Blackpool enterprise zone will need £70m funding

How the enterprise zone could look
How the enterprise zone could look

The Blackpool airport enterprise zone is set to need more than £70m funding over its 25 year lifetime.

The figure was revealed in a “delivery plan” document on the airport due to be discussed at a meeting of the Blackpool, Fylde and Wyre Economic Prosperity Board on Tuesday at the Lancashire Energy HQ.

Blackpool Council has already committed to borrowing £28.82m with its local authority access to cheaper rates of loans, to get the zone started with infrastructure and building work.

But extra funding is predicted to be needed including £13.8m between 2021 and 2022, £19.5 between 2023 and 2027 and £9.8m from 2028 to 2036 which the council will have to find.

Leader of the opposition on the council Coun Tony Williams warned of the financial risk.

He said: “The Enterprise Zone offers a superb opportunity to grow both business and jobs in the local area, however the early year costs are substantial and its critical we get the business occupancy rates predicted.

"Blackpool Council has taken on the responsibility of borrowing more millions to both kick start the project and sustain its development, when it is already over £300m in debt, so its crucial they deliver the projections and also seek out an investing partner.”

But Mark Smith, Cabinet Member for Regeneration, Enterprise and Economic Development said it was a prudent investment, some grants would be available to help with the cost and a joint venture on some parts will has not been ruled out in the future.

He said: “The Enterprise Zone is an excellent investment as it will positively change the economic landscape of Blackpool and the Fylde Coast.”

He said it would bring up to 5,000 jobs, provide investment in training and retain skills for the future, encourage £300m private sector investment, bring 280 new businesses, and £2bn gross value added to the local economy over the 25 year lifespan.

Blackpool Council had committed to the first tranche of £28.8m over the first three years which will begin the delivery of the essential infrastructure to attract new investment. Because of the time limited nature of the financial incentives to both the Council and companies wishing to move onto the EZ, it has agreed to cover the initial borrowing to kick start development on site to maximise these opportunities.

He added that such had been the progress in the first two years that some of the debt iwas already covered by new business rates already generated on the Enterprise Zone.

He said: "To maximise these benefits it is necessary for Blackpool, as accountable body, to prudentially borrow against the future growth in order to ensure that it happens and the benefits of investment and jobs are realised. At this stage the Council wants to create certainty in the marketplace yet the approach is both cautious and estimates are conservative."