THE drive to turn Wearside into a global centre for low carbon transport and create hundreds of jobs has taken a £14million step forward.
The North East Local Enterprise Partnership (LEP)’s Enterprise Zone – known as the A19 Ultra Low Carbon Vehicles Corridor – has been awarded a £5,379,841 cash injection from the European Regional Development Fund (ERDF).
The cash will be backed up by a £4.8million grant from Sunderland City Council and a £4million loan from the LEP’s Growing Places Fund.
The money will allow work to prepare the 10-hectare city council-owned site bordered by the Nissan factory, A19, A1231 and Leamside line.
A further 16 hectares of neighbouring council land is integral to the infrastructure works, and also forms part of the project, which will involve carrying various technical surveys of the site, masterplanning, utilities works, including removal and diversion of overhead lines, and laying out new roads.
The scheme is expected to help attract up to £55million in private sector investment and create around 1,500 new jobs.
The ERDF Competitiveness Programme is managed by the Department for Communities and Local Government Communities Minister Baroness Hanham said: “I am delighted it has been possible to secure European Regional Development Fund investment for this project, ensuring the enabling works are carried out sooner rather than later.
“This funding is critical to realising the full development potential of the North East Local Enterprise Partnership Enterprise Zone.
“That it is being matched by both the Growing Places Fund and the city council demonstrates the area’s commitment to the successful development of their Enterprise Zone.
“By removing the barriers to development, investment is unlocking this strategically important employment site and will facilitate private sector investment essential to local growth and rebalancing the economy.”
City council leader Coun Paul Watson said: “The North East, and Sunderland in particular, is already a hugely important area for the UK’s automotive industry. The city’s ambitions are boosted as a result of European Regional Development Fund and Growing Places funding for the A19 Enterprise Zone.
“Earlier this year, we celebrated the completion of Vantec Europe’s £22.5million new warehouse building. It is testament to the strengths of Sunderland and its Enterprise Zone that Vantec chose this site for its largest-ever overseas project. We are working hard to attract other international investors to this important site and our city.”
LEP chairman Paul Woolston praised the city council’s pace in developing the enterprise zone: “Sunderland was the first across the country to complete a new build on an Enterprise Zone site when Vantec moved on to the Turbine Business Park earlier this year,” he said.
“Pressing on with the next stage of site preparation and infrastructure works is an important part of the delivery strategy for the Enterprise Zone and for the success of this key national location.”
Work is expected to start in later this month and is expected to be completed by spring 2016.
The site will focus on increasing the mass production of ultra low-carbon technology such as the Nissan Leaf, now in production on Wearside.