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In a speech to the Conservative Party spring conference in March 2011, the then Chancellor George Osborne announced plans for the creation of Enterprise Zones, to assist “the parts of Britain that had missed out in the last ten years.” The 2011 Budget and accompanying Plan for Growth announced plans for 24 Enterprise Zones. These became operational in April 2012.

The 2015 Spring Budget announced the creation of 2 new Enterprise Zones at Blackpool Airport and Plymouth. The 2015 Summer Budget announced that the government would hold a bidding round for a new programme of Enterprise Zones. Applications closed on 18 September 2015. The 2015 Autumn Statement announced the creation of18 new Enterprise Zones, as well as extension to 8 existing zones, bringing the total to 44.

The 2016 Budget stated the government will create a new Enterprise Zone in Cornwall, and subject to successful business cases and local agreement, three new zones in Dudley, Loughborough and Leicester. The budget also included plans to extend the Sheffield City Region Enterprise Zone and stated the government would support proposals for an Enterprise Zone in Port Talbot encompassing the old Tata Steel works.

Enterprise Zones are geographically defined areas, hosted by Local Enterprise Partnerships in which commercial and industrial businesses can receive incentives to set up or expand. Businesses locating to an Enterprise Zone before 31 March 2018 are entitled to a business rate discount of up to 100% over a five year period (worth up to £275,000 per business) as well as Enhanced Capital Allowances for the purchase of machinery and equipment.

Enterprise Zones have also been eligible to apply for the £59 million Local Infrastructure Fund to support enabling works and the £100 million Capital Grant Fund to support infrastructure projects.

A pilot scheme of 4 University Enterprise Zones, designed to encourage high tech firms to locate near universities has been operational since July 2014.

In May 2014, the Department for Communities and Local Government reported that as of December 2013, 4,649 jobs (as well as 2,965 construction jobs) have been created by Enterprise Zones in England. In August 2015, the DCLG reported that Enterprise Zones had created 19,000 jobs, attracted £2.2 billion of private investment and more than 500 new businesses.

Similar policies have been adopted by devolved administrations in Scotland and Wales; 4 Enterprise Areas spread across 18 sites are operational in Scotland while 8 Enterprise Zones are operational in Wales. A pilot scheme is operating in Northern Ireland.

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