What we knew already
Back in 2014, the Government was asked to consider extending the current enterprise zone at Discovery Park in Sandwich to also cover Thanet. This was for consideration to extend it to Manston Business Park, Manston Airport and the Richborough Corridor. This has been discussed by various parties who would give it their backing if it was for aviation-use only. There was concern over the fact that this was a zone extended from Dover District Council’s (DDC) area, but DDC continue to pledge public support for the airport to this day.
In March 2015 as part of the budget, the government outlined plans to add Manston airport and Betteshanger to the Discovery Park Enterprise Zone for Life sciences and environmental technologies. Any alternative designation, such as “aviation use” would actually require a new, separate enterprise zone. This was at the time subject to further justification before the extension could proceed.
The “hidden” Snippet
In the TDC meeting last night (15th October 2015), there was a largely overlooked phrase used about the tie between Thanet and Dover in relation to the Enterprise Zone had been “cut”.
The “hidden” Proposal
Earlier in 2015, the Government invited Local Enterprise Partnerships to submit proposals for new Enterprise Zones. If approved, they benefit from business rate discounts to occupiers and would permit the local retention of 100% of business rate growth. The deadline of these to Government was 18th September 2015.
On further investigation, it appears that Thanet put in a new Enterprise Zone bid to include Ramsgate Port and Manston Business Park (excluding the China Gateway site), as a joint bid with Kent County Council. It did not major on Manston Airport, but included it in whatever form it is in the future. This bid was one of three within Kent that came forward. As only one proposal from each area, the South East Local Enterprise Partnership (LEP) asked the Kent and Medway Economic Partnership (KMEP) and equivalents to clearly prioritise local proposals prior to submission.
At the start of August, initial expressions of interest were sought across the area, resulting in ten sites further short-listed to three. The “Port of Ramsgate and Manston Cluster” was designated as an “early stage application”. The bid was not dependent on the reuse of Manston Airport but also wouldn’t prejudice it should it be returned.
The application wasn’t known to other KMEP members until the agenda for their meeting on the 14th September was issued two days before the meeting. At that meeting, they considered the bid lacking details and a specific business case, so were told to revisit the bid and in effect to do their homework, although KMEP were supportive of the bid in the future. The other two bids for North Kent and Channel Tunnel areas were submitted to Government, ranked in that order.
- Rather than working together with other local authorities, it seems Thanet is once again isolating itself further from others. The lesson on the requirements for co-operation on the Local Plan doesn’t seem to have been learnt.
- The proposed relationship on the Discovery Park Enterprise Zone extension has never been formally cut, but instead others seem to be finding this out, almost by chance.
- Those creating the Thanet bid seem to have insufficient knowledge of what is required for a formal bid – perhaps some co-operation with areas that have experience would have helped here.
- Thanet seems to becoming increasingly isolated from the rest of East Kent and is more reliant on KCC for almost all projects.