Lowestoft ambitious jobs bid thwarted
AN ambitious bid to spark a regional jobs and investment bonanza by luring a new government agency to Lowestoft has fallen at the final hurdle.Local politicians and regeneration officials spoke of their disappointment after learning the Marine Management Organisation (MMO) will set up home in Tyneside, taking hundreds of jobs there.
AN ambitious bid to spark a regional jobs and investment bonanza by luring a new government agency to Lowestoft has fallen at the final hurdle.
Local politicians and regeneration officials spoke of their disappointment after learning the Marine Management Organisation (MMO) will set up home in Tyneside, taking hundreds of jobs there.
It had been proposed that the MMO use the planned Waveney Campus building, in Lowestoft, to work alongside the prestigious Cefas marine science laboratory.
Project backers, including Waveney MP Bob Blizzard, Waveney District Council and 1st East Urban Regeneration Company, said it would have provided a massive shot in the arm for this region's coast economy and joined forces with Yarmouth to put forward their case.
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The Lowestoft bid made it to a shortlist of six, but Marine and Fisheries minister Huw Irranca-Davies dashed local hopes with Thursday's announcement.
Mr Blizzard said: "Obviously I'm disappointed. I thought we made a good bid, but there were strong bids from other parts of the country.
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"Unfortunately, in the end, there can only be one winner. I think it would have made a huge difference to our local economy, but we will push forward with the offshore renewable energy agenda."
Mr Blizzard particularly praised 1st East chief executive Philip Watkins and Waveney District Council's head of regeneration, Malcolm Perrins, for the work they put into the bid.
Mr Watkins said: "While of course we would have been delighted for the MMO to have come to a priority regeneration area in the East of England, we knew the odds favoured the areas identified in the government's relocation strategy, which does not include East Anglia.
"Lowestoft and Yarmouth combined to put together a strong case involving a wide range of partners. Meanwhile, the regeneration plans for both towns are still on track…" The MMO, part of the government's pioneering Marine and Coastal Access Bill, will be an independent body performing the work of other government departments and agencies under one roof.
It is expected to employ about 400 people and while most of the workers would have initially come in from outside the Lowestoft area, the shot in the arm for the local economy and the potential for future job creation was seen as vital.
Wendy Mawer, Waveney District Council's portfolio holder for regeneration, praised her colleagues for their work on the bid.
She added: "Congratulations to Tyneside, but naturally we are very disappointed having believed throughout that the case for Lowestoft was strong and persuasive. This is a regeneration hub, full of promise and opportunity, and the MMO would have been very welcome here."
In addition to Tyneside, the Lowestoft and Yarmouth bid was in competition with Plymouth, the East Riding of Yorkshire, Merseyside and Carrick.
Mr Irranca-Davies said: "Tyneside was chosen for several reasons, not least because of its broad range and good balance of marine interests.
"All of the shortlisted locations made professional, well-presented bids and I thank everyone involved for their efforts and enthusiasm."