“A unique opportunity to create jobs and regenerate a whole town” - that’s the view of Greater Brighton leaders after meeting the people tasked with transforming Newhaven into a great place to live and work.
Home to one of just 44 Enterprise Zones in England, the port town is undergoing a period of rapid change which will see thousands of jobs created and millions invested into the local economy.
A year on from the Newhaven Enterprise Zone (NEZ) going live, Councillor Garry Wall, chairman of Greater Brighton, and Councillor Andy Smith, Leader of Lewes District Council, were given an update on the progress by its programme director Corinne Day.
During a tour of the town, businesses and residents spoke about the impact of the investment so far, which has seen the creation of new business, jobs and workspaces.
Cllr Wall, who is also Leader of Mid Sussex District Council, said: “My everlasting impression from my visit is that there's massive potential in Newhaven. This means there’s a considerable opportunity for businesses to invest in Newhaven; to get government agencies, such as Coast to Capital and Greater Brighton to help bring those investments forward; and for Newhaven to take its rightful place as a major contributor the regional economy.
“Greater Brighton needs to continue to grow, it needs to look at where it can make those growth points and Newhaven is clearly one of them. The opportunity here is unique - one that will create jobs and regenerate a whole town. It’s therefore vital that we do what we can to get the development right for residents and businesses.”
The NEZ was established as a three-way agreement between the Coast to Capital Local Enterprise Partnership, Lewes District Council and Government, with the support of Greater Brighton.
Covering eight sites and 79 hectares in the town, the NEZ acts as a catalyst to deliver new economic development opportunities. The aim is that within 25 years it will create 55,000 square metres of new commercial floor space for employment to sustain around 2,000 jobs.
During the visit, the two council leaders saw progress on some of the £30 million that has already been invested in the area - with critical flood defences created, new business units built and key regeneration sites unlocked.
The tour also took in the site of a new £23 million port access road, which received £10 million of government funding last month. This will provide direct access to the East Quay area of Newhaven Port unlocking 80,000 square metres of business space, generating up to 1,500 jobs and taking HGV traffic away from unsuitable roads in the town.
Another area visited was the town centre, which will be the focus of a £38 million mixed-use scheme to create hundreds of jobs in the construction, retail and hotel sectors, while generating an extra £100 million of inward investment into the local economy.
Cllr Andy Smith, Leader of Lewes District Council, said: “What we’ve seen is that the Newhaven Enterprise Zone isn't just the public sector working together; this is about the private sector coming in and working with us. By far the most amount of money coming into the town is coming from the private pocket.
“We want to deliver 2,000 jobs but we also want to deliver improvements to people's lives. This will become a great income generator for the area and a great wealth generator for its local people."
The Greater Brighton delegation also heard that a key part of Enterprise Zones is business rates discounts worth up to £275,000 over five years while pre-planning fees on employment led schemes are also waived.
One of those taking advantage is ValetPRO, who provide vehicle cleaning products across Europe. The company relocated to Newhaven this year from Uckfield, doubling the size of its warehouse to 12,000 square metres.
Milton Watts, ValetPRO’s operating manager, said: “The business rate relief was a significant reason for moving here as it allowed us to use that money to invest in other parts of the business, such as warehouse facilities.”
Sara Williams, of local business The Patchwork Cat, which is a cafe and fabric shop, said: “Newhaven has got huge potential. I think by bringing new businesses to the town and people having faith in the town it will be back to where it was - a good thriving town.”
Corinne Day, NEZ programme director, said: “It was great to welcome two board members from Greater Brighton to see the ongoing work in the Enterprise Zone.
“We want to tidy this place up - not just beautify, but give it a real sense of place so when people come here they want to stay. We want Newhaven to be somewhere that’s known for what it's about.”