Work has started this week on development of a new £10.3m Enterprise Zone on the site of the former Royal Ordnance Factory site outside Woolavington.

Sedgemoor District Council Leader Duncan McGinty led a ceremony to officially welcome the team behind the project to the district as work starts on the road that unlocks development of the 635-acre site.

Representatives from Gravity – the name for the Innovation Campus that will be built on the site – were joined by the owner, developer and operator Salamanca Group; Sedgemoor councillors and officers, members of the Heart of the South West LEP and several local partners and stakeholders, including representatives from neighbouring villages of Puriton and Woolavington for the ceremony to herald the beginning of work by Alun Griffiths on a new road linking the site to the A39.

Costing £10.3m, the road is part funded (£3.94m) by a grant from the Heart of the South West LEP’s Growth Fund Deal with the remainder contributed by Gravity.

It will enable on-site construction to start in Summer 2020 and create a 635 acre Innovation and Clean Growth Campus which is anticipated to generate 4,000 jobs.

A spokesperson said: “Gravity’s Enterprise Zone status means that businesses locating here will be eligible for various incentives including simplified planning and reduction in business rates for up to 5 years. All business rates generated from site will be retained locally to invest further in the area boosting local economy and prosperity.”

“With flexible and shared facilities, a low carbon infrastructure and excellent working environment, Gravity will continue to evolve and support local, regional and national industrial strategies.”

Cllr McGinty told Gravity and its guests that he was certain the site would attract international companies, further raising the profile of the District and helping transform it into a higher value economy and creating thousands of job opportunities.

He said: “We are especially delighted to see this important industrial site between the villages of Puriton and Woolavington being brought back into use and we will work closely with Gravity and those villages to support them as sustainable communities.”

Martin Bellamy, CEO of Gravity, added: “We’re delighted to commence groundwork on the access road as it marks a significant milestone on our journey to deliver the site. As a new business to the area, we are thrilled to have such positive support from the LEP and the Growth Deal fund contribution, as well as the dedicated support and enthusiasm from Sedgemoor District Council.”

Steve Hindley CBE DL, Chair of the Heart of the South West LEP, commented: “The LEP is delighted to support this project with investment from its Growth Deal with Government that partly funds 60 projects across Somerset, Devon, Plymouth and Torbay to generate jobs and growth in the economy.”

Minister for Local Growth, Jake Berry, commented: “We’re committed to boosting economic growth across the whole of the UK and building a Britain fit for the future. Improving transport links and infrastructure is key to unlocking local growth. This is why I am delighted that our £3.94 million Local Growth Fund investment towards the new link road will not only help to improve access to leisure facilities for the enjoyment of local residents, but generate thousands of jobs and provide an attractive place for new businesses to Bridgwater and the surrounding local area making it a centre for Clean Growth.”

These Enterprise Zones – with other sites at Exeter and East Devon and Oceansgate in Plymouth – enable the local areas to retain a greater share of business rates to re-invest and attract new jobs and growth.

The road construction will take 18 months to complete and will open the site for development.

The Heart of the South West LEP’s total Growth Deal is worth £598m; including £239m from Government and £351m match funding. Over the lifetime of the Growth Deal: 2015 – 2021; HotSW LEP estimates the investment will create up to 26,930 new jobs and 18,242 new homes.

Pictured: Groundbreaking Ceremony for Gravity’s new access road: (left to right) Paul Lowndes (Programme Director, Gravity), Eifion Jones (Head of Strategy & Operations, Heart of the South West LEP), Simon Dunn (Operations Director, Alun Griffiths), Peter Johnson, Martin Bellamy (Chairman, Gravity), Lord David Triesman (Director, Gravity), Duncan McGinty (Cllr, Leader of Sedgemoor District Council), Hugh Frost (Director, Gravity), Tom Curtis (Director, Gravity)