Norfolk and Suffolk misses out on rural growth cash

Plans to give a shot in the arm to rural businesses were left in tatters last night after the government left Norfolk and Suffolk empty handed.

New Anglia local enterprise partnership had been seeking a �2.6m slice of a �15m fund from the government's rural growth fund which would have transformed the fortunes of 14 industrial sites from Downham Market in the West to Eye in Suffolk, which it said could have created 700 jobs.

But environment minister Caroline Spelman instead chose to share the pot of money out among local enterprise partnerships in Swindon and Wiltshire, Durham and Northumberland, Coventry and Warwickshire, Cumbria and Devon and Somerset.

To add insult to injury, New Anglia was tasked with helping the government to shape the so called Rural Growth Networks.

With Norfolk mostly being bypassed in Wednesday's budget, questions are sure to raised among business leaders and policy makers about whether the county has had its lot in terms of funding.

Ironically the funding blow comes 24 hours after the Lep got a surprise �5.9m boost in the chancellor's budget through the Growing Places Fund to kickstart stalled infrastructure project.

Andy Wood, chairman of New Anglia said the lep was 'very disappointed' that it had not received the go-ahead for a Rural Growth Network bid.

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'New Anglia had a strong proposal, a powerful commitment to the concept of a Rural Growth Network; a concept which we had helped create,' he said.

But, he said: 'New Anglia has secured an Enterprise Zone in Lowestoft and Great Yarmouth, which will provide a wide range of benefits to energy and energy-related businesses which will grow 10,000 jobs by 2025. We have also secured �12m to help kick-start abandoned infrastructure projects and a further �6m from this Growing Places Fund. We will continue to make the case for the region in Whitehall, with vigour.'

The Rural Growth Network bid, which was backed by 13 councils across the two counties, would have created enterprise hubs on industrial parks including in Fakenham, Swaffham, North Walsham, Attleborough, Downham Market, Halesworth, Harleston and Eye.

Ann Steward, Norfolk County Council cabinet member for economic development, said: 'It is certainly very disappointing that we haven't been successful. We are going to be investigating if there is a 'round two'. We want to be a the forefront of anything else on offer.

'Certainly we have been very successful with a lot of other projects including broadband and the A11. We are disappointed, but we have by no means given up.'

New Anglia helped to develop the Rural Growth Neworks concept last year in partnership with three other predominantly rural LEPs and the Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (Defra).

Having been involved in the project from the outset, New Anglia had already submitted a proposal but in December Defra announced that the partnership would have to bid for funding as part of a national competition to identify up to six pilot schemes.

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