The Hillhouse Technology Enterprise Zone received a welcome boost last summer when it was named one of 10 ‘shovel ready’ Lancashire projects guaranteed a share of £34m of government cash.

Construction of the Advanced Manufacturing Research Centre

The aim of the Getting Building Fund is to use national investment to speed up the delivery of local developments that are in the pipeline but delayed as a result of the coronavirus pandemic.

The cash was earmarked to deliver improved electrical and water supplies to the zone to  occupants of the planned new Hillhouse International Business Park.

The £500,000 was a welcome and positive move for the Thornton project, which has seen limited progress as a result of the negative impact of Covid-19.

A report to the Blackpool, Fylde and Wyre Economic Prosperity Board last September highlighted the closure of the Vinnolit plastic plant with the loss of 60 jobs and redundancies at global polymer supplier Victrex, a FTSE 250 company.

Electricity North West begin work on a £7.5m upgrade of its network in Samlesbury

BAE Systems has also invested heavily in the EZ, creating an asset management facility and its Academy for Skills and Knowledge. Stephen says there is also a potential expansion of that training facility sometime in the future.

He agrees that it has taken time to develop and move the EZs forward but momentum is building with interest from multi-national businesses.

Some of the zones have been able to offer  locate there, including business rates relief and enhanced capital allowances. When they were set up businesses were also promised a “straightforward planning process”.

In contrast to the progress seen at Samlesbury, there has been less movement further west at Warton.

The Aviation Enterprise Zone site there covers 75 hectares of land alongside BAE Systems’ plant, which has an 

Stephen says most of the focus has been on Samlesbury and moving that zone forward, although conversations are now taking place about Warton and its role.

David Holmes, operations and technology director for Air at BAE Systems, is a member of the Lancashire Enterprise Partnership (LEP) board and chairs its EZ governance committee.

He believes having four EZs puts the county in a “privileged position” and the

David Holmes

The approach is not to just build out the EZs and cover them with large-scale warehouses but to create eco-systems that encourage jobs and skills opportunities.

Describing the AMRC as a “big statement of intent”, David says: “What we are trying to do through our strategy and working closely with our partners is come up with something that really sets Lancashire apart.”

aim is for them to play a big role in its post-pandemic recovery.

He explains: “We’ve got these EZs dotted around the county and they are all offering something slightly different, while being very complementary.”

David adds that the companies looking to develop their operations on the EZs are looking for something more than a piece of cheap real estate.

Proposals for a six-acre energy from waste plant, promoted by a major UK based plc, had also fallen through as a direct result of 

However, the report said there were “high hopes” that an alternative operator and 

Rob Green, Blackpool’s head of Enterprise Zones with responsibility for the Wyre zone,  site for waste and energy operations.

He added that developer NPL Estates was also working on plans to redevelop the Vinnolit site over the next few years.

In another positive move, a forum has been set up to explore the potential of hydrogen research, production and storage at Hillhouse.

That vision for hydrogen power on the Fylde Coast is to help meet local ambitions to deliver a clean low carbon energy economy in the area and to create a centre of excellence supported by education and industry.

Businesses based on the EZ are also set  thanks to a £320,000 investment agreed by Wyre Council, also announced last summer.

Hillhouse came into existence in 2016 with a target of growing employment on the site from 1,650 to 3,000 by 2035.

Comparing the Wyre zone’s progress to that made by neighbouring Blackpool, Rob said: “What we were able to do in Blackpool was 

“At Hillhouse a lot of infrastructure is needed. There are no overnight instant 

Hillhouse came into existence in 2016 with a target of growing employment on the site from 1,650 to 3,000 by 2035.




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