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Council pulls the plug on £2m expansion of Chatteris enterprise centre

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A £2m expansion of South Fens Enterprise Park, Chatteris, has been pulled.

Fenland District Council describes the expansion as being “temporarily paused” but it has been forced to return £940,000 of joint funding to the Cambridgeshire and Peterborough Combined Authority (CAPCA).

“Members will be aware that due to significant cost increases, the scheme to extend South Fens Enterprise Park, Chatteris has been temporarily paused,” says a report to Fenland Council Cabinet.

“This has resulted in the CAPCA requesting repayment of the balance of their grant (£941k) awarded for this project.

“Consequently, the remaining FDC balance of the original scheme funding of £1m remains in the updated programme while officers reassess the options available which could result in a future funding application to the CAPCA.”

Cabinet agreed the outline of the scheme in February 2020 when they accepted £997,032 from CAPCA’s Local Growth Fund, known as the ‘Growth Deal’.

At the time Fenland Council agreed to commit to more than £1.15m creating an additional 900-1,000m2 (9,690-10,760ft2) of extra space to complement its existing South Fens Business Centre and South Fens Enterprise Park.

The deal was subject to “further cost estimate and design work to ensure project viability, together with the successful grant of planning permission”.

A report to Cabinet at the time pointed out that the council owns the South Fens Enterprise Park which extends to nearly five acres.

It is home to the South Fens Business Centre (SFBC) which opened in 2004 and provides 45 serviced offices, conference, and meetings rooms.

A second phase of the development was the completion of four light industrial units in October 2011, again funded by the same partners.

In April 2012 a third phase was completed, providing an additional four light industrial units which were funded by

The council pointed out that as part of their overall growth strategy for the site, the South Fens Enterprise Park also includes approximately 0.72 hectares (1.80 acres) of undeveloped employment land.

The new phase, now paused, would have utilised one acre.

“The South Fens Enterprise Park is managed by FDC and has proven to be a resounding success,” councillors were told.

“It has helped dozens of small businesses access high quality premises and created hundreds of jobs and supply chain opportunities.”

Fenland Council says that “due to significant cost increases, the scheme to extend South Fens Enterprise Park, Chatteris has been temporarily paused”.

Fenland Council says that “due to significant cost increases, the scheme to extend South Fens Enterprise Park, Chatteris has been temporarily paused”.

The report advised: “Delivery of speculative commercial development at this site and across Fenland as a whole is difficult; it is not financially viable for the private sector to develop speculative commercial space in Chatteris.

“This issue was acknowledged in the recent Cambridgeshire and Peterborough Independent Economic Review (CPIER) report which highlighted the market disparities across the Combined Authority area.

“As a result of this trend Fenland has suffered from a lack of supply of high-quality employment space which was and continues to hold back its economic growth.

“This is despite strong demand for the existing light industrial units which are rarely vacant, with almost no void periods.”

The report added; “The South Fens Enterprise Park is an exemplar for how public investment in commercial floor space can overcome market failure and provide much needed premises for new start-ups and small businesses.

Fenland Council says that “due to significant cost increases, the scheme to extend South Fens Enterprise Park, Chatteris has been temporarily paused”.

Fenland Council says that “due to significant cost increases, the scheme to extend South Fens Enterprise Park, Chatteris has been temporarily paused”.

“The light industrial units in particular have been a huge success averaging 100% occupancy over the last few years.”

Discussions on the (now returned) £1m to CAPCA began in July 2019 when the council was invited to express an interest in preparing a funding submission to the Business Board, part of the CAPCA, to secure funding from the Local Growth Fund.

Aside from a small number of units in Wisbech, FDC does not own any larger units in the rest of the district.

The report said that from initial engagement with local agents, there is demand for larger units locally.

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