After four years of no progress, 2016 will be the year that Enterprise Zone gets underway, say bosses

Mark Menzies and Andrew Roberton of Accenture at Warton

Mark Menzies and Andrew Roberton of Accenture at Warton

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The business leaders behind the stalled Warton Enterprise Zone have vowed that 2016 will be the year progress finally happens at the site.

The zone, established at the BAE Systems site in 2012 along with its sister site at Samlesbury east of Preston, has come in for criticism.

Last April the Chamber of Commerce hit out at the Lancashire Enterprise Partnership, which oversees the enterprise zones , for a lack of communication over the projects and the slow progress.

At the time president of the chamber Norman Tenray hit out at the LEP and warned that work at the new enterprise zone at Blackpool Airport must be more dynamic.

Mr Tenray said: “The development of the Warton Enterprise Zone has been painfully slow and we cannot afford the same mistakes to happen at Blackpool.”

Now Fylde MP Mark Menzies has visited the Warton zone to get an update on plans .

Last year the first two companies relocated to the Warton site – global technology giant Accenture and calibration and asset management specialist Trescal creating 22 jobs – but Mr Menzies said he hoped to see more firms taking advantage of the benefits in the near future.

He said: “The Warton Enterprise Zone is vitally important for Fylde and it is envisaged it will provide thousands of jobs for the area in the coming years.

“I know Lancashire’s Enterprise Zones have faced some challenges coming online due to infrastructure and security issues but I was delighted to be told everyone expects 2016/17 to be a big year.

“While BAE Systems is obviously an important employer in Fylde, and provides well-paid and highly-skilled roles, it is important for an area never to be too reliant on one major employer.

“That is why I was so keen to ensure Fylde was allocated an Enterprise Zone and Warton, being close to a secure runway and major aircraft manufacturer, provides a fantastic opportunity for businesses which require secure transport routes, as well as defence contract supply chain companies.

“I subsequently supported the creation of another zone at the Blackpool Airport site last year. However, I also want to see that site attract businesses which will utilise the current runway and help ensure its financial viability so commercial overseas flights can return in the not-too-distant future.”

Today an LEP spokesman said: “Recent developments at Warton include the arrival of two new tenant companies, Accenture and Trescal, and the completion of the spine road from Lytham Road to the boundary of BAE Systems’ site at Warton, and we have a combined target for both Warton and Samlesbury to create between 4,000 and 6,000 new jobs by 2030.

“BAE Systems has also prepared a masterplan for Warton, which has been adopted by the local planning authority and the site will feature prominently in a new occupier engagement strategy, developed with BAE Systems and other EZ landowners, which is due to be rolled out this year.

“With the support of BAE Systems and other partners, the LEP continues to work on plans to promote Warton’s accessibility and capacity, and we are confident it will soon begin to fulfil its promise.”