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Deeside enterprise zone bid could create 5,000 Flintshire jobs

Flintshire County Council is preparing a bid to make Deeside one of the UK Government’s designated Enterprise Zones. MARK DOWLING reports

Regeneration chiefs hope Deeside could benefit from a multi-million-pound Government initiative which would see the area build on its manufacturing strengths.

Flintshire County Council is putting together proposals for an enterprise zone on the site of the former RAF Sealand base.

Last week the UK Government revealed 11 designated zones in England, including one in the Daresbury Science Park near Runcorn.

The Welsh Government has yet to decide the sites in Wales and there is still time for local authorities to submit plans.

Current plans for the land off the A550 include 650 residential units, 150 hectares of land for offices as part of the long-awaited Northern Gateway project.

Flintshire County Council head of regeneration David Heggarty is helping to shape the enterprise zone bid, which would see the redeveloped RAF site sit alongside the existing manufacturing estate and establish ‘a Deeside Industrial Park for the 21st century’.

He claims the ambitious project could create 5,000 new jobs.

“We have a major project planned for the 400-acre RAF Sealand site, next door to Deeside Industrial Park,” he said.

“That park is fully developed now, with 9,000 people there. That has been a great success and what we want to do is find a piece of land to promote that for the next 15-20 years.”

He added: “We have seen a major expansion in high-value manufacturing in Flintshire and given that this is doing well in the present market we are seeing an opportunity to provide for that expansion.

“The other aim is to secure as much local employment as we can, so we intend to set up a local labour office. With companies moving into the area we can identify their employment needs and identify a recruitment package for them.

“We are hoping to link up with schools, colleges and local people and make them aware of when these business opportunities become available and develop the infrastructure.”

Deeside Business Forum has called an open meeting next month to gather support for the campaign to make the area an enterprise zone.

Chairman Askar Sheibani – chief executive of Deeside-Industrial Park-based ICT repair company Comtek – said: “The enterprise zone scheme will give a real boost to businesses in the host locations that are looking to expand in the local area.

“As the biggest industrial park of its kind in Europe, Deeside has tremendous potential for future growth.

“The park is home to a thriving business community with excellent transport links, including two international airports, key motorways and a sea port.”

The Government has suggested enterprise zone funding should be used to provide cheaper business rates, but Mr Sheibani believes the money could be better spent on fostering talent.

“The funding enterprise zone status would bring to Deeside should be spent in a way that enhances the area’s strengths,” he told the Chronicle.

“Given the region’s many ties with local colleges – such as Deeside College – the money could be used to increase subsidies for apprenticeships and training, encouraging employment for young people and creating a force of highly skilled workers.”

Colin Brew, general manager of the West Cheshire and North Wales Chamber of Commerce, said: “Obviously it would be a fantastic boost for the area. The Government ensures the zone packages are enticing.

“Clearly the resources and infrastructure in Deeside are second to none and Flintshire County Council has worked extremely hard to get business growth in the community.”

The Deeside Business Forum meeting will be held at Village St David’s hotel in Ewloe on September 14 at 2.30pm, and is open to any local businesses, councillors and members of the public interested in discussing the enterprise zone application.