North West enterprise zone would boost beleaguered economy - MLA

Lorcan Doherty
Lorcan Doherty

A Derry MLA has called for the creation of a cross- border enterprise zone in the North West.

Colum Eastwood said the creation of such a zone would be key in boosting the area’s beleaguered economy.

The SDLP MLA also queried the choice of Coleraine as the site for a pilot enterprise zone - a move announced by British Chancellor George Osborne in last week’s Budget.

“Derry and the North West needs to have the economic incentives and benefits that are provided by enterprise zones which have proven very successful in England.

“The SDLP has argued for the creation of a cross-border enterprise zone as it could really work for the greater North West economy,” he said.

Coleraine will house the North’s first enterprise zone - there are currently 24 in the UK.

Enterprise zone are like business parks where investors are offered incentives, including things like lower business rates, to set up.

Mr Eastwood said Derry appeared to have a stronger case than Coleraine as the site of an enterprise zone.

“While this announcement comes at a time when Coleraine has suffered a major jobs blow with the loss of nearly 300 DVA posts, the question must be asked what criteria was used to decide the location for the new pilot enterprise zone.”

He said such decisions need “proper objective evaluation and not simply knee-jerk reactions to bad government decisions made in Westminister.”

“Derry’s unemployment rate is almost twice that of Coleraine according to the latest figures. Just this week it’s been confirmed that 30 jobs will go as a result of the closure of Rigney Dolphin call centre in the city.

“Surely any objective analysis would suggest that Derry and the wider north west, which has suffered decades of neglect in terms of investment in infrastructure and job creation, would be the ideal location for such a pilot scheme.”

The Derry MLA said he has asked a number of Assembly Questions to the relevant ministers to “detail exactly what they knew of the plans for siting a pilot enterprise zone in Coleraine prior to George Osborne’s announcement.”