The area to the northeast of Manchester Airport is to become one of George Osborne’s new Enterprise Zones.
Loosely defined, an Enterprise Zone is an area of land that stimulates growth via the provision of ‘luxuries’ to developers. For example, a company that wishes to build an office block within an Enterprise Zone may be afforded tax breaks, less stringent planning regulations, or other bonuses, such as super-fast broadband. The Chancellor hopes to develop 21 such zones in the UK, with the first few to be located in northern areas, such as Leeds, Sheffield, and Liverpool. So far, the only Enterprise Zone in the south of England is at the Royal Docks in Newham, London.
The Enterprise Zone in Manchester will take the form of a 60-acre ‘Airport City’, essentially, a hub for logistics, manufacturing, and freight distribution. The City, which could cost up to £600m, and create 7,000 new jobs, will emulate similar developments in Spain, Germany, and Holland. Stephanie Mullenger, chief at Manchester Airports Group (MAG), the current owner of the Ringway airport, said that the City would be like “a city centre, which has the fantastic connectivity of an international airport". Mrs. Mullenger intimated that the project was already attracting potential investors, but that some “seriously sexy marketing” had to be done if the City is to become more than a developer’s dream.
MAG was quick to note that plans to build the City were already underway before the airport was designated an Enterprise Zone. However, John Atkins, director at MAG Developments, welcomed the Chancellor’s recent announcement, as “underlining the importance of making quick progress on the site”. MAG was invited to consult on the topic with Manchester councillors earlier this month. The operator, which is the largest in the UK, hopes to begin the construction phase during early 2012.
The Airport City will be located a few hundred metres north of Manchester Airport, in the area of open land between Ringway Road West and Hilary Road, close to the town of Wythenshawe.