Eric Pickles praises “stonking” enterprise zone bid as second chance for Great Yarmouth and Lowestoft

Communities secretary Eric Pickles said Great Yarmouth and Lowestoft had been given a 'second chance' to transform the economic fortunes of the two areas with the creation of a new enterprise zone based around the energy industry.

In August ministers gave the green light to the plans to encourage energy firms to relocate to seven ready made industrial areas through a mixture of tax breaks, relaxed planning rules and better broadband access.

On Thursday it was announced that the Norfolk and Suffolk Energy Alliance a public/private partnership of councils and business representatives, will take on the day-to-day running of the enterprise zone, which is expected to be officially up and running by April next year.

And Mr Pickles joined Great Yarmouth MP Brandon Lewis for the visit to the town which included meeting the team behind the enterprise zone

And he admitted that such was the quality of the bid, and its potential to generate thousands of new jobs that it took the cabinet minutes to give it the thumbs-up.

'When we sat down in cabinet sub-committee and looked at all the bids, you were passed within the first minute,' he said during a meeting with alliance members. 'It was a stonking bid. It was a screaming good bid. What really impressed us was the professionalism of the bid and it was clear it had buy-in from the local business community and from local authorities.

'I think through your good efforts you are going to give this part of the world a second chance. There was a period when this was the Aberdeen of the South. You have got a chance now to carve out a bigger position in low carbon energy.

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'You have got the possibility for this to be an enormous economic catalyst,' he added. 'This is not about a presentation on Powerpoint, you are in a position to make a real difference to this area and a real difference to this country by what you have done.'

The alliance, which was set up last year, will be acting as the enterprise zone's management board, on behalf of New Anglia the LEP board. The LEP will also nominate one of its board members to join as an observer.

Ann Steward, Cabinet member for Economic Development at Norfolk County Council and Chair of the Norfolk and Suffolk Energy Alliance, said:

'The Alliance is really starting to gain momentum. We set it up last year to ensure everyone was pulling in the right direction and this shows what we can achieve when we do that. I look forward to working with colleagues in the coming months as we look to make the enterprise zone a success for the whole of Norfolk and Suffolk.'

Judy Terry, Suffolk County Council's Cabinet member for the Greenest County, Economy & Skills, said:

'The Enterprise Zone offers considerable scope for small and medium sized businesses to capitalise on the supply chain opportunities presented by the expanding energy sector in the region, and to complement the LEP's role as the lead for green issues.

'With the number of new jobs being created to service the offshore wind and nuclear developments, there will also be opportunities for new housing and infrastructure in this area and we are working with the construction industry to highlight this need.'

Andy Wood, chairman of the New Anglia Local Enterprise Partnership, said:

'The Norfolk and Suffolk Energy Alliance is a really good example of the private and public sectors working closely to support economic growth and job creation. With the Alliance already working hard to bring inward investment into the two counties, they were the perfect partner for the LEP to delegate responsibility for the management of the Enterprise Zone.'

Caroline Williams chief executive of Norfolk Chamber said: 'The Enterprise Zones is a very exciting opportunity for not just Great Yarmouth but the whole of Norfolk. The involvement of the business community across Norfolk and Suffolk will add dimension to the development of the Zone and ensure that it meets its full potential'.

Don't miss Saturday's EDP for an exclusive wide-ranging interview with Eric Pickles.

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