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Eric Pickles announces £21m regeneration boost for Birmingham and the Black Country

Eric Pickles announces £21m regeneration boost for Birmingham and the Black Country

🕔29.Jan 2014

Communities Secretary Eric Pickles, who is best known for slashing council budgets, has shifted into an unusual position of giving money away by announcing a £415 million investment plan that will benefit Black Country regeneration and Birmingham universities as well as other parts of the country.

Unveiling details of the Government’s long-term economic plan, Mr Pickles announced that he would give:

– £300 million to enable 300,000 small retail firms to take £1000 off their next tax bill.
– £100 million to support critical business infrastructure in enterprise zones.
– £15 million to establish new university enterprise zones in the eight main UK cities.

The Black Country Enterprise Zone is to receive up to £6.2 million to improve infrastructure so heavy duty electricity can be supplied to the i54 South Staffordshire Advanced Manufacturing and Engineering site.

The additional funding means that land works and road improvements will take place sooner, ensuring that remaining development plots are made available more quickly to potential occupiers.

In addition from today universities in Birmingham, Bristol, Leeds, Liverpool, Manchester, Newcastle, Nottingham and Sheffield can bid for part of a £15 million fund to establish university enterprise zones. This will strengthen the role of higher education in supporting local growth and innovation.

The funding will also lead to the development of new business spaces within universities. These spaces will host a range of start-up, high-tech companies that can benefit best from universities’ expert knowledge.

Mr Pickles said 12 enterprise zone bids had been shortlisted to complete critical ‘nuts and bolts’ infrastructure that will turn dormant sites into prime economic land, attracting new businesses and jobs to Harlow, Humber, Leeds, Sheffield, Discovery Park in Kent, Oxford, Daresbury, Alconbury, London’s Royal Docks, the Black Country, Nottingham and the Solent.

The funding for road building, refurbishment, utility supply and land clearance will mean that 3.5 million square metres of land is brought back into use and 124,000 square metres of new commercial floorspace will be created by 2015, according to Pickles.

Mr Pickles said: “As part of our long term economic plan, we are backing business and enterprise right across the country, helping town centres and local industries to prosper, and building a stronger economy.

“This money for infrastructure will transform acres of enterprise zone land and build a stronger, more competitive business environment that will create up to 3000 jobs for hardworking people across the country.

“While our fully funded £1000 retail discount will make a huge difference to 300,000 of the essential small shops and local traders we find in our town centres across the country.”

New guidance for local authorities published today spells out which high street businesses will be entitled to the new discount.

Retail premises are eligible for a £1,000 discount in 2014 to 2015 and 2015 to 2016. These businesses must also be occupied and have a rateable value, used to calculate bills of £50,000 or below.

Business specifically excluded from the scheme include payday lenders, betting shops and pawn brokers.

This discount can be used on top of other measures announced by the Chancellor, that will come into effect in April, to reduce the tax burden on small business. The measures amount to the biggest package of support in over 20 years.

Tom Westley, Black Country LEP board member for the Enterprise Zone, said: “The Black Country LEP welcomes the announcement of the injection of an additional £6.25m for essential infrastructure to supply heavy duty electricity, undertake abnormal works to improve the stability and loadbearing capacity of some of the development plots and road improvements on i54.

“This investment will ensure the Black Country Enterprise Zone becomes the beating heart of a strategic cluster of advanced manufacturing companies.”

On a visit to i54, Lord Deighton, Commercial Secretary to the Treasury, said, “Quality infrastructure is key to creating a competitive economy and putting Britain at the front of the global race. That is why we have prioritised spending on infrastructure and set out a long term strategy to make sure the UK tackles decades of underinvestment.

“With the potential to create 6,000 jobs by 2020, the Black Country Enterprise Zone will give a huge boost to the area, attracting investment from around the country and beyond. But we have to prepare now and that means getting infrastructure right.”

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