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Hampshire's 'Enterprise Zone' could get a slice of Government pot after 'u-turn'
1:00pm Wednesday 6th March 2013 in Hampshire Business
A £59M pot to get ‘enterprise zones’ up and running has been unveiled – two years after ministers insisted no direct funding was needed.
The loan can be used to build link roads, reconfigure the site, install utilities such as electricity and water; or to reclaim contaminated land.
Eric Pickles, the Communities Secretary, said the cash would allow successful bidders to turn “shovel-ready sites into job-ready sites”, to trigger economic growth.
But Labour was quick to brand the move a stunning U-turn, given that – when enterprise zones were first announced – they were refused any upfront cash.
“The opportunity to get growth going has been thrown away by the cuts in regional funding and the failure to support enterprise zones effectively.”
Back in 2011, the Government was sharply criticised for claiming the only help that zones required to succeed were generous tax breaks, to encourage companies to move in.
The original enterprise zones, in the 1980s and 90s, received a total of £386m in capital costs, mainly to buy land and build infrastructure.
But the Department for Communities and Local Government (DCLG) denied the £59m pot had been created because of any fears that enterprise zones will struggle.
A spokeswoman said some had already received cash from other sources, including the regional growth fund (RGF), adding: “It is not correct to say they haven’t had access to funding.
“But enterprise zones are operating in tough conditions – making it harder to raise private investment – and we are providing a long-term investment to help speed up delivery of those sites.”
The 24 zones, spread across 142 sites, offer tax incentives and have simplified planning rules, as well as superfast broadband, in a bid to attract businesses.
The 82-hectare Solent Enterprise Zone aims to build on nearby hi-tech companies in the marine, aerospace and defence industries.
A marine slipway will be re-commissioned to provide direct access for marine businesses to Southampton Water.
Mr Pickles has told local enterprise partnerships (LEPs) – partnerships of business and council leaders – to have delivery plans for all 24 zones in place by April.
Bids for infrastructure loans can be made by either LEPs, or by individual developers, the DCLG said.