Rate relief plan aims to revive Brierley Hill's Waterfront complex

Stourbridge News: L-r Waterfront property owner Stephen Fitzgerald and Cllr Pete Lowe discuss the new Dudley Business Investment Zone. Buy photo: 061427M. L-r Waterfront property owner Stephen Fitzgerald and Cllr Pete Lowe discuss the new Dudley Business Investment Zone. Buy photo: 061427M.

BOROUGH business bosses hope to breathe new life into Brierley Hill's half-empty Waterfront complex by offering a two-year rate relief scheme to new tenants.

Property owners and Dudley Council have teamed up to create the Dudley Business Investment Zone scheme to entice new occupants to take on vacant units at the canal-side complex which once bustled with office workers and bar-goers.

The cost of the business rate incentive would be shared equally by the council and the landlords of the empty units - many of which are owned by Westfield and the Richardsons.

Councillor Pete Lowe, deputy leader of Dudley Council and the authority's cabinet member for finance, said: "We have been working closely with property owners at the Waterfront, who are on board and committed to sharing 50 per cent of the cost of business rates to make this scheme a success."

He said if the scheme is approved at next week's cabinet meeting, on February 12, up to 1,600 extra jobs could be created at the complex which comprises 750,000 square feet of office accommodation - 300,000 of which is currently vacant.

Among the empty properties at the sprawling site is the flagship 100,000 square feet Point North building previously occupied by banking firm Egg.

Landlord Stephen Fitzgerald is among those supporting the idea, which he dubbed a "really good initiative" and one he hopes will encourage firms to take on the empty 4,000 former Co-operative unit before he becomes liable for business rates himself when the current lease agreement expires in 2016.

Phil Coyne, Dudley's assistant director for economic regeneration and transportation, said the Investment Zone scheme could also help to pave the way for discussions about developing a further one million square feet of space available in the vicinity.

He said the existing large carpark which towers over the Waterfront could be decked to provide extra development space in the future - and eventually see the complex providing jobs for up to 10,000 people.

In the meantime, as long as the scheme is approved by cabinet members, new tenants moving into the complex over the next five years, from April 1, will be able to take advantage of the new rate relief scheme - subject to State Aid limits.

Existing Waterfront businesses looking to expand operations may also be eligible for the discount but only on any extra floor space taken up.

Businesses can find out more by calling 01384 812001 or by visiting website www.dudleybusinessfirst.org

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