Thousands of jobs could be created under plans for a new economic growth zone in Hyndburn.
High level talks have taken place over the creation of a multi-million pound zone which would see the region designated as a world leader in specialist high tech engineering.
Rossendale and Darwen MP Jake Berry told the Observer he was due to meet Chancellor George Osborne this week to discuss the zone which he said could be based at a 90-acre plot of land opposite Whitebirk Retail Park.
Mr Berry said: “The growth zone is intended to make East Lancashire the best place in the world to start and grow a high tech engineering business. It’s a once in a three or four generations opportunity to get our economy moving. My own view is Whitebirk is a good location.”
Under the plan, firms would be tempted to the site with the offer of lower business rates, super fast broadband and improved grants.
The scheme could also link in with the new Hyndburn Studio School and technical university at Burnley.
The plans are said to have gained support from ministers and will go before regeneration bosses next month. Conservative Mr Berry said he would be asking every East Lancashire MP to sign up to the plans over the next week, ahead of next month’s board meeting of the Local Enterprise Partnership (LEP).
He added that if the zone is endorsed by the LEP it could be funded through the Regional Growth Fund and by borrowing against future business rates of local authorities. The government has already created Enterprise Zones nationwide providing businesses which move into the area with a 100 per cent business rate discount.
The Whitebirk site has already been granted outline planning permission by Hyndburn council last year for a multi-million pound ‘knowledge park’. It has been described as ‘the largest future employment site in Lancashire”.
Hyndburn council chief executive David Welsby said: “What we would hope is that the government would favour infrastructure improvements - whether that is roll out of broadband or roads.”
Michael Damms, chief executive of East Lancashire Chamber of Commerce, based in Clayton-le-Moors, said: “We believe there is the potential for the economy of East Lancashire particularly around manufacturing technology to grow, so it’s really important that we have areas brought forward to support that.”