Enterprise zone planned in Lancashire

The Treasury has confirmed Lancashire's local enterprise partnership has been invited to draw up plans for an enterprise zone on land at BAE Systems' sites at Warton and Samlesbury.

Chancellor George Osborne announced the decision at the Conservative party conference in Manchester.

The Treasury said the decision was made after the defence firm announced it will be making 1,400 of its employees redundant at both sites.

A second enterprise zone is also planned at BAE Systems' site at Brough in east Yorkshire, which was proposed to close.

The announcement of the new enterprise zones has caused some to raise concerns about the impact they will have for each area.

Peter Chapman, head of rating and compensation at property consultancy Cluttons, said: "Although we welcome the creation of enterprise zones across the UK, our overarching concern is that the new zones are more likely to attract workers from outside the zones as opposed to creating new jobs. It's those businesses just on the wrong side of the fence that may suffer. There must be safeguards put into place, together with financial assistance for ratepayers, outside of these Zones to prevent the law of unintended consequences making things worse for struggling businesses."

The Government will work closely with both the Lancashire and Hull and Humber local enterprise partnerships to develop proposals for the enterprise zones, with a view to enabling the zones to be up and running by April 2012.

Lancashire's local enterprise partnership originally proposed an enterprise zone for the advanced engineering and manufacturing sectors on land surrounding both BAE Systems' sites at Warton and Samlesbury, near Preston, but the proposal was rejected by the Government in August.

The new enterprise zone in Lancashire was welcomed by Lancashire County Council.

Geoff Driver, leader of Lancashire County Council, said: "We have been working very hard behind the scenes on this, with colleagues from BAE Systems and the Lancashire Enterprise Partnership, so I am very pleased that the government has recognised the strengths of the LEP's original proposal.

"We will now start discussions with senior civil servants on the detail of how we press ahead and make this happen. We are looking forward to working with all parties involved, on what is a very positive development."

Edwin Booth, chair of the Lancashire Enterprise Partnership, added: "We were always confident that an enterprise zone at the BAE systems sites at Samlesbury and Warton would bring investment and employment to Lancashire.

"In the wake of difficult news last week it is more important than ever that we push ahead now to build on Lancashire's strengths in advanced engineering and manufacturing. We are now talking to government about additional investments, aligned with the enterprise zone, which could benefit the county as a whole."

Enterprise zones would offer businesses incentives including discounted business rates and priority connection to the superfast broadband network.

The first enterprise zones included Peel's Liverpool and Wirral Waters schemes and Manchester Airport.

The Daresbury Science & Innovation Campus in Halton was the only site in the North West to gain enterprise zone status in the second round of bids two months ago.

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