Energy Park granted £17m opportunity

SONY DSC
SONY DSC

FIFE has welcomed Scottish Government approval of its first phase bid for a £17m boost at the region’s Energy Park.

The news, which came last week, could help deliver a major new era of investment and expansion at the renewables’ Energy Park, allowing the largest potential offshore wind projects to be attracted to Levenmouth – and possibly creating 1000 jobs with it.

The cash loan, which would be awarded through a Tax Increment Financing (TIF) scheme, is still subject to Government approval of detailed business plans that are due to be thrashed out in the coming months.

However, Councillor Tony Martin, Fife Council’s strategic chair for environment, enterprise and transportation, said: “This is a massive vote of confidence from Scottish Government in Fife’s work in the renewable energy sector.

“Our TIF proposal will, if the full business case is ultimately approved, deliver a £17m step-change investment in land and quayside infrastructure.

“The investment would help deliver up to 60 hectares of land as part of the Energy Park and allow us to turn Levenmouth into an industry “super-hub”.

“The proposal is that as new projects are attracted to Levenmouth, the council can use income generated from additional non-domestic rates to invest in expanding the various sites available within the Energy Park, and in improving transport links.”

“This industry is still in its infancy, and we cannot be complacent.

“But the Levenmouth area is well placed to be a leading player, as it is one of the key locations in the National Renewables Infrastructure Plan.”

“Invest in Fife has handled over 40 enquiries for the Energy Park over the past year, and it is anticipated that inward investors will start to make investment decisions over the next two years to allow production to commence from 2014 onwards.”

Regional authorities across Scotland submitted bids to the Scottish Futures Trust programme back in August.

The trust shortlisted three of them – including Fife’s – for reccomendation and referred the list to the Scottish Government for first-phase approval.

A decision was expected from Scottish Ministers in mid-September but, to the relief of Fife Council and Scottish Enterprise, it was finally made official late on Wednesday last week.

The Mail understands a meeting is expected to take place between Fife Council and the Scottish Futures Trust within the next few weeks.

The hard work will then begin to put together a detailed business plan capable of securing final approval for the project.

Unlike other funding, TIF cash is essentially a loan borrowed against predicted increases in non-domestic rates revenue.

The model is widely used in disadvantaged areas in America and, crucially, cash is only given to projects which can realistically be expected to make a return on the loan.

According to Fife’s original report proposal, Levenmouth fulfilled a “disadvantaged” criteria.

Over 30 per cent of children in the area are described as living in poverty (compared to 20.5 per cent across Fife) and over 40 per cent of the working population in the area have no qualifications.

Furthermore, Levenmouth is listed as being one of Scotland’s most deprived communities when measured by Scottish Indices of Multiple Deprivation.

As a result, industrial success at the Energy Park is seen as a key factor to turning the fortunes of the area around.

An injection of new companies and job creation is expected to bring retail, housing and leisure spin-offs.

The creation of jobs will provide local employment and training.