Hundreds of jobs were created at the Blackpool Airport Enterprise Zone last year with more on the horizon – but a vital new road is needed to unlock the site's potential, bosses have said.
The site, off Squires Gate Lane, is now home to 53 businesses and 700 jobs that have arrived since the start of the project, more than 240 of which came in 2018.
Now Blackpool Council is saying the key to continuing the progress so far is starting work on the new road, allowing access from Common Edge Road, as soon as possible.
It is anticipated the enterprise zone could bring 5,000 jobs to the resort over the next two decades – but the current sites are almost full, with high demand for new units.
Coun Mark Smith, Blackpool Council’s Cabinet Member for Economic Development and Regeneration said: “It is key that we start work on the road as early as possible so that we can unlock potential new development sites and start to fulfil local business growth requirements.
“The popularity of the existing employment areas, namely Blackpool Business Park and Squires Gate Industrial Estate remains high, with both estates trading near full capacity and very little available commercial property stock for sale or lease.
“We want to be able to support and retain local businesses by providing new larger footprint commercial units, boost the local economy and create new jobs for the local community.”
As well as providing a much needed second access point to the site, it is hoped a new access road would help ease rush hour traffic on and around Squires Gate Lane and Common Edge Road.
Work is expected to begin on the road later this year ahead of it opening in 2020.
Coun Smith said there had been in the past 12 months a significant increase in the number of enquiries about the opportunities available at the Enterprise Zone and they were currently in initial discussions with interested parties looking to build new units on the last few available third party-owned plots.
The majority of the new occupiers on the park have been growing local companies which have been accommodated within existing third party owned premises.
However the enterprise zone has seen six new build developments since April 2016, the most recent being the 20,000 sq ft Dakota Court, in part occupied by the developer AC Electrical which brought 50 new jobs to the site from its former Fylde Coast premises in March 2018.
A further new 20,000 sq ft unit for Fylde Coast Accident Repair Centre (ARC) will be open by the end of January 2019 and a new electricity generation facility will also be completed in the first quarter of 2019.
A further planning application for a private sector speculative development for 12 industrial units is currently with the council planning department for consideration in the new year.
Blackpool Council said it will look to support any new business choosing to relocate to the Enterprise Zone as much as possible, through the incentives available through business rates relief up to £275,000 over five years and enhanced capital allowances for new plant and machinery up to £125m in the first year.
The council can also offer business advice in the way of mentoring, start-up advice, traineeships and access to the £100m Business Loans Fund.
Outlined: The progress so far
This year, the Enterprise Zone Delivery Team was strengthened at Blackpool Council with the appointment of a new marketing officer, a new website – blackpoolez.com – went live, and new road signs were put up around the site to improve visibility and awareness of the opportunities at the zone.
The foundations were set for unlocking new developments and providing infrastructure early in the summer with the approval of the Masterplan and Delivery Plan.
A total of £28.8m was secured to finance the phase one enabling works on the site, including plans for a new eastern access road and the relocation and enhancement of the Common Edge Road Playing Fields.
BWB Consultants, an engineering and environmental consultancy, have been carrying out detailed highways assessments on behalf of Blackpool Council in the last quarter of 2018 and the findings will help to shape and determine the full planning application that will be submitted in mid 2019.
Local architects Cassidy and Ashton have also recently been appointed to seek outline planning consent for the phase one area and this outline application will be submitted in February 2019, to Fylde and Blackpool Councils with a decision expected in June 2019.
Work on the new eastern gateway road is expected to start later this year with the road anticipated to be open in 2020.