Our voice of business this month is: Matt Peachey, Head of Enterprise Zone Development, Buckinghamshire LEP                                                     

My role is to work with our partners to accelerate growth and innovation across Buckinghamshire’s Enterprise Zones (Bucks EZ) at Silverstone ParkWestcott Venture Park and Arla Woodlands. As part of this, I will need to identify and target public and private investment for programmes and initiatives that will help businesses grow in our Enterprise Zones.

I took on the role recently, after eight year’s leading Economic Development in Oxford. I chose to make the move because I was attracted to the immense potential that Buckinghamshire’s Enterprise Zones (EZ) offer. The most important of those attractions is that the funding generated by Bucks EZ – through business rates retention – is in the partnership’s local decision-making gift to invest strategically in EZs and wider economy. This gives us a little more local control over our destiny than many other locations. If each EZ meets its capacity early enough, there is the potential to capture £150m plus to be invested in the local economy, by 2041, when EZ Status ceases.

It’s important to recognise that Bucks EZ’s three sites are about far more than floorspace and income. Each site has a unique attraction because of what is already there. They are strategically important to the Bucks economy through innovation, productivity, and diversification. Bucks EZ aligns directly with Buckinghamshire’s Local Industrial Strategy, identifying the following opportunities:

  • Silverstone Park – high-performance technology/ motorsport/ e-vehicles.
  • Westcott Venture Park – space propulsion/ satellite communications/ drone testing & development.
  • Arla/Woodlands – agri-food/ human health/ TV production.

The scale and specialised nature of each development, the mix of uses, and their highly strategic position, is enabling Buckinghamshire Enterprise Zone to challenge internationally as a major new employment location over the coming years. In total, the Enterprise Zone designation covers approximately ninety-six hectares of commercial land with the potential to create over 310,000m2 of employment floorspace and thousands of new jobs, which will replace employment sectors in decline with new ones on the rise.

The key challenges ahead will be to work with our landowner/ developer and wider partners to:

  • Take forward a new Westcott Masterplan for delivery over the next 5-7 years, delivering several hundred thousand sq. ft. of workspace, facilities and amenities crucial to the success of the area and space sector.
  • Accelerate EZ development at Aylesbury Woodlands. With over 100,000 m2 of space with outline permission, moving through the milestones to construction will be where the relative level of EZ success for Bucks will be determined. The difference between our optimal timeline for delivery and delay could be £15-20m of locally determined investment funds for the area. We need to move quickly, given the finite life of EZs.
  • Work with our partners at MEPC to support delivery of the final phases of development at Silverstone Technology Park, where we have invested in key infrastructure, growing EV, sports performance and high-tech engineering capabilities across business and workforce.
  • Ensure Bucks EZ has compelling international market appeal and that we are able to train local talent to access emerging employment opportunities will be critical to our success.

Three months into this role, I am confident this has been a good move for me and one I hope I can be effective in. I am working with talented and collaborative team in a well-regarded LEP, with new opportunities to innovate in the ever-changing field of economic development alongside strong partners. This next iteration of this will be a new Pooled Investment Fund that will offer an ever-green investment source, partly funded by Enterprise Zone funds.