The Chancellor George Osborne has visited Bristol this morning to officially open the Temple Quarter Enterprise Zone, saying it was an essential tool in rebalancing the British economy.
More than 200 businesses from across Bristol and the South West gathered in the new big top event space next to Temple Meads station this morning to hear the progress so far on the site’s transformation.
Mr Osborne declared the city open for business and urged businesses to gain the confidence to invest in the city and the UK as a whole.
He said the nation had taken a gamble 10 years ago on hoping the City of London would generate the wealth the UK hoped for, a gamble that failed, and that Bristol was an example of how the economy could be rebalanced.
“It is very exciting to be here at the launch of this Enterprise Zone,” he told the guests. “When we sat down a year ago to look at the enterprise zones for the next generation, we saw a brilliant bid from Bristol which was innovative and one of the most ambitious, with the idea of creativity at the centre of it.
“To see it all happening now is very exciting. What you are trying to achieve is fantastic and I am confident it will work.
“These zones are all part of a bid to rebalance the economy. As a country, we took a bet 10 years ago to put all our chips in the City of London and we are all living with the consequences of that.
“I see this city with its creative industries, aerospace and remarkable history as part of that bid rebalance the economy.”
Mr Osborne added he hoped the city would vote ‘yes’ in next week’s referendum for an elected mayor, saying it would be “great” to have a powerful voice putting the city’s views across to national government.
Up to 17,000 new creative jobs are hoped to be created over the next 25 years, according to the West of England Local Enterprise Partnership (LEP).
LEP Chair Colin Skellett said this morning that some 700 firms are already “actively engaged” with the project
Speaking after the event, two of the city’s most prominent businessmen told Bristol24-7 that the launch of the zone was a huge opportunity to put Bristol on the map internationally.
Chair of the Bristol branch of the Institute of Directors Tom McCarthy said: “It’s the first stage and a very exciting time that George Osborne is here to back cities like Bristol and its ambitions.
“We are already a success story and it is vital to back the success and ambitions that Bristol has.
“There is huge potential growth here, but we’re not telling enough people. The [Enterprise] zone helps us put Bristol on the map.”
Meanwhile, Nick Sturge – head of the setSquared Partnership business incubation outfit at Bristol University – said the project was “as ambitious as it can be”.
“There is so much great stuff here and we need to sing about it locally and internationally,” he said. “We have to sell the UK on not just London.”
The infamous arena for Bristol is once again being mentioned as a possibility for the site, while recent developments and plans in the pipeline include:
- Investment of around £5m by the Homes and Communities Agency for the acquisition of Brunel’s Old Station (to be owned by the City Council);
- The “Creative Common” project to creates an exhibition and performance space, supported by a restaurant and commercial units on the former car park at Plot 3;
- The awarding of up to £12m from the £100m Super-Connected Cities project, which aims to introduce superfast broadband into 10 cities and will place the Enterprise Zone at the centre of a high-speed digital network;
- Plans by the City of Bristol College to create a digital and media hub in the Enterprise Zone;
- Ongoing talks with the BBC for a potential move of its Bristol base at Whiteladies Road to the Enterprise Zone;
- Network Rail, together with its partners, is developing a strategy to transform Bristol Temple Meads into a world-class rail gateway for the city by the end of the decade. This proposal aims to expand the station area and increase train services to cater for the growing rail demand in Bristol;
- New businesses moving to the Enterprise Zone, or existing businesses already located there who can show substantial growth, will be able to claim a business rate discount of up to £60,000 per annum for five years.
For more information about the Enterprise Zone, visit the website here…