Launched in 2015 following a successful bid from Stoke-on-Trent City Council, the Ceramic Valley Enterprise Zone (CVEZ) aims to drive economic growth and the area’s reputation as a major centre of manufacturing ‘know-how’.
Spanning 140 hectares of land along the A500, it is made up of six sites: Chatterley Valley East, Chatterley Valley West, Cliffe Vale, Highgate/Ravensdale, St Modwen Park Stoke Central and Tunstall Arrow – and today, it is one of the most successful enterprise zones in the UK.
The scheme – which is marking its fifth anniversary this year – has seen 2.3 million square feet of land developed – or in the pipeline to be developed – into new industrial uses, with a further 270,000 sq ft awaiting planning approval.
It has also improved the local economy by £18.55m in GVA (the measure of the value of goods and services produced in the area.)
But most impressively, the enterprise zone and the benefits it brings with it has led to 22 businesses being established across the sites which together employ more than 1,000 people.
Notable successes include Tile Mountain and JCH Marine which have set-up at the Highgate/Ravensdale site and Q-Railing and SG Fleet which chose to relocate and ‘scale-up’ at new premises on Tunstall Arrow.
Stoke-on-Trent City Council leader Abi Brown said: “We knew when we started out that it wouldn’t just be businesses who were coming solely to Stoke-on-Trent, there would be some that were relocating onto here, but I think what we have seen as a result of that is that there was a real shortage of ‘moving on’ space in the city.
“For example, Tile Mountain, moved from a premises in the city centre to a bespoke premise with a distribution centre which meant that their entire business could grow and they could have a showroom too.
“Of course, in doing that, they freed up another location somewhere else for somebody else to go to start off with and that really, for me, is one of the things that we’ve seen quite a lot of through the enterprise zone.”
“Q-Railing is one I would highlight.” Councillor Brown continued, “They were the first unit that was secured for the first phase of Tunstall Arrow, which within itself was quite a tricky site.
“At the time they were coming from multiple sites onto the same one and I know from engaging with the company that it has been much more than just taking a couple of sites onto one; they’ve been able to develop a bespoke facility there and they’ve taken on other roles on the back of what was actually a ‘coming together’ for their company.
“Now they are the European headquarters for what is a multinational business, which is really exciting.”
Wall and floor tile supplier Tile Mountain opened its £10 million headquarters at the Highgate/Ravensdale site, in Tunstall, in April 2017.
The online retailer relocated from a small unit in Clough Street, Hanley, to the purpose-built, 120,000 sq ft warehouse which was constructed on the former Johnson Tiles site, in Connaught Street.
Retail chain Toolstation opened its second Stoke-on-Trent branch in 2018, when it became the first business to move onto Tunstall Trade Park at Highgate/Ravensdale.
The tool supplier initially created seven jobs with the opening of the new unit which serves as a showroom and distribution centre for the company’s online business.
Railing and balustrade contractor Q-Railing moved into a brand new 43,500 sq ft building on Tunstall Arrow at the end of 2018, to allow the company to take on more work and create new jobs.
The company’s 30-strong team was previously spread across three units in Lowfield Drive, in Wolstanton.
Australian-owned fleet company SG Fleet Group opened its new, multi-million pound headquarters at Tunstall Arrow last year as part of plans to grow its UK business.
It relocated to a 20,452 square-foot unit on the development, in Sandyford, from a small base in Longton.
The move to a bigger site has allowed the firm to expand and better establish a consumer sales division.
Offshore supplies specialist JCH Marine moved into a huge new warehouse at the Highgate/Ravensdale site in Tunstall earlier this year.
The company relocated from its former premises at Victoria Business Park in Knypersley the newly-built unit on Brownhills Road, which is double the size.
The new headquarters boast more office and storage space and is large enough to accommodate the company’s plans to recruit up to nine new staff over the next five years.
A technology repair and insurance business is preparing to move into a huge new premises in the Ceramic Valley Enterprise Zone as part of its plans to expand.
Assurant has signed a lease on a 30,000 sq ft unit on Tunstall Trade Park and is planning to move into the new building next year.
The warehouse will serve as the company’s new device care centre (DCC) which is currently based at Holditch House in Chesterton.
Councillor Brown added: “The impact has not just been on businesses and the economy, it’s also been on the local communities. Clearly we’re in a very challenging time at the moment with Covid-19, but having Tunstall Arrow to the north and Highgate/Ravensdale to the south of Tunstall is possibly a really big lever to help improve the town.
“I know both of the developers are very open-minded in terms of getting involved with the local community; and occupiers have actually said to me that they moved here because they want their workers to be able to go to the town. So it’s so much more than just putting up buildings for people to go and work in, it’s about ‘place-making.’
“In 2015, we were told it would take us 25 years – and a good five to 10 years before we even got anywhere with some of the sites – so to now look back and see that we’ve got development on three sites and planning and plans on the remaining ones as well is just phenomenal.”
The Ceramic Valley Enterprise Zone has brought a range of partners together including Stoke-on-Trent City Council, Newcastle-under-Lyme Borough Council, Staffordshire County Council, Stoke-on-Trent and Staffordshire Local Enterprise Partnership.
LEP chairman Alun Rogers said: “There has been lots of challenges for all of the teams across the partnership but they have worked through those valiantly and we are here and it’s happening.
“A project like this is a really big project, and the amount of people that are involved, bringing them altogether and all working positively, has been really nice to see and a good thing to be a part of.
“Five years sounds like a long time, but in the scale of these things it’s actually very quick, and what’s been achieved in such a short space of time is really good.”
He added: “In a post-Covid world, the LEP’s strategy is based around high-value jobs, so now it’s about focusing on the areas of the economy which are growing and then bringing those businesses here and supporting them with the right conditions they need to grow and invest here.
“We’re getting lots of interest from people who want to take advantage of the location and we’re also making lots of investments to make sure we have the right skills to underpin the growth we want in wages and salaries for people.”
Staffordshire County Council’s deputy leader and cabinet member for economy and skills, Philip White, said: “In just five years the CVEZ has made its mark and is testament to the strong collaborative working by our three councils, the LEP and the landowners and developers. We will continue with our efforts in attracting future investment to the site.”
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Newcastle-under-Lyme Borough Council leader Simon Tagg added: “The zone provides us with a fantastic opportunity to bring new investment into the area and accelerate the pace of development along the A500 corridor. We’ve worked together to make this happen and can already see progress on the ground, bringing hundreds of new jobs into the area.
“Our own site at Chatterley Valley West – where we hope to attract more than 2,000 new jobs – is a key part of the zone; work is scheduled to start next year on installing the infrastructure needed to accommodate more than a million square feet of industrial development.”