Clock is ticking on Enterprise Zone: Clarke

Councillor Trevor Clarke
Councillor Trevor Clarke

Back in March last year, Chancellor George Osborne announced that Coleraine was getting Northern Ireland’s first ever enterprise zone.

Enterprise zones already exist elsewhere in the UK and offer hi-tech businesses tax incentives and simplified planning procedures.

The Coleraine zone will be built at a site close to the University of Ulster.

At a meeting of Causeway Coast and Glens Council last Tuesday night, Coleraine DUP councillor Trevor Clarke raised the issue, and asked for an update. Back in May, members agreed to progress the project.

Councillor Clarke told members that he was concerned that a scheme, similar to Project Kelvin, a cable that directly connects Northern Ireland to North America, had been set up in County Mayo. Councillor Clarke said: “I am concerned at this new project, it may take the unique selling point of Coleraine away.”

Corporate Director of Leisure Services Richard Baker told the meeting that designation of the land hadn’t been progressed through the Treasury.

He said that Council is working with the university - ‘we are pushing hard’, he said.

Councillor Clarke proposed that Council should write to the office of the First Minister and Deputy First Minister about the delay.

“The clock is ticking, “ said councillor Clarke. We need to take steps to clear the log jam and get this zone up and running.”

Adding to the debate, Chief Executive, David Jackson pointed out that Project Kelvin had been one of the ‘key attributes’ of getting film studios to the rent the former army base at Ballykelly. He said that the proximity of the cable to America - through Project Kelvin had been a selling point.

Just last week, the film studio said it would like to buy the full site. They have turned the base into studios and offices to rent out to production teams for film and television shoots.

Members agreed with councillor Clarke’s proposal to write to the First and Deputy First Ministers.