The area within Gloucester that has been discussed, planned for with projects launched and shelved is the Railway Triangle. Many people (myself included) have been rather critical of various plans to renovate or rejuvenate it. But the news yesterday that there are plans to make it an “Enterprize Zone” has the potential to transform this area into a productive hub in the city.
But what is an “Enterprise Zone”? In the 80’s, it was a government initiative to attempt to rejuvenate run down areas within cities. They offered tax incentives and low business rates, while improving the local infrastructure. The theory was that this would get businesses that would not normally think about moving there to go and set up shop.
It was quite successful in generating business hubs, Canary Wharf was set up in an Enterprise Zone, as was the Metro Centre in Newcastle. However it is not a guarantee for success, there are ones that have been developed and still stand empty. Also the Tory Government at the time admitted that it could not go as far as it wanted to because of budgetary constrains, which is surely going to be an issue now.
Looking at other metrics, it was not seen as good value for employment. As a job creation scheme it certainly did not get as many people employed as Labours “New Deal” programme, but that is only one measure. I think that in the case of the Railway Triangle, comparison of Employment is not the best measure, we desperately should be looking at business growth which will lead to employment and not just instant employment. We have a piece of land that needs developed at some point, and I would like to see it put to good use, not just any use. The other thing that people want here is a new Railway Station, but having looked much further into it, then its just not going to happen, there are too many reasons why it’s not feasible.
I believe that a lot of the work done to make Gloucester more attractive to visitors is great. I am a fan of the docks, revamping of the city centre and the proposed Kings Quarter project. However I believe that we are at risk of pushing the balance too far to rely on Tourism. In this environment of cuts to the taxpayers purse, then we can not expect the city to float on its tourist appeal. That should be one side of the balance in terms of the income of the city. The other side is to exploit our location and links to be attractive to businesses to come and invest. At the moment we don’t seem to have that. Many people complain that City Centres in general are so large-scale commercial and there are no small “bespoke” shops anymore, is it any wonder with the attitude of Gloucester City Council. It is very bad at encouraging and helping Small business (look at the hassle “On Toast” is getting) having talked to a number of Small Business owners and people trying to start-up new businesses, then the City Council needs a strong leadership to support these businesses.
I was critical of the fact that a Supermarket is to be built on this site, but if that is only a part of this bigger deal and it really is going to bring in business to the city then, while I still don’t believe that we need another supermarket, the overall effect will be a good thing. We do need to have an eye as to what type of business comes in too, because while competition is a good thing, it would be great to bring new industry in rather than just bring in a new business which kills a current business already here because of the tax breaks.
I hope that this Enterprise Zone will provide a good platform for new companies to start-up and encourage other bigger companies to come and make use of what Gloucester has to offer.
- The Railway Triangle – Is anything better than nothing? (bazkirby.wordpress.com)