MINISTER for Portsmouth Michael Fallon has paid his first visit to the city since taking up the job – and he brought with him a few million pounds.
The Tory MP was appointed to the role a couple of weeks ago and yesterday came to meet city leaders and businesses.
His arrival was always hoped to herald the first steps on the long journey towards preserving lost shipbuilding jobs.
And after a series of fact-finding meetings, Mr Fallon announced a raft of new funds which could benefit maritime businesses.
The first sum of money is a £7m boost to the enterprise zone at the former Daedalus airfield in Gosport.
The cash will be used to unlock land for business development and ultimately lead to the creation of 3,500 jobs.
The second sum of money is £5m up for grabs to companies who can come up with ways to make shipping more environmentally sustainable.
The government is making the cash pot available to businesses to bid for if they can come up with a way to reduce fuel emissions from ships.
Speaking exclusively to The News, Mr Fallon said: ‘There is huge potential in this city to grow, to create a more widely based economy.
‘I’ve heard about the plans all day, we just need to start bringing all this together.
‘I’ve heard about plans for the growth of the naval base to take the two new carriers, and these carriers are going to require a lot of maintenance and a lot of service so there is a big opportunity there for the growth of the naval base.
‘This increase of tonnage is one obvious source of new employment but developing new business parks at Tipner and elsewhere is quite key.
‘A lot of money is being made available to Portsmouth but some of it has seemed too distant and we want to make it reality. I’m announcing two additional sums of money this week.’
Around 200 new jobs are already in the pipeline at the enterprise zone in Lee-on-the-Solent, and the ultimate aim is to create 3,500.
The £7m will be used to upgrade the main access road serving the Gosport waterfront section of the Enterprise Zone, and install utilities and services there.
Mr Fallon said the new £7m fund will unlock the potential of Gosport’s waterfront.
‘The government is working together in partnership with business and local leaders to generate new jobs and growth in this great city,’ he added.
‘This £7m funding is another welcome boost for the local economy and will ensure the infrastructure is in place to successfully regenerate the Gosport waterfront site.
‘The target is to have 3,500 jobs in this Enterprise Zone and this announcement is an important step in making that a reality.’
Mr Fallon was in the city yesterday to meet with those involved in the future of Portsmouth.
Over the course of a day, he met the commander of Portsmouth Naval Base, Commodore Jeremy Rigby, Portsmouth City Council leaders Gerald Vernon-Jackson, Donna Jones, and John Ferrett, the vice-chancellor of the University of Portsmouth, members of the Solent Local Enterprise Partnership, and Portsmouth North MP Penny Mordaunt. Mike Hancock was unable to meet Mr Fallon because he was in France.
Mr Fallon added: ‘We need to bring everyone together and work with the politicians here to make sure we deliver a future for Portsmouth. This is a city with a great heritage but also huge opportunities.’
PROPOSALS on how to keep elements of shipbuilding in the city are being examined for their potential, the minister said.
Michael Fallon said businesses interested in setting up shipbuilding are being given information and encouraged to submit ideas.
There are thought to be around four or five proposals put forward so far.
Mr Fallon said: ‘We’re examining every proposal that has been put to us.
‘We’ve made sure any interested party has full access to the information they need and to the data about the site.
‘There are four or five proposals that I’m aware of and we will be looking at each one to see how realistic it is.
‘I’m also concerned about keeping the skills as people will go off and do the same jobs somewhere else and we want to keep them in the city.’
A maritime task force, headed by a retired Royal Navy admiral, is looking at how best to preserve those jobs.
MINISTER for Portsmouth Michael Fallon says he is a keen advocate for the city.
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