ERDF in Cornwall & the Isles of Scilly filling the £83million gap

This article first appeared in Insider Magazine, August 2014.

During the €458 million European Regional Development Fund Convergence Programme improvements to workspace across the Cornwall & the Isles of Scilly have enabled job creation and business expansion.

In response to demand from business for access to high quality workspace the ERDF Convergence Programme made these types of investments a priority. Often the award winning Innovation Centres located at Pool, Penryn and Truro are held up as examples of ERDF invested business incubation space in C&IoS. The trio have demonstrated the potential for business growth in C&IoS wasn’t constrained despite a world-wide economic downturn. However, the Innovation Centres weren’t suitable for all businesses, so the ERDF Programme had to be smart to ensure investment met businesses demand. To fulfil this remit workspace investments were split into three distinct areas, speculative, bespoke and refurbishment.

One of the driving forces behind the speculative developments during the Programme has been the engagement of the private sector and their willingness to invest in large scale developments despite the risks during a recession. One of the successes of this partnership has been the number and diversity of the developments, all of which have been completed to schedule and are either full or actively welcoming new tenants to their sites. Two recently opened developments include the Victoria Commercial Centre and the Redruth Gateway Business Centre, both of which offer high quality office space and conferencing facilities at Roche and Redruth respectively.

New developments soon to be opening their doors to businesses in new locations include the Quintdown Business Park (Newquay), Bude Stratton Business Park (Bude), Treleigh Park at Treleigh Industrial Estate (Redruth) and 3 Truro (Truro). These developments all demonstrate workspace projects are taking place across the region.

The drive for C&IoS to be a leader in renewables has given two developments particular focus; The Cornwall Business Park (CBP) near Scorrier has been split into two sites; CBP West is centred on an Enterprise Park with consent for office, manufacturing, distribution and storage facilities.

CBP East has consent for Waste to Energy and waste processing facilities. In Hayle, the ERDF investment into the Wave Hub test facility has now been joined with investment into the Marine Renewables Business Park (MRBP) which aims to attract renewable businesses to its workspaces.

In some areas of C&IoS the end market value of a building isn’t worth the cost to build it. This failure in market value has been aided by ERDF being able to fill the gap between cost and value to enable businesses to create jobs or safeguard existing jobs.

St Austell Printing Company and Western Power Distribution were two companies that were looking to expand. By securing ERDF match funding they have both moved into bespoke premises without the need to leave the region.

Western Power Distribution (WPD), the electricity business serving the South West, occupies the redeveloped entranceway to Pool from the A30. With the expansion of the road WPD rebuilt their site by repositioning their storage yard behind the new office building which enabled the development to redefine the approach to Pool by complementing the adjacent Cornwall College buildings. Together the new buildings showcase the assets that business and education offer in this revitalised area. St Austell Printing Company had outgrown its site within St Austell town but wanted to stay close to its roots and employees’ homes. By working with ERDF the Company was able to build a state of the art factory, office and conferencing facilities and invest into new businesses by building small units for SME’s to expand into.

Some of the most bespoke workspace investments have gone to the Isles of Scilly to encourage the diversification of businesses on the islands which are currently dominated by tourism, farming, fishing and a small number of microbusinesses. Once the islands are linked to superfast broadband they will be able to connect with the world faster than ever before, and to complement this ERDF invested into three new workspaces across St Mary’s and St Agnes. The first, the construction of Porthmellon Enterprise Centre, has been recently joined by office spaces at the regeneration of Porthcressa and these two developments have enabled St Mary’s based businesses to expand on their home island. The third project currently under construction will see the transformation of the St Agnes Island Hall into a workspace development to enable businesses to work from St Agnes rather than commuting to St Mary’s.

Sometimes it isn’t always practical to build new, or a building may have a historic connection which is important to preserve. ERDF has also focused on refurbishment and regeneration to enable areas across Cornwall to become hubs of renewal. Two former mines have received investment during Convergence. The first, Heartlands (Pool), has now become a major tourist attraction and green space for local people. To facilitate business growth ERDF assisted the business side of the site to invest into the workspaces for local creative businesses to develop in a collaborative atmosphere. The second heritage project will see King Edward Mine; secure its economic future thanks to investment into the refurbishment of two Grade II Listed Buildings to create high quality workspace for the creative industries sector.

The historic artistic importance of Porthmeor Studios (St Ives) was revitalised with investment to redevelop the workspaces across the studios and school. The collaborative atmosphere continues at Krowji, a former grammar school in Redruth. A creative building of workspaces will be joined by an ERDF investment into two new buildings which will create further creative use units. Jubilee Warehouse (Penryn) builds on the success of Jubilee Wharf by refurbishing an old warehouse into units for the creative industry built around a collaborative hub.

The Wheal Jane Earth Science Park (Truro) has seen two former mining 1960/70s buildings completely refurbished and extended to allow two large earth science businesses the opportunity to expand on the former mining site.

In total, the developments mentioned within this article amount to approx. £83million of investment from the ERDF Convergence Programme. Most importantly this has been match funded with approx. £67 million from both private and public investment for a total investment of £150 million during the life of Convergence. These investments have helped businesses secure the workspace necessary to grow and expand despite the financial crisis in 2008. It is anticipated that further workspace investment will be made in the new European Funding round to continue to support business demand.

Wednesday 10 December 2014