Roll up, roll up: Osborne’s ‘big top’ launch for Bristol’s enterprise zone

April 27, 2012

Chancellor George Osborne has officially launched Bristol’s Temple Quarter Enterprise Zone, claiming it will help rebalance the economy away from the City of London and the South East.

In a short speech this morning made in a ‘big top’ circus tent next to Temple Meads Station, the Chancellor said the 70-hectare, mainly derelict site will play “a great part in Bristol’s future”.

Taking to the stage in the tent where jugglers and other performers had earlier entertained the guests, he told more than 200 business people from across the South West that the zone would turn “what is already a proud history into a bright future”.

He praised the West of England Local Enterprise Partnership (LEP) for coming up with an innovative bid to create one of the first 11 enterprise zones across the country and said he would watch its progress with interest.

The Chancellor attended the official launch of the enterprise zone before going on to Severnside to officially open engineering group GKN’s state-of-the-art aerospace plant (see Bristol Business News story

Welcoming the Chancellor to Bristol, LEP chair Colin Skellett said the area enjoyed a “robust” economy, mentioning that a recent survey by the business lobbying and member services group Business West revealed 69% of firms were either confident or very confident about their prospects.

“It’s not all doom and gloom,” he said.

He said he looked forward to welcoming the Chancellor back in a few years’ time when the zone will be taking shape and the rail link between Bristol and London will have been electrified and operating new rolling stock.

“Network Rail says the ultimate goal is Bristol to Paris in four hours,” said Mr Skellett.

“That means Parisians will be able to come for a romantic weekend in a city that actually works.”

The enterprise zone around Temple Meads station is expected to create 17,000 jobs over 25 years – more than 3,000 of them by 2015 – in more than 250 businesses.

More than 240,000 sq m of new or refurbished space, including offices, research and development space, new homes and retail units will be developed on the site, which is being overseen by the LEP.

Guests at today’s launch heard details of progress so far on the site’s transformation. The circus tent will be open to the public this evening until 8pm.

Behind-the-scenes activity connected to the zone has already taken place and recent developments and plans in the pipeline include:

· Investment of around £5m by the Homes and Communities Agency (HCA) for the acquisition of Brunel’s Old Station and the pest control depot in nearby Cattle Market Road, which will be used to improve access onto the former diesel depot site and connect it to the rest of the enterprise zone.

· A feasibility study and market testing for a proposed arena and conference centre on the diesel depot site.

· Work to prepare two HCA-owned sites, Plot 3 and the diesel depot, for temporary use by a range of creative projects and organisations. The Creative Common project creates an exhibition and performance space, supported by a restaurant and commercial units on the former car park at Plot 3. It is a collaboration led by Circomedia  – the Bristol-based internationally-respected centre of excellence for circus and theatre training – events and workshop specialist Coexist, which owns Hamilton House in Stokes Croft, and Bristol’s Invisible Circus.

· Up to £12m from the Government’s £100m Super-Connected Cities project, which aims to introduce superfast broadband into 10 cities and will place the enterprise zone at the centre of a high-speed digital network. In the meantime to ensure wi-fi connectivity on the site, the council will extend its Bnet to provide initial coverage to Temple Meads station, Plots 3 and 6, including the new Big Top event space

· The development of the proposal for the Creative Harbour Centre which will house business incubators for start-up companies as well as collaboration and teaching space, an innovation showcase and the new shared inward investment service. This builds on the successful SETsquared incubator hosted by University of Bristol, which accelerates
hi-tech, high-growth businesses, and will bring together teaching, enterprise and research to exploit the fusion between technology, creative and low carbon innovation and hence stimulate significant growth in the West. The project is supported by the
University of Bristol, UWE, the LEP, IBM, Bristol’s hi-tech arts and cinema complex Watershed and ST Microelectronics, the micro-chip firm based at Aztec West.

· Plans by the City of Bristol College to create a digital and media hub in the enterprise zone.

· Ongoing talks with the BBC for a potential move of its Bristol base at Whiteladies Road to the enterprise zone

· The relocation of creative agency Creston, the first company to move onto the enterprise zone since it was established.

· Refurbishment works started on Collett House next to the station to turn it into a creative and digital campus called Temple Studios by developers TCN UK. This follows the first phase of their Temple Gate project which started with Bristol and Exeter House.

· Network Rail, together with its partners, is developing a strategy to transform Bristol Temple Meads into a world-class rail gateway for the city by the end of the decade (see earlier story on Bristol Business News

· A bid to the £50m-a-year Growth Innovation Fund to help businesses develop the skills they need to drive growth. This is intended to develop the training and development proposition to run alongside the business development in the zone.

· A Revolving Infrastructure Fund of £50m to provide essential infrastructure at key sites across the LEP area including the enterprise zone

Enterprise zones were launched by the Government in the March 2011 Budget. Temple Quarter is one of a first wave of 11. New businesses moving to a zone, or existing businesses already located there who can show substantial growth, will be able to claim a business rate discount of up to £60,000 a year for five years.

Bristol property agent Jeremy Richards, head of Jones Lang LaSalle’s office in the city, said the challenge was to ensure the zone attracted real inward investment rather than simply moving around existing businesses.

“Bristol needs to direct its marketing efforts to a truly global audience, to attract new jobs and build on the success of Temple Quay, which is already home to 1m sq ft of offices housing major employers,” he said.

“Coupled with an arena – an absolute must for a city of Bristol’s size and ambition – the enterprise zone will also help breathe new life back into the underdeveloped area adjacent to Temple Meads.”

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