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Nottingham Post
Nottingham Post
Oliver Pridmore

'Exciting opportunity' for more jobs as East Midlands to host new 'investment zones'

Nottinghamshire's County Council's leader says plans for new 'investment zones' in the East Midlands are a 'really exciting opportunity' to bring more well-paid jobs to the area. The Government says that Chancellor Jeremy Hunt will be announcing the creation of 12 investment zones across the UK in his budget on Wednesday (March 15).

Investment zones are specific geographic areas that have their own tax and regulatory rules to try and boost economic growth. These special rules could include looser planning regulations, lower business rates and lower stamp duty.

The Chancellor will say in his budget that eight areas have now been shortlisted to host the 12 investment zones, including the East Midlands. Specific locations are yet to be decided, but each investment zone will be backed with £80 million of funding over five years.

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The Government says they could be clustered around research institutions such as universities, given the focus will be on growing sectors such as technology, manufacturing and the green sector. East Midlands Chamber director of policy and external affairs, Chris Hobson, said: "We are blessed in our region with six fantastic universities, which all have their own unique research specialisms ranging from green energy and advanced manufacturing through to artificial intelligence and life sciences.

"While there are some great examples of collaboration between academia and businesses across the East Midlands via knowledge transfer partnerships and funded support programmes, we have known for some time that far more could be done to turn innovative research into real products and services. Dedicated investment zones that support this concept in order to drive new investment and level up the country would be welcomed."

But Mr Hobson says the new investment zones must have an "explicit emphasis" on innovation. This is something which he says will help in tackling the issue with national productivity which has "held our economy back for too long".

All the eight areas shortlisted to host investment zones are covered by devolved authorities which have been established, or which soon will be, to receive more money and power from central Government. In the East Midlands, Derbyshire and Nottinghamshire will soon be under a new East Midlands Mayoral Combined County Authority.

This authority is set to be fully up and running next May, the same month when the first East Midlands Mayor is due to be elected. Mansfield MP and Nottinghamshire County Council's leader, Ben Bradley, said: "There's certainly lots of opportunity for us to make the most of these incentives.

"There's a conversation we need to have across the region about the right place. But the opportunity to draw in investment, science and technology, well-paid jobs, these are the kinds of things that our devolution deal are all about. It's great to get that recognition and be in the spotlight on a national level as a region."

Despite recent fears over the new East Midlands authority, particularly the amount of power that will be given to the new mayor, Ben Bradley says the investment zones announcement is proof of the need for the arrangements. Councillor Bradley said: "It's a really exciting opportunity for us.

"When we say we need to have this combined authority and devolution deal to be at the top table, here's another example of where an opportunity is available to combined authority areas. Because we've put ourselves in that position, we're being invited to the top table for the first time, which is great."

The investment zones announcement is on top of plans for an East Midlands Freeport. Freeports are a very similar concept to investment zones, with the major difference being looser regulation and lower duties that freeports benefit from in terms of customs.

A full business case for the East Midlands Freeport was sent to the Government last April. There are predictions that it could create 61,000 jobs and it is due to be based at three sites: the East Midlands Airport, East Midlands Intermodal Park and Ratcliffe-on-Soar.

On the investment zones announcement, Chancellor Jeremy Hunt added: "True levelling up must be about local wealth creation and local decision-making to unblock obstacles to regeneration. From unleashing opportunity through new investment zones, to a new approach to accelerating R&D in city regions, we are delivering on our key priority to supercharge growth across the country."


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