Thursday, July 6, 2023

News: South Yorkshire Investment Zone to focus on Sheffield-Rotherham corridor


A shift in government policy means that a new Investment Zone for South Yorkshire will benefit sites in Rotherham. It is set to be backed by a flexible £80m fund for grants and tax incentives to help businesses start, expand or relocate.

South Yorkshire was one of 38 initial areas keen to establish investment zones in England and an expression of interest was submitted last year when the focus was on tax cuts for businesses and liberalised planning rules.

Since then, a number of changes in leadership positions in government has meant that the policy has been under review.

Initially, no sites in Rotherham were put forward for the creation of an investment zone in South Yorkshire but the government announced in The Budget in March that it was launching a refocussed Investment Zones programme with a greater emphasis on research institutions and priority sectors, including advanced manufacturing.

In line with its levelling up objectives, the government said that: "Investment Zones will be established in places with significant unmet productivity potential, and where existing strengths and assets aligned to priority sectors can be leveraged to increase opportunities for local communities. By focussing on growing high-potential innovation and industrial strengths in areas with significant scope for catch up economic growth, this plan will seek to drive national productivity growth."

South Yorkshire was one of eight areas selected to work up proposals and a report to the Local Enterprise Partnership (LEP) shows that the Investment Zones must have a lead sector and a defined spatial core that is built around an existing cluster with close links to research institutions.

For South Yorkshire this core spatial offer is set to be connecting Sheffield to Rotherham (where the research assets such as The University of Sheffield Advanced Manufacturing Research Centre (AMRC) are already located).

The report states that the focus on the core, that is already home to 30 nationally recognised research centres, is "an approach that enables us [to] expand and create greater density at existing innovation sites as well as bringing sites from across South Yorkshire to the table for new business investment."

Existing innovation assets, including the Advanced Manufactuting Park (AMP) in Rotherham, the Olympic Legacy Park and the University of Sheffield Innovation District and the rest of the Sheffield Business Park in Sheffield, will be joined by expansion sites as the core expands into Sheffield city centre and Rotherham town centre.

Rotherham expansion sites include remaining land at Waverley and around Magna at Templeborough - both around 25.5 hectares / 63 acres.

The report adds: "We’ve stretched the principle of co-design with government as far as we can. We’ve focused our story and work on the basis that our real capabilities are problem solving and working at the interface between industry and research in the here and the now – and that to supercharge South Yorkshire we don’t just need more research – we need greater stickiness of businesses aggregating around that research."

And for that "stickiness" the £80m fund (over five years for the Investment Zone) will be used for things like: capital infrastructure (land remediation, new lab space); skills support (training, graduate schemes); dedicated support on planning applications; funding to develop supply chains; and funding to develop the business ecosystem through networking and accelerator programmes.

The South Yorkshire Mayoral Combined Authority (SYMCA) is working to submit details of its Investment Zone before the Parliament summer recess later this month.

South Yorkshire, and especially Rotherham, has a long history of similar policies. Enterprise Zones established in the 1990's were influential in the regeneration of former coalfield areas such as Manvers, and earlier Enterprise Zones led to the creation of Parkgate Shopping without the need for local planning approval.

The most recent Enterprise Zones in the 2010's included parts of the AMP and Templeborough in Rotherham and involved business rates discounts and simplified planning arrangements for businesses in specific target sectors.

Images: Harworth


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