NETPark earmarked for expansion with £50m of investment

The North East’s premier science and technology park looks set to expand, with councillors being asked to support a near £50m investment in its growth.

NETPark at Sedgefield will be extended with a new third phase, should Durham County Council’s Cabinet agree to £49.6m being used to finance the development.

The new phase would generate up to 1,250 skilled jobs, helping the council deliver its ambition to create more and better jobs for residents, and be worth up to £625m to the County Durham economy.

NETPark (The North East Technology Park) was developed by the council and is managed by its business support service Business Durham. It is the region’s only science park and is occupied by significant private sector employers.

At present the park is home to 40 companies including Kromek, Filtronic, IBEX Innovations and PolyPhotonix. It also employs over 600 people in specialist sectors.

At a meeting next week, Cabinet will hear that 26 hectares of land has been set aside for a Phase 3 of NETPark, including 13 hectares of serviced land. A report to councillors sets out how a £5.1 million Local Growth Fund grant from the North East Local Enterprise Partnership (LEP) has allowed the necessary infrastructure to be put in place to open up the land for development.

The meeting on Wednesday 15 September will be told of a scheme to develop up to 270,000 square feet of new laboratory, office, production and storage space, based on demand from existing NETPark tenants and potential further inward investment.

A report to Cabinet sets out that the third phase of NETPark would provide a broad range of job opportunities including scientists, technicians, administration, accounting, marketing, IT and logistics.

Councillors will hear that a two-year building programme is envisaged at a cost of £49.6m, subject to Cabinet approval.

The meeting will also be told that the cost of the investment would be covered by income generated from rent paid by tenants of the park over a 35-year period.

Procurement work will be undertaken this month with a view to identifying a suitable construction partner.

Cllr James Rowlandson, the council’s Cabinet member for resources, investments and assets, said: “As the region’s premier science and technology park, NETPark has been and remains a genuine success story.

“It is home to some really innovative companies doing truly ground-breaking work and has certainly played its part in cementing County Durham’s reputation as a great place to do business.

“It is really exciting to be contemplating a third phase of NETPark and the prospect of the further 1,250 skilled jobs worth £625m to our economy is tangible evidence of us delivering on our ambition to create more and better jobs for our residents.”

The potential investment in a third phase of NETPark has been welcomed by both Durham University and the North East LEP.

Dr Tim Hammond, Durham University’s Director of Commercialisation and Economic Development, said: “NETPark is a hugely important innovation asset for the North East. The proposed expansion will provide further accommodation to our growing number of spinouts, provide employment for our graduates and open further opportunities for innovative, high growth NETPark based businesses to collaborate and engage with the University through our Orbit University Enterprise Zone which has recently opened on site.”

Andrew Moffat CBE, Chair of the North East LEP Investment Board, said: “NETPark’s reputation as one of the UK’s leading science, engineering and technology parks has helped attract some of the world’s most innovative companies to County Durham and the North East.

“The infrastructure works funded through the Local Growth Fund mean this landmark site can now expand, creating more opportunities for businesses to invest in the North East, and ensuring the region’s thriving health and life sciences sector can continue to grow.

“The ongoing success of NETPark will bring more jobs to our region, increase research and development and innovation in our universities and businesses, and ensure the North East has a major role to play in driving forward government’s Life Sciences Vision and Innovation Strategy.”

Cabinet will meet at 9.30am in the Council Chamber at County Hall. The meeting will be broadcast live online at https://www.youtube.com/user/DurhamCouncil

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