ALMOST 1,200 jobs will be created after plans were unveiled to invest more than £25m of government money into the creation of a huge business park.
The plans were revealed by local government secretary Eric Pickles, who was visiting the former HMS Daedalus airfield in Lee-on-the-Solent, which is soon to become an Enterprise Zone.
Mr Pickles met members of the Solent Local Enterprise Partnership, which is behind the development of the airfield into a 1m sq ft business park specialising in advanced manufacturing.
He also announced plans to use £3m from the government’s Growing Places Fund to help pay for a new training centre on the Enterprise Zone, run by Fareham College.
He said: ‘This boost for the Solent Enterprise Zone will unlock its huge potential to deliver growth, homes and jobs and make a real difference to Gosport.
‘The area is known for having few jobs.
‘People travel out of Gosport every day to places of employment elsewhere.’
During his visit Mr Pickles was given a tour of boatbuilding firm Marine Concepts, which hopes to benefit from the cash injection.
‘This is an amazing place,’ Mr Pickles said.
‘If you love engineering then this is the place to be. It’s cutting edge.’
Of the £25m, £15m will be used to get 21.6 acres of land ready for the new business units that will be built on the Daedalus site, as well as 90 new homes.
It will also pay for a huge 25,000sq ft business unit which will be used exclusively by manufacturing firms as their base.
It is estimated that the investment would create around 220 construction jobs to convert the site and nearly 680 jobs when work is complete.
The proposed investment will be divided up into: £8m from the Solent Local Enterprise Partnership’s Growing Places Fund, £4.1m from Hampshire County Council – which will be used to improve roads near the site – and £1.5m from the Government’s Regional Growth Fund.
The remaining £12m is being finalised by Fareham College to fund its training centre.
Solent LEP director Gary Jeffries said the announcement brings the group a step closer to creating 3,500 jobs at the enterprise zone by 2026.
‘The announcement also paves the way for the launch of our £2.9m Regional Growth Fund expansion programme for SMEs on the zone, which we hope to launch shortly,’ he said.
Joy at injection of cash into Enterprise Zone
COMMUNITY leaders have spoke of their joy at the news that millions of pounds will be used to kick-start the Solent Enterprise Zone.
Gosport MP Caroline Dinenage, who was one of the forces behind getting the project off the ground, said: ‘This is a fantastic investment and shows the government’s commitment to promoting growth.
‘Everyone’s hard work has paid off.
‘Not only will this provide a boost for local employment but, through the partnership with Fareham College, ensure we deliver top-quality skills training for the future.
‘This will secure the Solent Enterprise Zone’s place as a leading centre for advanced manufacturing in the long term and enhance the prospects of young people in our local area.’
Peter Hill, a director at Marine Concepts, said he was now keen to see the money being used.
‘I’m extremely excited by the announcement by Mr Pickles,’ he said.
‘Now it will be good to see things come together. Mr Pickles’ visit has raised the profile of the zone as well as Marine Concepts.’
Mr Pickles did not rule out the possibility of the government injecting more money into the zone.
‘We’ll see how things go and then decide what happens,’ he said.
‘We want to see the zone become as successful as possible. There is already some fantastic entrepreneurial spirit here.’