Land transfer approved for ‘innovative’ £100m-plus technology hub in Ashfield

Lowmoor Road in Kirkby-in-Ashfield, where the proposed hubs will be built
By Andrew Topping, Local Democracy Reporter

Two multi-million-pound projects to bring advanced skills and education opportunities to Ashfield have taken major steps forward.

Ashfield District Council has formally agreed a land purchase to progress the projects at land off Lowmoor Road, Kirkby-in-Ashfield.

They are an advanced distribution and manufacturing centre (ADMC) and the Ashfield Innovation and Technology Park (AITP).

Both projects promise significant investment into education and skills and to boost the regional economy.

Tens of millions of pounds have been pledged to both schemes and now the proposed location for the centres has been confirmed.

Cabinet members met on Monday (September 18) and approved the terms of the land purchase.

Papers did not confirm the specific location of the land but confirmed it is opposite Sutton Parkway railway station.

An alternative location for the sites had been investigated to the southeast of Oakham Business Park, on the Mansfield border near Amazon.

However, the authority says the Lowmoor Road site is preferred due to its “size, strategic location, transport links, proximity to Vision West Notts College and neighbouring industrial clusters”.

The land is owned by Nottinghamshire County Council, which has been in negotiations with the district council about its sale.

Terms have been agreed, though papers do not reveal the cost of this sale. This is instead published in a “commercially sensitive” exempt appendix.

However, papers do confirm the ADMC will act as the flagship project in the council’s Towns Fund deal.

About £20.5m will be used from the pot to deliver a £30m, “nationally and potentially internationally-recognised” innovation centre.

The 4,000-square-metre, purpose-built centre will focus on research and development, new product development and testing, education and skills development, technology showcasing and event hosting.

Construction on the ADMC is due to start in 2024.

It will sit as part of the AITP, which will become a “destination for high-tech industrial clusters in sectors such as aeronautics, robotics, biosciences, engineering and manufacturing”.

In a report, the authority says the wider site will become a “renowned destination for inward investment”.

And speaking in the cabinet meeting, Cllr Jason Zadrozny (Ash Ind), the authority’s leader, said the overall site will feature “cutting-edge” technology.

“This is a very, very innovative thing,” he said.

“We’ve been talking about the ADMC for a long time but this is regionally, if not nationally, important for our young people and employers.

“They will have access to advanced manufacturing opportunities, training and learning.

“It’s going to be cutting-edge technology allowing people to train and develop so we are reskilling or newly-skilling people.

“A huge amount of work has gone into this, the contract [with the county council] has been challenging but it’s positive we’re here.”

The authority adds the overall site will be a “£100m-plus development” and will attract investment to benefit all of Ashfield and further afield.

The ADMC has Towns Fund cash as well as backing from external sources while the AITP scheme will also involve about £13.2m in internal borrowing at the council.

Councillor Keith Girling (Con) is the county council’s cabinet member for economic development and asset management.

Speaking last week, he added: “This will help to bring high-skill job opportunities into areas where such opportunities have not always been available.

“As the cabinet member for economic development, I was in an ideal position to combine the economic benefit with the land we owned at Lowmoor Road.

“I’m delighted we have been able to come to a fair conclusion which is a win-win for both councils.

“I look forward to continuing to support the ADMC Board so we can maximise the full potential of the site.”

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