Research expert says he 'would be surprised' if Solent Enterprise Zone hit its 3,700-job target by 2026
A ROW has erupted after it was claimed a business hub brought in to generate thousands of jobs had seen just 110 posts created.
Council leaders have hailed the Solent Enterprise Zone at Daedalus airfield as a ‘success story’ since it was established in 2012.
But while they say it has created at least 650 jobs of a forecast 3,700, the Centre for Cities think tank found just 110 were made between 2012-17.
It says the ONS Business Structure Database figures support evidence the zones are ‘failing’ across the country.
Paul Swinney, director of policy and research, said: ‘Even with the (650 figure) that they are reporting, we still aren't talking about a huge number of jobs and that's our broader point here. We are still talking about a very small number of jobs.’
He added: ‘I hope one day we will reach the figure they have provided, but I would say when we look at enterprise zones historically, I would be surprised if those figures are reached.'
Mr Swinney said ONS stats from Daedalus are ‘in line' with 23 other national enterprise zones.
Fareham Borough Council boss Sean Woodward, who is authority director of the Solent Local Enterprise Partnership responsible for delivering the Solent Enterprise Zone, said: ‘They are wrong. We are monitored very closely as you would expect and it's currently 650 [jobs] on our site.'
He added: ‘It is an enormous success and we are way ahead in terms of the jobs target of the 25-year life of the zone.’
The Solent Enterprise Zone is expected to create 1,200 jobs by 2026 on the Fareham side, with more than 2,000 expected on Gosport’s side.
Gosport Borough Council leader, councillor Mark Hook, called the new stats ‘nonsensical’ and said he was in the midst of meetings with landowner Homes England to boost the town’s contribution to the enterprise zone.
But he admitted land contamination and listed buildings were holding the scheme back.
‘I would have to agree with entirely with Sean,' he said.
'I'm not sure where they've got their figures from but there have been hundreds of jobs created and safeguarded.
‘There is a potential to create something like 2,000 jobs on that site.’