Birmingham’s city centre enterprise zone has been given a major boost with a new £15 million fund to help kickstart building projects.
The Enterprise Zone Site Development and Access Fund will provide loans and grants to developers who have been unable to secure finance for their projects.
The zone is the largest of its kind in the UK, and as many as 40,000 new jobs, pumping £2.8 billion into the regional economy, were promised when it was launched by Chancellor George Osborne in 2011.
Greater Birmingham & Solihull Local Enterprise Partnership (GBSLEP) director with responsibility for the enterprise zone, Chris Webster, said the funding could make a major difference.
He said: “The enterprise zone is already making significant progress at sites including Arena Central and at Snow Hill and there are a number of important projects in the pipeline which will continue this momentum.
“But we acknowledge there are a number of schemes that need support to get them off the ground given the challenge developers face in getting finance.
“We hope to be able to get this work up and running so that we can see further progress on the ground quickly.”
It is hoped that the fund will enable work to get under way quickly – with applicants given just four weeks to make applications and an expectation that work will start soon.
The enterprise zone, which comprises 26 sites across the city centre, is being driven by a £128 million investment plan developed by GBSLEP and Birmingham City Council.
The funding for the investment plan has been secured by the city council by borrowing and will be repaid through the additional business rates secured through the zone which can be retained by the LEP rather than handed to Government.
Already this has helped to push through work on the extension of the Midland Metro to the new New Street Station.
And it has also helped pave the way for the £450 million redevelopment of Paradise Circus to get underway with planning permission approved and compulsory purchase orders of key sites now approved.
Companies that locate within the enterprise zone before 2015 will receive additional support through business rates relief worth up to £250,000 over five years.
Mr Webster said he was expecting to see major progress next year as more sites come on stream with work already underway at Arena Central – where a major office, hotel and leisure development is being built – and the Beorma Quarter in Digbeth.
The incentive of support for developers will, it is hoped, provide even more of a boost to the zone, which has the aspiration of delivering 1.3 million square metres of development over the next 25 years.