Wyre bids for new enterprise zone

The Victrex plant, part of the Hillhouse site which is the target for a new bid for an enterprise zone
The Victrex plant, part of the Hillhouse site which is the target for a new bid for an enterprise zone
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Ambitious plans for a new enterprise zone have been lodged with the Government with minutes to spare before the closing deadline.

Wyre Council, the Lancashire Enterprise Partnership and the NPL Group have applied to have the Hillhouse site at Thornton made into a zone which would bring tax breaks to attract investing companies.

They say if granted it could create up to 1,500 new jobs and attract up to £200m investment to the area.

It would work in parallel to the plans for an enterprise zone at Blackpool Airport which in turn is linked to the two existing zones at the BAE Systems sites at Warton and Samlesbury.

Robert McFarlane, Founder and Chairman of regeneration company NPL Group which already offers facilities management services at the site, said the site was currently home to more than 45 hi-tech businesses, including the world headquarters of listed polymer maker Victrex.

Transforming the site into an Enterprise Zone would allow it to offer benefits including business rate discounts, capital allowances and superfast broadband.

He said: “ Our business model of investment and collaborative working has to date delivered over £300m in new development and over 1,000 jobs at Hillhouse Business Park along with infrastructure and new homes’’

“The next phase of development, which will be accelerated as a direct result of having EZ status, will deliver over a thousand new full-time posts, hundreds of construction jobs and a further £200m of investment in the site and surrounding area.”

‘’We are delighted that our ambition for the site is matched by our partners at Wyre Borough Council and the EDC, and look forward to confirmation of the award.’’

Coun Peter Murphy, Wyre Council’s planning and economic development portfolio holder, said the bid had been put together over the past three weeks after a gap was spotted due to no other bids for the area in this round of the Government’s scheme.

He said: “We put in an enterprise zone for Hillhouse five years ago but were unsuccessful but Lancashire was looking for a bid this time so we reworked it. A lot of hard work was put in over the past three weeks. The LEP grilled us and suggested some alterations.

“The LEP passed it and got it in to the Government with 10 minutes to space before the deadline ran out on Friday.

“We are hoping the Government will look favourably on it this time.

“It will complement the Blackpool Airport bid and we spoke to Blackpool Council’s chief executive Neil Jack.

“Hillhouse will be the chemicals and power side of the zone while Blackpool would have the offices.

“There are around 1,500 jobs at Hillhouse now and over the life of the enterprise zone we estimate it could create another 1,500 with around eight major new businesses moving there.

“It would benefit not only Wyre but the whole Fylde coast and Blackpool area. Over the past year Hillhouse has had visits from the Prime Minister David Cameron and Chancellor George Osborne so they know the site and hopefully that will help.”