It has now been almost a year since the first of the current generation of Enterprise Zones were set up. Described by Eric Pickles as "The engine room for economic growth", the Government sees them as a key tool to help our regional cities and parts of London to compete internationally. They aim to create desirable, custom made platforms, to encourage new business investment. To date, the Government has approved 24 Enterprise Zones across England and Wales (http://enterprisezones.communities.gov.uk/enterprise-zone-map/) and has recently announced a further investment of £474m in infrastructure funding to support their development.
Each Enterprise Zones benefits from a package of measures designed to attract new development and investment. These include:
- simplified planning regimes. These aim to give automatic planning approval for development which is going to enhance the Enterprise Zone without the need to apply for permission for each individual project
- lower taxes. Businesses can claim Business Rates relief of up to £275,000 over a 5-year period and some sites are offering additional Capital Allowances to encourage extra investment in plant and machinery
- clustering of similar sectors. A number of the sites specialise in specific market sectors, such as biosciences in the Royal Docks Zone, low carbon manufacturing in Aire Valley, Leeds and manufacturing and technology focused on the marine, aviation and aerospace sectors at the Solent Enterprise Zone
- business-ready infrastructures. The sites are being developed with on site enabling infrastructure (including super-fast broadband) and a focus on delivering efficient rail, road and air links.
The Enterprise Zones have not progressed as quickly as the Government had originally planned but a number of sites have already entered their delivery stage with new development coming out of the ground. Last month, for example, saw the launch of the UK's largest city centre Enterprise Zones in Birmingham, comprising 26 development opportunities which, the Government hopes, will add £2.8 billion a year to the city region and create 40,000 new private sector jobs. This month has seen planning permission granted for Peel Holdings £5.5bn Liverpool Waters scheme, a scheme comprising a cruise liner terminal, office, retail and leisure use. Some other projects are even further advanced.
Much work still needs to be done in taking the Enterpise Zones forward but by providing de-risked "oven ready" development sites and a focus on specialist sector clustering the Enterprise Zones offer opportunities worth exploring for developers, investors and occupiers alike.