AMBITIOUS plans for two new Enterprise Zones to boost jobs and growth have been formally presented to the Government by the Stoke-on-Trent and Staffordshire Local Enterprise Partnership (LEP).
The LEP is seeking Government backing for, in priority order, Ceramic Valley, the country’s first high-technology ceramics enterprise zone, on land along the A500 corridor in Stoke-on-Trent and Newcastle-under-Lyme, plus a Connected Staffordshire Enterprise Zone, developing rural and peri-urban employment sites across the county, including at Meaford, Stone; Redhill, Stafford; Uttoxeter; Liberty Park, Lichfield; Bericote Four Ashes and Keele.
In total, the two schemes aim to create nearly 18,000 new jobs by 2020, concentrating on the LEP’s priority sectors for economic growth, with the emphasis on advanced technology.
The projects have been developed in response to a Government invitation to LEPs across England to bid for new enterprise zones. A decision by the Department for Communities and Local Government and the Department for Business on which schemes will get the go-ahead is expected later in the autumn.
Stoke-on-Trent and Staffordshire LEP chairman David Frost said the two zones would be great news for the local economy by driving business growth and creating more and better jobs for local residents.
“The Enterprise Zones will have a major positive impact for our area, not only in financial benefits to businesses and the LEP, but also in raising the profile of Stoke-on-Trent and Staffordshire,” he said.
“An Enterprise Zone is a very strong marketing tool in attracting inward investment and strengthening our reputation nationally and internationally as a great location with a forward-looking, positive approach to innovation and growth.”
The Connected Staffordshire zone would see the development of sites for businesses in the LEP’s key sectors – agricultural technology, automotive engineering, energy, medical sciences and technology. The zone would support up to 190 businesses and create 8,600 jobs. All sites within the zone would have access to superfast broadband and improved transport links.
County council leader Philip Atkins said: “We know from our success at i54 South Staffordshire how Enterprise Zone status can really boost a site’s profile. Our bid for rural productivity zones focuses on a number of sites across the county which would be ideally placed for a step change in our economy with businesses such as agricultural technology, automotive supply chain businesses, advanced manufacturing, engineering and energy transmission, medical sciences and technology. This follows the Government’s invitation for rural EZ bids.
“It will be complementary to the Ceramic Valley bid, both of which we believe are strong submissions from the Stoke-on-Trent and Staffordshire Enterprise Partnership. There is no reason why an area shouldn’t try for more than one Enterprise Zone to boost both the local and national economy. This will be an extremely competitive bidding process and therefore not something we are reliant on. In Staffordshire we have already made great strides in terms on increasing investment and business development – i54 South Staffordshire, Redhill and Keele University Science and Business Park to name but a few of our successes. Whatever the outcome of the Enterprise Zone process, we will continue at pace with our drive to support business, job creation and skills development.”
Meanwhile the Ceramic Valley scheme aims to create 9,000 jobs by developing mainly brownfield sites along the A500 corridor, including at Tunstall, Chatterley Valley, Etruria Valley, and Cliffe Vale.
The city’s research expertise, skills, supply chains and connectivity make Stoke-on-Trent a natural hub for advanced ceramics, and the rapid growth of a Ceramic Valley would enable the UK to compete with the growing technical ceramics sectors in the US, Germany and Italy. The scheme will accelerate the diversification of the area’s key industry from pottery to technical ceramics.
Stoke-on-Trent City Council deputy leader Councillor Abi Brown said: “We’re delighted that Stoke-on-Trent and Staffordshire Local Enterprise Partnership is prioritising the Ceramic Valley bid as part of the high growth agenda for both the city and the wider area.
“Its success would have significant benefits which support our goals to create jobs and attract investment into Stoke-on-Trent. The Partnership’s support will be key in driving the proposal forward as one of two bids in the county which can promote exciting economic opportunities for businesses and benefit the residents who live and work here.”