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North East LEP provides loan £7m Portobello Trade Park

The North East Local Enterprise Partnership has agreed funding to help build a new £7 million trade park near the A1(M) at Birtley, which is expected to create more than 200 jobs.

Portobello Trade Park will be the first new speculative light industrial space to be provided in Gateshead for more than five years. The park, on a 6.5 acre former Greenfield site in a prime location next to the motorway and highly visible from Washington Services, will provide 15 high quality light industrial units for SMEs.

Planning permission for the new development next to Portobello Industrial Estate has been granted by Gateshead Council. Work is scheduled to start in the last week of July and be completed by May next year. Once fully occupied, the park is expected to support around 244 jobs in units ranging from 195 sq m (2,100sq ft) to 2,137sq m (23,000sq ft), in an area that suffers from a lack of suitable light industrial space.

The enterprise partnership is providing a loan of £982,000 from the North East Investment Fund to developers Ravensworth Property Developments.

Durham-based Ravensworth has also received £2.85 million from the European Regional Development Fund, £1.2 million from the bank and will self-fund the remaining £1.5 million of the project.

Ravensworth’s development manager, Geoff Clark, said: “The bank financing position is still very tight for speculative schemes for SMEs and the LEP has established a fund to lend to companies which would previously have gone to the bank.

“The North East LEP is filling the gap between the bank and public sector funding, without which speculative schemes for SMEs would not get funded. Ours is perfect scheme for them – in and out, and the money repaid quickly.

“This is a good scheme in the right place and the enterprise partnership has been very supportive.”

Ravensworth already owned the land at the gateway to Gateshead and successfully applied for a change of use to allow it to be used for employment. It has already received more than 60 speculative enquiries from prospective tenants, ranging from electrical distribution firms to warehousing and self-storage businesses.

Mr Clark said: “This will be a very much in-demand location for businesses that need to be close to the motorway. It’s a highly-visible and very attractive site.”

The enterprise partnership agreed to part-fund the development after appointing an independent surveyor to appraise the plans and listening to a presentation by Mr Clark about the benefits of the project.

North East LEP chair, Paul Woolston, said: “We are delighted to have helped fund the Portobello Trade Park with a loan from the North East Investment Fund.

“Ravensworth has a strong track record in delivering projects and this scheme ticks many of the boxes in the LEP’s priorities and objectives, including developing skills and employment; supporting enterprise and private sector business growth; and strengthening transport, connectivity and infrastructure in the region.

“The prime location of the park next to the A1(M) is an ideal location for a new business park. It’s also a very visual reminder to thousands of daily commuters about the benefits of development through the North East Investment Fund and working with the LEP.”