The creation of a special business zone in Bristol could prove a “disaster” for South Wales, Cardiff council leader Rodney Berman has warned.
Bristol’s enterprise zone – confirmed yesterday – will benefit from discounts on business rates, new superfast broadband, lower levels of planning control and the potential to use enhanced capital allowances.
Westminster government ministers believe four new zones given the go-ahead yesterday in Birmingham, Bristol, Leeds and Sheffield could create more than 24,000 jobs by 2015.
Bristol’s enterprise zone will be called the Temple Quarter and will take in Temple Meads station, where a number of buildings will be redeveloped.
Mr Berman called on the Welsh Government to create similar zones here and warned that the capital and Wales could be left behind by the rival city’s scheme.
Coun Berman said: “I have said all along that if enterprise zones are going to be established across the border in England but not established in Wales then we will not be able to compete on a level playing field.
“Enterprise zones will give much needed incentives for economic regeneration, including business rate relief, a simplified planning approach and investment in technology infrastructure.
“They will give the areas that have been announced today a competitive edge and it is imperative that Wales is given the same advantages. I am concerned that with an enterprise zone being announced on our doorstep in Bristol that business will be taken away out of Wales.
“I have written to both First Minister Carwyn Jones and the Minister for Business Enterprise, Technology and Science, Edwina Hart, urging the creation of Welsh enterprise zones and today’s news just underlines the importance of that decision now being made quickly.
“It would be a disaster if Cardiff and Wales was left behind because of this.
“We have already unveiled our plans for a Central Business District (CBD) in Cardiff, which will make major improvements to the city’s infrastructure, attract blue chip companies, deliver one million square feet of office space in the first phase, establish a convention centre and an integrated transport hub with first class transport facilities.
“I hope the CBD can become a designated enterprise zone and bring new jobs to Wales, ensuring that the city region economy continues to thrive.”
Prime Minister David Cameron was in Bristol yesterday to speak to the city’s entrepreneurs.
He said: “There is a great opportunity in Bristol which could bring 80 new businesses and 4,000 new jobs by 2015.”
Robert Lloyd Griffiths, director of the Institute of Directors Wales, said: “Once we have assessed the details of this announcement we will be seeking reassurances from government in Wales as to what its policy will be to ensure we receive a similar – if not better – economic boost to our own businesses and employment prospects in Wales.”
Last month, Roy Thomas, director of business group the Cardiff Business Partnership, warned that firms would consider relocating. to Temple Meads.
“There is a danger that people will go from Cardiff to Bristol. We should not be waiting for Westminster. We now have devolution and we need to be ahead of the curve, not behind,” he said.
The First Minister has said that enterprises zones will be taken forward in Wales, but that they could be based around specific industry sectors, with the possibility of them also being “virtual”, or without defined geographical borders.