Enterprise zone 'will bring jobs'
Published 19/03/2014 | 16:47
The creation of an enterprise zone in Coleraine will help bring new jobs to an area devastated by redundancies at the Driver and Vehicle Agency (DVA), the town's mayor has said.
The location of Northern Ireland's first pilot enterprise zone was revealed by Chancellor George Osborne in the Budget.
Coleraine mayor David Harding said the zone, which will offer tax incentives for certain businesses until 2020, represented good news for the local economy.
The announcement comes in a month when it was confirmed that around 300 jobs in the DVA in Northern Ireland, the majority based in Coleraine, are to be lost as part of Government plans to centralise services in Wales.
"Last week the town was devastated at the news that hundreds of jobs were to be lost at the Driver and Vehicle Agency, and the town and surrounding area has had to deal with a series of economic blows in recent years," said Ulster Unionist Mr Harding.
"We must all redouble our efforts to attract new jobs and investment to the area and I am confident that the creation of an Enterprise Zone in Coleraine will help us in that task."
But Sinn Fein MLA Daithi McKay struck a less positive note about both the announcement and budget's wider impact on Northern Ireland.
"While welcome, the proposed enterprise zone for Coleraine will be cold comfort to the 300 public sector workers who have lost their jobs in that town's DVA office," he said.
The zone will be established close to the University of Ulster campus in Coleraine.
It is located where the Project Kelvin transatlantic high speed communications cable, which connects the US and UK, comes ashore.
Global data firm 5Nines, which has already announced plans to set up a £20 million facility in the zone, will be able to avail of the tax incentives.
Northern Ireland Secretary Theresa Villiers said the zone was the realisation of a pledge made in the economic package agreed between the Stormont Executive and Government last year.
"The announcement of a new pilot enterprise zone near Coleraine is particularly welcome," she said.
"This meets another commitment made in the economic pact and with increased capital allowances available until 2020 this will help make longer term investment easier."
The Northern Ireland Independent Retail Trade Association (NIIRTA) said it would like to see the zone expanded.
NIIRTA Chief Executive Glyn Roberts said he wanted it to include Londonderry and Strabane, thus building upon the legacy of Derry's year as UK City of Culture in 2013.
Mark Nodder, president of Northern Ireland Chamber of Commerce and Industry, welcomed the zone, but added:
"We also look forward to the announcement of further enterprise zones for Northern Ireland in the coming months.
"It is vital that the Northern Ireland Assembly assumes the main leadership role in the process, rather than the Treasury."
Stormont Finance Minister Simon Hamilton said:
"While the Northern Ireland economy is showing early signs of recovery there are still challenges ahead and by providing additional support, through a pilot enterprise zone, we can help to achieve the Northern Ireland Executive's number one priority to grow the economy.
"Designating this enterprise zone in Northern Ireland is another tool to lever economic growth."
Enterprise Minister Arlene Foster added: "Over many years the Executive has shown the priority that we attach to having a world class telecommunications infrastructure. This opportunity allows us to further exploit the extensive superfast fibre-optic broadband network available across Northern Ireland and the direct international connectivity that Project Kelvin provides to North America and continental Europe."