£21m bid to bring 3,000 jobs to Wearside move a step closer

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A BID to bring more than 3,000 jobs to Wearside as part of a £21million enterprise zone has taken a huge step forward.

 An extraordinary meeting of Sunderland City Council’s cabinet was told an investor could agree terms by the end of the month and be on site next year.

 The private sector company, the identity of which has not yet been revealed, must be operational on the site by December next year for the move to be viable and the race is on to ensure the city does not miss out.

 Cabinet members agreed to appropriate 10 hectares of the council-owned Hillthorn Farm, east of Nissan in Washington, for planning purposes.

 The decision will progress the third phase of the A19 enterprise zone, as agreed between the North East Local Enterprise Partnership (NELEP) and the Government in 2011, following Nissan’s announcement in 2009 that it would be pioneering its electric vehicle battery production at Washington.

 The first two phases are the Turbine Business Park, by the A1231, and the smaller area of land next to Nissan’s test track, known as the Vehicle Test Centre site.

 Its key objective is to secure the expansion of low carbon automotive and advanced manufacturing sectors through the creation of 140,000 sq metres of new floorspace across the three allocated sites, and the creation of more than 3,000 new jobs up to 2037.

 Coun John Kelly said: “It’s just another fantastic sign of the confidence in the city and the expanding automotive industry being attracted to the city.

 “I look forward to the development and the creation of jobs in Sunderland.”

 Enterprise Zone 3 (EZ3) will be capable of accommodating floor space of about 80,000 sq metres, and could create at least 1,000 jobs, with a number of potential occupiers having already approached the council.

 The private sector company has requested a 35,000 sq metre site to build premises, ready to move into by the end of next year.

 The fear, however, is that any delay could have major implications, the cabinet report says, to the detriment of the automotive sector that is already established in Washington.

 “In terms of the potential occupier’s time scales and constraints, council officers have been advised that in order to meet the potential occupier’s demands, the new facility must be complete and operational no later than December 2015,” the report states.

 “The prospective occupier must be able to deliver the increased demands placed upon them by their customer base.

 “Should the prospective occupier not be able to deliver within this timescale, the facility is very likely to be located elsewhere, which would not be as geographically advantageous to the company and would also be a substantial economic loss for the city.”

 The scale of the investment would generate a significant capital receipt and a substantial amount of business rates payable to the council, the report adds.

 Meanwhile, plans are pressing on to construct a spine road through the land. The full cost of highways and infrastructure work are estimated at £7.5million out of the overall £21million budget.

 The council will also give its backing with a £100,000 contribution to the newly formed North East Automotive Alliance (Nema) to be based in Sunderland. It will be followed up with a payment of the same amount during the next financial year.