Minister backs Worcestershire jobs hope

Worcestershire Local Enterprise Partnership chairman Peter Pawsey has hailed another “leap forward” for a massive brownfield development project which could create more than 5,000 badly needed jobs.

His comments came as Communities and Local Government Secretary Eric Pickles gave the proposed South Kidderminster Enterprise Park his full support.

Mr Pawsey said: “We are pleased that the Secretary of State is very much behind our ambitions for this enormously important site.

“Our central objective is to create the right environment to encourage investment from new and existing businesses, to foster our own successes, build on our small number of large industrial companies, develop new industries from medium sized companies with global promise and help them grow.

“We believe Worcestershire has great untapped potential for economic growth and Kidderminster has a vital role to play in achieving this vision. We are extremely positive about our economy, its future prospects and our ability to create jobs.”

Mr Pickles met regional business leaders, local school children, representatives of Worcestershire LEP and Greater Birmingham & Solihull LEP – the site straddles both, with each contributing towards the cost of infrastructure – and members of Wyre Forest District Council.

He watched as a long reach demolition machine took the first step to flattening silos at the former British Sugar site on Stourport Road. He was also presented with a copy of the Local Development Order for the Enterprise Park.

“This is a wonderful example of how a coming together of agencies can meet the needs of a local economy,” commented Mr Pickles.  “This the first tangible example I have come across in the country where two adjacent LEPs are effectively working together across administrative boundaries to develop real benefits to the economy”

“You have something to be proud of here. This is a very important part of the renaissance of Kidderminster. It will be a catalyst for change from the dependency on carpet manufacture.

“The West Midlands is the heart of the UK. The UK cannot make money unless the West Midlands is making money.”

The site is set to be cleared, the soon-to-be-built Hoo Brook Link Road will provide access, and then a start will be made early next year on a mixed use scheme of houses, offices and factories.

The Local Development Order covers existing businesses and land located along the Stourport Road and Worcester Road in Kidderminster, 200 hectares in total. A public consultation was conducted on the draft LDO earlier this year. The resulting document, now formally submitted to the Secretary of State for final approval, if successful, will come into force for a period of three years.

It aims to encourage new and existing businesses to locate and expand in the area by simplifying the planning process. It would allow development falling into specific employment types to be undertaken without the need for planning permission, reducing costs and time.

Mr Pawsey added: “Beginning the demolition of the iconic silos represents a leap forward for redevelopment of the site.

“British Sugar was once a major employer and all parties are determined to push ahead as fast as possible in re-vitalising the area, encouraging new investment and returning it to a thriving workplace generating jobs and money for local people.”

Wyre Forest District Council leader John Campion said the development would ensure jobs for future generations in and around Kidderminster. “We are determined to make a difference and help deliver growth.”

But it was up to the private sector to take it on. And he promised that while supporting where needed, the council would do its best to stay out of the way.

The council is working with the St Francis Group in developing the site.

Mr Pickles began his visit to the area in Bewdley at the Severn Valley Railway station, before taking a steam train to the plant.

There he discussed its future along with expansion plans for the nearby West Midland Safari Park.

And then the party boarded the train once more for SVR’s Kidderminster station from where Mr Pickles departed.