Accelerating Growth in our Enterprise Zone
By Roger Marsh
Attracting investment and talent to Leeds City Region is at the heart of the LEP’s vision to make this region the growth engine of the North, and the nation.
We are already making good progress: earlier this year, the City Region’s investment and development pipeline passed the £2.5bn mark. Thanks to schemes such as the £260m Broadway scheme in Bradford, York’s £90m Vangarde development, and the much-anticipated Victoria Gate in Leeds, we now have over £1bn in retail development alone on site or in the pipeline – more than anywhere else in Europe.
All of this development is a clear demonstration of the confidence investors have in our region. This confidence is clearly shared by government, who earlier this month agreed a £8.57m funding package with our partners, Leeds City Council, to accelerate development of the Aire Valley Leeds Enterprise Zone as a magnet for inward investment.
This investment paves the way for an immediate start on developing sites at Thornes Farm, Logic Leeds and Temple Green – three of the key development sites within the Enterprise Zone. Wilton Developments plans an immediate start on developing two industrial units of 30,000sqft and 50,000sqft on its four acre Connex 45 site at Thornes Farm, to be completed and ready for occupation by March 2015.
The funding will also enable essential engineering and infrastructure works to begin – including the creation of a 1,000 space park and ride facility – and see the first of a series of bespoke industrial units built as a way of attracting high calibre manufacturing and supply chain firms into the area. The Leeds City Region is already the largest manufacturing base anywhere in the country, and developing the eEnterprise zone as a hub for modern manufacturing will create more of the high value, skilled jobs we need for sustained prosperity across the City Region.
The enterprise zone is a core component of our investment strategy, offering significant benefits for businesses locating there. Financial incentives include reduced business rates worth up to £270,000 over five years, together with a tailored package of business, recruitment and training support and accelerated planning. We welcome the government’s recent announcement that it is extending the window of opportunity for companies to benefit from these incentives to 2018 – recognising that, although investment is clearly picking up pace, wider market conditions remain challenging.
The additional support from government will enable us to build on the progress already being made by Leeds City Council, working closely with developers and landowners, in developing the enterprise zone and helping unlock the full potential of the site in supporting jobs and growth across the City Region.
A total of 190,000sqft of employment floor space is already under construction across the enterprise zone’s two council-owned sites at Newmarket Lane and Thornes Farm. Veolia’s new £150m recycling and energy recovery facility at Newmarket Lane is also well underway. This 165,000sqft facility, scheduled to be operational by spring 2016, will create 45 new permanent jobs along with 300 construction jobs.
Meanwhile Watershed Packaging, which announced plans to build a new factory and relocate its operations to the enterprise zone in June 2012, is also due to transfer operations to the £2million facility at Thornes Farm this summer, bringing 40 new jobs.
These are clear signs of a resurgence of confidence among investors and developers, which, according to our latest economic survey, is backed up by record levels of business confidence. As Gerald Jennings of Land Securities – the firm behind the outstanding Trinity Leeds centre – states in our LEP film (which you can watch at www.leedscityregion.gov.uk/time4growth), “investment builds confidence, builds further investment, builds further confidence”.
With an ambitious Strategic Economic Plan now agreed, and a Local Growth Deal with government to be announced in July, bringing yet more major investment to the City Region, this really is our time for growth. The enterprise zone has a key role to play in attracting investment and delivering that growth.
For more about the Aire Valley Leeds Enterprise Zone, visit www.airevalleyleeds.com
This article can be found in today's business pages of the Yorkshire Post