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4,000 jobs on way for Waterfront as it gets George Osborne's backing

Dudley | News | Published:

More than 4,000 jobs will be created at The Waterfront after the Chancellor George Osborne gave backing to revitalise the beleaguered site.

Civic leaders today said the plans also hold the key to bringing the much-heralded Midland Metro extension to the town to boost its long-term future.

A plan to make The Waterfront and parts of neighbouring Harts Hill an enterprise zone were approved in the Chancellor's budget on Wednesday.

Businesses moving in are given a business rate free period for five years on offer to tempt those to move to the complex near to Merry Hill.

Long term aims also include creating 66,000 sq ft of new business space at the site to improve what is on offer to potential tenants.

Plans for a new enterprise zone at The Waterfront stalled after they were shelved in favour of sites around Darlaston and Wolverhampton's i54 in 2011.

The Waterfront has been beset by problems in recent years after a series of high profile business pulled out of the site.

Around 40 per cent of the site is vacant, forcing officials to look at ways to revitalise the business complex.

The Waterfront had also been known for its waterside bars and pubs during its heyday but many have since pulled out.

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Dudley Council leader, Councillor Pete Lowe, said it was 'fantastic' news for the Brierley Hill.

"This is fantastic news. It is not only a major success for Dudley, but also has huge regional significance," he said.

"Its development, alongside the delivery of the Metro, will create jobs for people not only living locally but for those living across the whole of the West Midlands region.

"This announcement shows huge confidence in what we are trying to achieve in Dudley borough, which can now take a leading role in creating jobs for the future."

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Dudley councillor Khurshid Ahmed, who leads on economic development, added: "The Waterfront is a high quality employment area, which like many areas across the country, has suffered due to wider economic circumstances in recent years.

"For new and growing businesses it will be an exceptional location and the delivery of new transport links and environmental improvements will help stimulate further investment in the area.

"The enterprise zone at the Waterfront will also be complemented by plans for significant housing growth and when coupled with new regional public transport links, will make Brierley Hill a key contributor to the wider regional economy.

"The support from MPs and the Black Country Local Enterprise Partnership, as well as the hard work of officers has been critical in securing this key development which will safeguard existing jobs, bring new jobs into the borough and stimulate further investment in the area."

Dudley South MP Mike Wood, whose constituency covers The Waterfront and Harts Hill, said: "I have worked tirelessly over many months since the original bid was deemed unsuitable with the Chancellor and his economic team to put the very strong case that my constituency here in Dudley South is worthy of such investment and over a prolonged period of time."

Phase one will focus on filling the existing vacant premises on The Waterfront by 2021.

Once this has been achieved, attention will turn to providing new business space over the following decade.

Companies locating to the enterprise zone will not pay business rates for five years.

Under the enterprise zone model the business rates holiday is funded by government.

After the five years, all the growth in rates will come directly to Dudley Council to use on projects, including public transport infrastructure, such as the Midland Metro, and providing skills training for people to access new jobs.

Lloyds Banking Group announced it was closing its Quay House offices with the loss of 217 jobs in 2012.

Online banking group Egg also left its premises at the prestigious Point North office block which overlooks the waterside.

West Brom Building Society had tabled plans to move to the Point North building back in 2012.

But officials decided instead to pursue creating its own headquarters in Providence Place.

Point North has since been redeveloped into luxury apartments.

The enterprise zone would be the first created in Dudley borough since the 1980s when Merry Hill and The Waterfront were first created.

Back then the Conservative government led by Margaret Thatcher gave backing to entrepreneurs Don and Roy Richardson to develop land around Merry Hill Farm and Round Oak Steelworks for the two sites.

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