The long-awaited announcement finally came that Great Yarmouth and Lowestoft have been added to the European Union’s map of places covered by Assisted Area Status (AAS) – but what benefits will it bring to businesses and the wider community?

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The following wards in the Borough of Great Yarmouth have been included in the final map:

• Bradwell South & Hopton

• Bradwell North

• Gorleston

• Caister South

• Central & Northgate

• Claydon

• Magdalen

• Nelson

• Southtown & Cobham

• St Andrews

• Yarmouth North

The following wards in Lowestoft have been included in the final map:

• Gunton and Corton

• Harbour

• Kessingland

• Kirkley

• Lothingland

• Normanston

• Oulton

• Pakefield

• St Margaret’s

• Whitton

The answer from the region’s political and business leaders is that quite apart from concrete possibilities of new funding becoming available there are benefits of being in the ‘AAS’ club on a higher level.

Great Yarmouth MP Brandon Lewis said: “Being on the map –alongside such places as Humber and the North-East – is quite a status symbol and ticks an important box for companies who are making investments.”

Meanwhile, Lowestoft MP Peter Aldous, who has petitioned for AAS alongside Mr Lewis, described it as “an important piece of the jigsaw in making Lowestoft and Yarmouth more attractive as business locations.”

He said: “It complements the towns’ enterprise zones and CORE (centre of offshore renewable engineering) status. And the timing is good. Electricity market reform is behind us and there is clear indication of companies coming forward with investment, whether it be in windfarms or nuclear power stations.

“When they are looking at places to invest, AAS will help us in marketing our towns.”

Chris Starkie, managing-director of New Anglia Local Enterprise Partnership, described it as “quite an achievement” to win the status – some places had been removed from the map to accommodate the few number of new entries – and spelled out the tangible benefits to businesses.

AAS brought exemption from EU rules fixing the level of regional aid that could be given to projects and that meant firms would be able to bid for a larger slice of funding.

For example, it would mean firms in Great Yarmouth and Lowestoft being entitled to receive a greater percentage of funding from New Anglia’s growing business fund which gives grants of up to £500,000 towards company expansion projects that create new jobs.

Businesses in the towns would also now be able to access the Business Premises Renovation Allowance, a funding pot for projects bringing derelict or unused properties back into use.

He added that the fact AAS would run until 2020 also brought a degree of certainty to potential investors.

David Dukes, economic development officer at Norfolk County Council, which helped to write the AAS bid with the LEP and local authority partners, said a concrete example of how firms would benefit was provided by Alicat Workboats’ recent success in bidding for £170,000 from the government’s Coastal Communities Fund. If the Yarmouth firm had been bidding for funding after AAS comes in on July 1 it would have been able to go for substantially more, because it would no longer be fettered by state aid rules.

How will AAS help your business? Email stephen.pullinger@archant.co.uk

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