City Centre Enterprise Zone offers best hope for growth

A BID to make the whole of Birmingham City Centre one large Enterprise Zone offers the greatest potential for wealth generation in the Greater Birmingham and Solihull LEP area, partnership leaders have said.

The business strategy, which has been submitted to Government for approval, has the twin aim of creating a secondary Enterprise Belt for the area outside the city and includes the M42 corridor with the southern Staffordshire districts of Cannock Chase, Lichfield, Tamworth and Burton to the north and Redditch, Bromsgrove and Wyre Forest to the south.

The zone will benefit from reduced business rates, increased capital allowances and relaxed planning regulations.

The bold move is at odds with traditional thinking which views EZs as large out-of-town sites with business units.

The LEP board said it had opted for the city centre due to its potential to generate considerable private investment and jobs as well as substantial business rate growth to generate support investment for the rest of the LEP.

LEP chairman Bridget Blow, in one of her last official roles before handing over to successor Andy Street at the end of the month, said: “The bid offers the best prospects for fast growth.

“We believe all kinds of businesses will be attracted to the city and they will benefit from improved transport links with redevelopment of New Street Station and the Midland Metro extension.

“We have received a lot of encouragement for the move and are confident that the whole of the LEP area will feel the benefits.”

Cllr Mike Whitby, leader of Birmingham City Council, said: “At the heart of our LEP was a challenging ambition to create jobs and drive forward investment and prosperity in to this region.

“The LEPs first enterprise zone, located in the city centre, represents a powerful statement that we are starting to deliver the components that will make our LEP objectives a reality.” 

He said that by selecting the city centre for the EZ, the LEP has opened up the potential to deliver 50,000 jobs and an economic value of £2.1bn per year.

“If all the proposed development is delivered, it could generate growth in business rates of £70m a year over 25 years for investment across the LEP,” he added.