Norwich ruled out of bid for jobs boost

Hopes that Norwich could be in for a jobs and investment bonanza by becoming an enterprise zone have been dashed, but leaders believe the city could yet benefit if a zone is created nearby.

There had been optimism that Norwich might cash in by becoming one of the zones, benefiting from a jobs boost because of extra funding, tax breaks, super-fast broadband and a simplified planning system to make it easier for new companies to get up and running.

In last month's budget, the government revealed the locations of 11 of the zones and said it would welcome invitations from partnerships for 10 more.

There had been support for Norwich putting itself forward for such a bid, with support from City College Norwich, the Federation for Small Businesses and city MPs Chloe Smith and Simon Wright.

But, after the government published the criteria for such zones, it was decided at a meeting last week that Norwich would not to submit a proposal because it appeared the city did not tick the right boxes.

Steve Morphew, leader of Norwich City Council, said: 'The anticipation is that most enterprise zones would be broadly 50 to 150 hectares, and we just didn't have anywhere with that sort of space in the city which was suitable.

'That means we are down to looking to what the other proposals are which could give us the biggest benefits.'

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Proposals have been put forward by Broadland District Council, West Norfolk and St Edmundsbury in Suffolk, but the city council's view is that the bid for a zone in Great Yarmouth and Lowestoft is the one worth backing, in the hope the spin-offs would benefit Norwich.

The Yarmouth/Lowestoft proposal has been put forward by the Norfolk and Suffolk Energy Alliance, a partnership which includes Norfolk and Suffolk County Council, Great Yarmouth and Waveney councils and the chambers of commerce and which focuses on the potential of the two towns for energy production.

It will be up to the New Anglia Local Enterprise Partnership (LEP) to decide which of the proposals to work up into a bid to go the government in the summer.

Miss Smith, Norwich North MP, said: 'We want to support the best bid which can help the whole area, because that's how the revenue will be distributed over 25 years.

'The government will pick the best schemes nationally, so we have to put forward our best candidate. The best candidate zone will generate the most for the whole county.

'The Yarmouth/Lowestoft scheme, for example, would bring straightforward economic benefits of its own to Norwich where many people may want to live and relax if they work in the new industries.

'The Broadland bid is also exciting and again brings benefits to the north of the city. We should all be looking to back the best horse, because we will all benefit.'

Simon Woodbridge, leader of Broadland District Council, said his authority's proposal reflected the expected growth in the area to the north-east of Norwich. But he stressed it was not a competition. He said: 'What we are trying to do is understand the best way of creating opportunities together so it brings the biggest level of benefits to us all.

'We have responded to the bid from the LEP to submit information and it might be that they say they don't like this bid or that bid on its own, but that it could form part of the bigger picture.'

One of the benefits of anywhere in Norfolk and Suffolk being designated an enterprise zone is that it means the LEP could retain the business rates, which could then be re-invested across the two counties.

Andy Wood, joint chairman of the New Anglia LEP, said: 'We believe an enterprise zone could be a powerful tool in driving forward the economies of Norfolk and Suffolk.

'These locations will be independently evaluated to see which offers the best return for the two counties, so we can submit our expression of interest to the government at the end of the month.

'It is important to recognise that whichever site is chosen, the financial benefits of the zone will be spread right across Norfolk and Suffolk so all areas stand to gain.'

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