Discounted business rates are to be offered to help attract employers to a new Exeter and East Devon Enterprise Zone.
The zone moved a step closer to becoming operational this week when both Devon County Council and East Devon District Council agreed to sign a Memorandum of Understanding with Government.
Each council discussed the memorandum at their respective cabinet meetings and agreed the move which aims to boost business across four sites – Skypark, Science Park, Cranbrook town centre and the Airport Business Park extension.
The Exeter and East Devon Enterprise Zone would be in place for 25 years and worth an estimated £10m per year.
It would provide a range of incentives to attract and support businesses that are setting up or growing, including a five-year business rate reduction funded by Government which could be worth up to £275,000.
Additional business rates generated from within the zone will be reinvested locally to further support economic growth. This will help to ensure the future success of the zone alongside working with partners such as the Heart of the South West LEP.
The councils also approved a Business Rates Relief Policy in order to avoid any potential negative impacts. The policy ensures that only those businesses that are genuinely expanding can relocate to the zone and safeguards against the potential for companies to be displaced from other parts of the county.
Existing businesses in Devon would need to provide evidence that there is no appropriate expansion space available at their current sites.
For those businesses already trading in the zone, they would receive discretionary rate relief if they are looking for larger premises to expand their turnover or workforce or both.
Work has been carried out on a detailed business case which has shown that business rate growth could peak at almost £10 million per year over the 25 years of the zone designation.
Councillor Andrew Leadbetter, Devon County Council cabinet member for economy and growth, said: “Enterprise Zones are useful for supporting the development of new jobs and businesses by attracting inward investment.
“As landowner of Skypark and Science Park, Devon County Council has a role to ensure these sites benefit from potential funding. The designation of the Enterprise Zone has the potential to accelerate growth through the delivery of key sites in the Growth Point and developing centres of excellence.”
Councillor Paul Diviani, leader of East Devon District Council, said: “The Exeter and East Devon Enterprise Zone is a win-win. It further enhances our attractiveness to businesses and investors whilst giving us local control to reinvest the funds raised to further promote growth right here.
“The Memorandum of Understanding and related policies then also provides us with the framework and reassurance that all partners will be better off as a result of the creation of the Enterprise Zone.”
Steve Hindley, chairman of the Heart of the South West Local Enterprise Partnership, added: “Having announced the successful Heart of the South West Enterprise Zone bid to government in November last year, we are delighted that Devon and East Devon Councils are driving this project forward.
“The Exeter and East Devon EZ is part of the Heart of the South West’s multi-site package which also includes Huntspill in Somerset, Oceansgate in Plymouth and the Food Enterprise Zone at the Bath and West Showground; offering economic opportunities the key sectors of Marine, Environmental Futures, Nuclear and Rural Productivity.”
Both East Devon District Council and Devon County Council and partner agencies will now continue work on the implementation plan for the zone, before it is signed off with the Heart of the South West Local Enterprise Partnership.