Enterprise Zone to herald Birmingham’s economic rebirth

PLANS heralding the rebirth of Birmingham as a major commercial centre and which could spearhead the economic regeneration of the Greater Birmingham and Solihull Local Enterprise area were set to be unveiled today.

The plans, based around the Greater Birmingham Enterprise Zone, propose 26 key development opportunities which could generate almost £3bn for the local economy and lead to the creation of 40,000 jobs.

Chancellor George Osborne will join GBSLEP chairman Andy Street, Birmingham City Council leader Sir Albert Bore and Greater Birmingham Project overlord Lord Heseltine for today’s announcement.

Key schemes included as part of the overall masterplan are the £450m redevelopment of Paradise Circus by developers Argent and the relocation of the city’s Assay Office to the £160m St Georges development in the Jewellery Quarter.
It will also push the case for the city as a global investment centre, supported by improved transport links such as the extension of the runway at Birmingham Airport to allow for direct long-haul flights to places such as China.

The Enterprise Zone comprises seven clusters of sites – predominantly around the Eastside area of the city – spread over 68 hectares.

The business case for the zone suggests it expects to create 40,000 new jobs in business and financial services, digital media, ICT and the creative industries including 4,000 new private sector jobs by 2015.

A radical approach will see the planning process streamlined through an innovative Local Development Order. The GBSLEP estimates the zone, once fully developed, will add £2.8bn to the economy in GVA each year.

The zone is also future-proofed in that it will be able to harness the opportunities presented by the proposed High Speed 2 rail link, which if built, will cut journey times to London to 49 minutes.

The zone will benefit from discounts on business rates, new superfast broadband, lower levels of planning control and the potential to use enhanced capital allowances.

Companies moving to the EZ before 2015 will receive business rates relief worth up to £250,000 over five years and the GBSLEP will be allowed to keep the uplift to borrow against.

This move has already seen the city raise £125m towards an investment programme to spend on infrastructure projects, new commercial and office space, skills and training schemes, and better digital links.

Business leaders have already welcomed the proposals as the spark that will generate the city’s economic and social recovery.