Skills hub to kick-off new enterprise zone

The BAE Systems' plant at Warton, near Preston
The BAE Systems' plant at Warton, near Preston
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A skills hub to create apprentices and train workers of the future will kick-start Lancashire’s new Enterprise Zone, it has been revealed.

Defence giant BAE Systems has said it is committed to working with the county’s Local Enterprise Partnership (LEP) and government to create the centre as part of the zone, which will be created across its sites at Warton and Samlesbury, near Preston.

The Chancellor George Osborne announced the zone will be up and running by next April, prompting a pair of local MPs to call on BAE to show its commitment.

A BAE spokesman said: “We will work with the LEP, local and central Government to bring forward plans for our locations in these zones.

“These will include a commitment to establish a new apprentice and adult training centre at one of our sites in the proposed Lancashire zone.”

It is believed the zone will be based on the LEP’s original bid, which outlined 500 acres of land creating £50m of investment and up to 6,000 new jobs.

Talks are now underway with the LEP, Lancashire County Council and the government over how the plans will move forward.

Chairman Edwin Booth said: “We are now talking to government about additional investments, aligned with the enterprise zone, which could benefit the county as a whole.”

Fylde MP Mark Menzies and his Wyre and Preston North counterpart Ben Wallace, whose constituencies cover both sites, yesterday met with Prime Minister David Cameron to discuss the zone.

Mr Wallace said that the PM had offered to push through “any hitches” the zone may face to ensure it gets up and running.

He said: “He has said he is committed to ensuring the next generation of aerospace comes from Lancashire.”

Mr Menzies added: “Governments do not create jobs, but they can create the conditions for jobs and investment and that is what this zone does.

“Now there is a big onus on BAE to ensure it takes advantage of these opportunities.”

Babs Murphy, chief executive of the North and Western Lancashire Chamber of Commerce, added the zone needed to be brought about with “a sense of urgency.”

She added the Chamber also wanted to see ‘growth zones’ set up on four sites, including Cuerden at Bamber Bridge.

The zone will deliver tax breaks, relaxed planning laws and super-fast broadband for firms setting up in business there.