Cambs: Alconbury could be enterprise zone contender

ALCONBURY Airfield could be the site of one of the Government’s proposed new enterprise zones, offering inducements to companies to set up there and create new jobs.

The area – no specific part of the site has been identified – is Huntingdonshire District Council’s suggestion to the emerging Great Cambridge-Greater Peterborough Local Enterprise Partnership (LEP).

There could be up to 10 others considered by the new LEP board before one is submitted to Whitehall in June to compete against other LEPs’ proposals.

The partnership will probably have the competing bids independently assessed, but Helen Donnellan, HDC’s communications and partnerships manager, believes it could be a key location for many of the 14 district authorities whose patches are covered by the LEP.

The council has been working closely with developers Urban and Civic, who bought the site 18 months ago and are keen to bring high-quality jobs to the area to lead its development over a couple of decades.

The Huntingdonshire bid was finalised last Thursday, and the LEP assessment process will begin next month.

John Bridge, chief executive of Cambridgeshire Chambers of Commerce and a member of the LEP board, said: “The EP has some really positive-thinking business people and local authority colleagues, and they will bring a different thinking to bear.”

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Part of that will almost certainly be the one small ‘enterprise zone’ that each LEP is allowed to put forward to Government as a 50-150-hectare area that will attract serious temporary business reliefs and concessions.

“The EP will be putting in a bid for an EZ. We are asking various local authorities to put forward their proposals for the EP board to have assessed independently, so that we have a strong competitive bid,” Mr Bridge said.

In fact, the Alconbury bid could involve a bit more than 150 hectares – the site runs to more than 600 hectares – since the Government indicated possible flexibility over size.

“It would give us transformational employment and a great uplift in jobs,” Mrs Donnellan said. “And it’s in a strategic position in the LEP geography.”