Chancellor George Osborne’s recent approval of plans to revitalise Dudley’s hard-pressed Waterfront area has resulted in the potential creation of over 4,000 jobs and with 66,000 square feet of new business space up for grabs.
To tempt local businesses into taking advantage of the renovation, the complex is offering all patrons – both existing and new – a business rate-free period of five years. This scheme is being funded by the government following the chancellor’s budget announcement, after which the rate growth will fall directly to Dudley Council to invest in the public transport system and various other local projects in need of funding.
The first stage in the redevelopment plan sees officials hoping to fill the existing vacancies in The Waterfront by 2021. Once achieved, this will be followed up by providing new business space in the years that follow.
Local city officials are viewing the site improvement with high expectations after the hardships the complex has fallen upon. The leader of Dudley Council, Peter Lowe, noted the regional significance of the chancellor’s investment, stating that it was ‘fantastic’ news for the region and would create jobs for both locals and those based further afield in the West Midlands.
Mr Lowe added that the announcement was exactly what the town needed and that it showed confidence in the borough, which he believes can now progress to adopting a leading role in the provision of thousands of jobs in the near future.
The news also comes as a relief for local business owners, many of whom had feared for the future of The Waterfront and had dubbed the beleaguered site a ghost town. After the site’s plans for growth were stalled in 2011, the enterprise suffered the departure of several large businesses and attractions, including Virgin Media, Egg and Business Link. This resulted in approximately 40% of the site remaining vacant in recent years, forcing officials to seriously consider ways in which to renew the appeal of the complex.
The planned refurbishment coincides with improved transport links and housing growth. It is hoped that these factors will increase the town’s economic contribution to the entire region while stimulating outside investments, in turn boosting the long-term future prospects of the area.
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