firms and boost jobs.

By 2020, offshore wind in the East of England is predicted to be worth �23bn with the potential of creating tens of thousands of new jobs.

And with more than 40 years' experience in offshore energy production the region has the second largest concentration of offshore wind farms in the world - which they believe makes it an attractive prospect for inward investors.


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Ann Steward, Cabinet member for economic development at Norfolk County Council, said the three counties were working collectively to raise the profile of the area as a place for energy firms to do business.

'This is about showing how much we have to offer and we want the investment and manufacturing to come to this area. This is about introducing companies to each other so that they can look at joint ventures. We don't want to miss out.'

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Mr Monson, who outlined the key sectors contributing to the Norfolk economy from manufacturing firms such as Lotus, to the financial services sector and the life sciences pointed out how the East of England was one of five areas earmarked by the UK as a renewable energy centre.

'We're delighted that Chinese companies are increasingly looking to invest in Norfolk and Suffolk,' he said.

Chen Qingwei, division director for the Jiangsu department of commerce, said the trip had helped delegates to understand how the offshore energy sector was being developed, planned and utilised in the region and he hoped it would lead to enhanced co-operation between companies from the two areas.

The visit, which follows a trip to China from Norfolk, Suffolk and Essex representatives in March, comes as the government has approved all seven local development orders needed to get the Great Yarmouth and Lowestoft Enterprise Zone up and running. The approval gives the green light to developers and businesses to build on Enterprise Zone land, without the need for planning approval, if criteria are met.

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