Aston manufacturing zone accelerated due to strong demand

DEMAND for land at one of Birmingham’s new economic zones has forced planners to accelerate plans for the development of the site.

The 40-acre Advanced Manufacturing Hub in Aston is one of six zones identified by Birmingham City Council as areas where specific sectors can be encouraged to invest and locate. Others include a food hub in Witton and the city centre enterprise zone created with the LEP.

Located at the Aston Regional Investment Site, the hub will support the city’s growing automotive and aerospace supply chains as well as other advanced manufacturers. It was intended to be a three-phase development over a 10-15 year period, with the first phase of 10.5 hectares able to accommodate individual, bespoke buildings up to 11,000 sq m.

However, speaking at the launch of the Economic Zones initiative, Birmingham’s director of regeneration Waheed Nazir said: “We had planned for this to be a three phase project but demand has been so high that we are aiming to make the land available in two phases.”

Barry Allen of property consultants Savills, who is helping the council market the site, said: “Land in the first phase is available immediately for B1 and B2 uses, and by April 2013 we hope to have in place a Local Development Order which will simplify the planning process still further.

“The council and other partners have put this opportunity together, and now it’s up to the private sector to pick up the baton. It’s time for the development industry and the occupier market to make this happen.”

Cllr Tahir Ali, cabinet member for Development, Jobs and Skills, said: “As the first economic zone to be available for occupation, the Advanced Manufacturing Hub demonstrates our aim to support business development, create employment, increase skills and regenerate parts of the city through spatial and economic planning.

“Using this model will provide businesses with benefits ranging from bespoke accommodation to cost-effective shared facilities and accessible supply chain networks. It will also help to transform parts of the city that have the available space and workforce to create world-class business clusters, within a growth sector.”

The economic zones are designed to become an integral part of Birmingham’s new inward investment strategy.

Neil Rami, Chief Executive of Marketing Birmingham – which operates Business Birmingham – said: “The economic zones will become a crucial factor in Birmingham’s ability to land inward investment. Since launching in April 2011, Business Birmingham has directly supported the creation of 3,000 jobs – and the zones will help us build on this success during the current economic climate.

“A structured planning strategy, tailored to companies in our strongest industries, will help Business Birmingham offer a unique package to investors. Leveraging the zones to create a sector-specific, targeted inward investment plan will make the best use of the city’s resources and provides us with the greatest chance of boosting employment across the Birmingham area.”

The other economic zones include the Environmental Enterprise District in Tyseley, which will become the main location for resource recovery and energy production in Birmingham, providing a range of accommodation to meet the requirements of businesses in that sector.

The business cluster emerging around the Queen Elizabeth Hospital and the University of Birmingham in Edgbaston will be serviced by a Life Sciences Campus. This is aimed at attracting high-value jobs to the city. The area has already attracted nearly £1bn investment into the new hospital and road, while a further £178m has been earmarked to upgrade the University of Birmingham.

The food hub owned by real estate fund manager PRUPIM on the former IMI site at Witton is set to provide more than 36 hectares of prime industrial land. It offers plots of up to 70,000 sqm for businesses operating in the food and drink industry.

Comprising 26 sites across 70 hectares, the City Centre Enterprise Zone provides incentives including simplified planning, an improved digital infrastructure, rates relief, business support and investment in infrastructure. There is potential for more than 700,000 sq m of new office floorspace and 600,000 sq m of leisure, commercial and recreation floorspace across the sites over 25 years.

The final site, Longbridge ITEC Park, is focused on attracting technology companies in the IT sector. The scheme features £10m of transport network improvements.