Norfolk and Suffolk unite over enterprise zone bid

Backers of a bid to create an enterprise zone for Great Yarmouth and Lowestoft today insisted the scheme was 'oven ready' - should the government give it the green light.

The government is establishing 21 Enterprise Zones across England, which will benefit from simplified planning rules and a business rate discount for new and expanding businesses.

New Anglia, the Local Enterprise Partnership (Lep), is supporting a proposal put together by the Norfolk and Suffolk Energy Alliance centred on the energy industry, aimed at attracting new firms to set up at seven sites in the Great Yarmouth and Lowestoft areas.

New Anglia chairman Andy Wood said the Enterprise Zone could create up to 2,000 jobs and attract 80 businesses by 2015 and 13,500 jobs and 200 businesses over the lifetime of the zone. Any increase in business rates will be retained by the Lep to support economic development across the area – which could generate up to �200m over the next 25 years and create more than 10,000 additional jobs.

But with ministers considering 29 bids, competition is sure to be tough, however the proposal is backed by all Suffolk and Norfolk MPs, as well as councils and business leaders, which supporters believe could be key to its chances of success.

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Speaking during a launch event at one of the proposed sites on Riverside Road in Lowestoft, Mr Wood said the advantage of the bid was that the sites could be quickly put into use.

'The New Anglia Enterprise Zone for Great Yarmouth and Lowestoft is deliverable, with sites ready to go right now requiring very little additional infrastructure,' Mr Wood said. 'It will create thousands of jobs and is timely because of significant investment plans by major energy providers in the next few years.

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'What's really key is that the sites are 'oven ready'; they have infrastructure running into them, and by being smaller sites, they can be brought easily to market.'

Ann Steward, cabinet member for economic development at Norfolk County Council and Norfolk and Suffolk Energy Alliance chairman, said the bid 'ticks all the boxes'.

'If we are successful I am confident we will repay the government's faith in our ability to deliver a substantial number of new jobs and businesses within a timescale that meets the needs of the nation,' she said.

Colin Law, leader of Waveney District Council, said: ''Lowestoft and Great Yarmouth working together create a credible international offer in offshore wind farm development and longer term operations and maintenance.

'This bid will benefit not just the defined Enterprise Zone areas in both towns, but the whole of Norfolk and Suffolk through the related supply chains.'

Stephen Ames, leader of Great Yarmouth Borough Council, said: 'The designation of an Enterprise Zone for Great Yarmouth and Lowestoft will enable the sub-region to make the most of its strong and established capability in offshore energy and its ports by securing a share of the billions being invested in the energy sector in the East of England over the next 5-10 years and thereby attracting new inward investment and creating a significant number of new jobs.'

Mark Bee, leader of Suffolk County Council and New Anglia board member, said: 'We have worked well with the New Anglia LEP and partner local authorities to seek a designation that could transform Lowestoft as a town and bring much needed inward investment to the area. 'This is a once in a lifetime opportunity to build on the real prospects offered by energy developments off our coast.'

Richard Perkins, chairman of the Waveney Economic Partnership, said: 'Waveney Economic Partnership has robustly endorsed the Energy for New Anglia Enterprise Zone proposal, because it will significantly assist in the delivery of new employment with higher skills and economic growth that represents our principal target and ambition.'

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