Market Insight

A Marriage of Equals: Enterprise Zone Expansion and Transport Infrastructure

January 5, 2016

The recent announcement that the Birmingham enterprise zone will be expanded into the Curzon Street area of the city was certainly a welcome one.

The £750 million-plus boost, which was rubber stamped by the Chancellor in the Autumn Statement, matches the city’s growing ambition, and represents a vital investment which will help to continue Birmingham’s economic transformation.

Signed as part of the devolution deal, the expanded enterprise zone area will also include a huge step forward for the development of the city’s transport infrastructure in the form of the new HS2 station.

Birmingham will be one of the first beneficiaries of HS2, with Curzon Street the intended home for the station. This represents a real opportunity for businesses, with the potential to create 36,000 jobs and bring £1.4 billion a year into the city economy.

Add to this the benefits of a more simplified planning process and business rates discounts within the enlarged zone, and the positive economic effects could prove to be significant for Birmingham and the surrounding area.

It’s true that there has been substantial investment in the city’s transport infrastructure, but to what extent has this investment improved our capabilities to deal with future economic growth?

The grand opening of Birmingham’s £600 million redesigned central station is, on the face of it, evidence of a city that is evolving to support future economic growth. However, beneath the fantastic façade, which has undoubtedly improved user experience and visitors’ first impressions of Birmingham, the station redesign has done little to improve train/passenger capacity.

As the first Midland Metro trams start to run through the £128 million city centre metro extension, passengers have delighted in the new line opening, but clients tell us that businesses are still struggling with transport links into the city.

Central station improvements, extended metro lines and the future prospect of HS2 will certainly go some way to improving our transport infrastructure, but our highway links remain the biggest challenge.

The M6/M5 corridor still poses a huge problem for commuters and, in particular, for the region’s manufacturing sector which relies heavily on our highway links to ship their goods.

The City Council’s 20 year Connected plan for transport will hopefully bring much needed improvements to some of our busiest junctions and pinch points. However, the key is to ensure that this is now reviewed in light of the enterprise zone expansion and the increased traffic this will bring into the city, if we are to ensure that we are prepared to take advantage of the fantastic economic benefits it could bring.

To find out more about existing and future business space in the Midlands area, don’t hesitate to contact our team who can brief you on a variety of developments and available office space.