THE Government has today paved the way for thousands of jobs to be created in Huntingdonshire by giving the green light to an enterprise zone at Alconbury.

The move could create about 8,000 jobs at the 150-hectare Alconbury Airfield site.

The zone will have simplified planning rules, tax breaks for new and expanding businesses and "super-fast" broadband links. It is hoped private firms will be tempted to set up or expand their existing operations within the zone.

Alconbury is one of 11 new enterprise zones the Government has set up across the country with the aim of boosting growth and creating 30,000 jobs.

Neville Reyner, chairman of the Greater Cambridge Greater Peterborough Local Enterprise Partnership, said he was "delighted" with the news.

"This is a significant first big win for our Local Enterprise Partnership that we believe will help to drive growth across the whole of our LEP area, and generate significant benefits for the country as a whole. We will now be working in close partnership with the landowners/developers Urban & Civic, with Huntingdonshire District Council and with Cambridgeshire County Council to make this proposal become a reality."

The anticipated increase in business rates income will be retained within the Huntingdonshire area, rather than going to the Treasury, and will mean money will be available to fund projects across the LEP area.

Robin Butler, the managing director of landowners Urban & Civic, said: "The history of enterprise zones is that those able to deliver the most are in fundamentally strong economic locations, where designation provides that crucial lift.

"We are determined that the local, and now national, endorsement of Alconbury will bring forward capacity and jobs to support the existing entrepreneurial business, including superfast broadband across the entire LEP area.

"Just as importantly, the unequivocal message to international companies is that Alconbury stands as part of a unique regional dynamic willing and able to work towards your continued success."

Councillor Jason Ablewhite, executive leader of Huntingdonshire District Council, said: "This is excellent news and the hard work from all parties involved has truly paid off. The enterprise zone will accelerate and enhance the delivery of a strategic growth location within the LEP area and maximise the available returns to the local community. Additionally it will provide the basis for further growth and interest within the region."

Cllr Nick Clarke, leader of Cambridgeshire County Council and an LEP board member, said the announcement was a sign "that Cambridgeshire is open for business in every possible way".

"An enterprise zone will help bring jobs and prosperity to Cambridgeshire and funding to overcome some of the barriers to growth, and show the rest of the world that the county is a first-class place to do business and that we can help lead UK plc out of the current economic downturn."

Malcolm Lyons, chairman of the Huntingdonshire Federation of Small Businesses said: "We supported the Greater Cambridge Greater Peterborough Enterprise Partnership's bid for the EZ and obviously we are very pleased that it has happened and hope it encourages more small businesses and small business jobs."