Hi-tech zone for firms 'can be bigger than Pride Park'
A HI-TECH business zone in Derby has the potential to become even more successful than Pride Park, according to council bosses.
Ministers have agreed to give Derby City Council £40 million to realise its plans for the Global Technology Cluster on land off Wilmore Road.
It will see bases created for hi-tech companies on the 215-acre site.
They would be centred around an "Innovation Campus" which would bring together the brightest minds in research and development working in the industry.
The aim is for the site to help expand and develop small and medium companies which supply products and services to manufacturing giants dominating the rail, aerospace and automotive industries, including Rolls-Royce, Bombardier and Toyota.
Adam Wilkinson, chief executive of the city council, has admitted the authority is building the site in the firm belief that companies will come to locate there.
But he said that risk would not be taken if the authority was not confident of success.
He said: "All the signs are very positive.
"Some of those in the industry say this site will fill quicker and to a bigger scale than Pride Park.
"The jobs will be high quality."
He claimed the Innovation Campus was "the most exciting prospect Derby has seen for many years" and would bring "really good quality jobs and will have supply chain benefits as well".
The plans for the campus and cluster will create at least 1,000 jobs by 2022 and lever in almost £70 million in private sector and £4 million in public-sector investment.
Council leader Paul Bayliss has been pushing the Government for the confirmation of the £40 million needed to make this go ahead. That confirmation has now been given and the proposals are due to go before the council's cabinet on Wednesday so the authority can progress with securing developers.
Mr Bayliss said: "This really is going to be branded as an international centre for excellence and from that we will be able to generate a lot more work and inward investment and solutions.
"It is to be focused around hi-tech engineering which builds on Derby's great strength and it gives the opportunity for clever engineering solutions to be developed here, particularly in terms of green technology, which we would want to encourage."
The first stage of creating the site will be constructing the T12 link road between the A50 and Wilmore Road.
It is something the council has tried to accomplish before but the high cost has scuppered the plans.
Now, out of the £40 million Regional Growth Fund awarded by Government, up to £10 million will be spent on the relief road, while developers will be expected to put in up to £2 million.
The city council will invest £1 million and a further £3 million in the form of a loan which will be refunded once land outside the site is developed.
The aim is to get planning approval for the road by June next year so that work can start in that September and be completed by August 2014.
Government has previously set out it wants the money it is investing committed by 2015, otherwise it could withdraw it.
And a challenge by campaigners opposed to the road could cause delays.
Gary Crisp lives on the West Chellaston Estate which will be affected by the new relief road.
He said: "We don't have a problem with the Global Technology Cluster.
"The issue has been that we asked why the council couldn't consider alternatives and they have done nothing about it and it has got to the point it is a fait accompli because of this pressure they are under from Government to spend the money which they have brought upon themselves.
"Our fear is it will be pushed through regardless."
Residents have concerns about the proximity of the proposed road to houses and a children's play area.
Mr Bayliss said: "The T12 has to be built to access the site. It's been there in the local plan and on people's deeds.
"We have got to look at Derby in terms of what we can do to generate good quality jobs for Derby and relive traffic on the A514."
The link road would be followed by the creation of the Innovation Campus at a cost of £10.5 million.
Already major education establishments are bringing together their experts for this campus.
The University of Derby, Derby College, Cranfield University and Aston University are all involved in the campus which will work to showcase research and development concepts manage networks and provide consultancy services.
There are other major players in the development of the site.
Rolls-Royce owns more than half of the site and has said it would want to keep part of it for its own future use.
On top of that, it will invest nearly 10 acres in the Innovation Campus plans.
The remainder of its site would be included in the land available for the cluster.
A spokesman for the company said: "We welcome and support the proposed development and the potential it has to stimulate the local economy."
Harpur Crew owns the bulk of the remainder of the site. Wilson Bowden/Miller Birch own a residual strip of land following their development of the West Chellaston housing site.