East Anglia: LEP to press ahead with rural business hub project

A SCHEME to regenerate industrial sites across Suffolk and Norfolk, which was denied Government funding earlier this year, is to be revived, it has been revealed.

New Anglia Local Enterprise Partnership (LEP), which covers the two counties, was one of four mainly rural LEPs which last year developed the Rural Growth Fund programme which aims to overcome barriers to growth in rural areas, including a shortage of suitable business premises.

But, having helped shape the programme, New Anglia’s bid for a �2.6million slice of the �15m fund, with a goal of creating up to 700 jobs through the regeneration of 14 industrial sites around the region as rural business hubs, was turned down in March this year.

Yesterday, however, New Anglia chairman Andy Wood revealed that part of the �18million secured by the LEP separately under the Government’s Growing Places programme is to be used to revive the rural hubs idea, but on a scaled-down basis.

Locations originally proposed included Brandon, Brantham, Clare/Glemsford, Eye, Framlingham, Haleworth, Stanton in Suffolk and Attleborough, Aylsham, Downham Market, Fakenham, Harleston, North Walsham and Swaffham in Norfolk.

The revised programme, using �1m of Growing Places funding, is likely to involve only seven or eight sites, with the LEP still in talks with district and borough councils over which hubs will go ahead.

However, the LEP is in the process of recruiting a manager for the project and it is expected to begin early next year.

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Dr Wood was speaking at the launch of Suffolk Business Month, a Suffolk County Council campaign, backed by business organisations within the county, to promote awareness of Suffolk and showcase the successes achieved by some of its leading companies.

He highlighted the LEP’s priority sectors of energy and tourism, which was further underlined in presentations by Mark Aspinall of Scour Prevention Systems on renewable energy opportunities and Alex Paul of Suffolk Secrets, a member of the Visit East Anglia board, on plans for tourism promotion.

Other speeches at the launch, held at University Campus Suffolk in Ipswich, covered areas including trade links with China, growth in the food supply chain and the Raising the Bar initiative to improve skills.