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Northumberland National Park Authority has welcomed Lord de Mauley, Minister for the Environment, to see for himself the progress the authority has made in gearing up for a sustainable future – both on the authority's estate and for the 405-square mile national park area in its charge.
John Riddle, chairman of the authority, said: "I hope the Minister was inspired by what the authority is achieving and our ambitious plans for the future. We wanted the Minister to see the positive work that the authority is undertaking to deliver on a range of the government's priorities, from helping to address the growth agenda, to building and delivering a shared vision with local people for the natural environment."
The Minister's first port of call was to Hexham Enterprise Hub@Eastburn, formerly the headquarters of the authority alone. The house and grounds have been transformed into a range of attractive serviced workspaces for rent to start-up, micro-and small-businesses.
The Hexham Enterprise hub not only supports the growth of local businesses but also contributes to the income of the authority. Uptake of the new business facilities has been rapid and all spaces in this first phase are are now taken.
Tenants of Hexham Enterprise Hub@Eastburn, a partnership between Northumberland Business Services, Northumberland College and the authority, have the benefit of high speed broadband, IT and top quality meeting and networking facilities. From desk rental, to self-contained work pods, to complete office suites in the main building, the concept is one of busy interaction and space to grow.
Tony Gates, chief executive of the authority, welcomed the Minister and explained the authority was committed to rural growth and had been a leading partner in the development of the pilot enterprise hub from the outset.
"Eastburn presented us with a great opportunity to make the best use of the authority's assets and help to deliver the vision of the Rural Growth Network," he said. "We have been extremely pleased with the level of interest, not just in the quality of the accommodation and services, and a pleasant working environment, but also in the fact that businesses see positive benefits in being associated with the authority as a trusted body that will deliver long-term growth in rural areas.
"Our challenge will now be to see if we can create the right environment to attract sustainable businesses into other parts of the national park."
Lord de Mauley cut the ribbon to launch one of the new work pods and spoke to the one of the first tenants, Ian Railton and Laura Woodward from Verandern, a new management consultancy developing capability in leadership, change and improvement across all sectors.
Verandern value being different and wanted this to be reflected in their choice of office.
Ian said "The pod at Eastburn is perfect for us. It has everything we need, is quirky and rests in a beautiful setting. We looked at many offices across the North East, but we knew the pod was right the moment we heard about it".
The Minister congratulated the business and wished them every success for the future. He said: "The rural economy is hugely important to this country, contributing more than £210 billion each year and supporting almost a third of all British businesses.
"Projects like the Hexham Enterprise Hub@Eastburn are vital to the UK's long-term economic plan, so it's great that the National Park Authority is working with Northumberland Business Services Limited and Northumberland College to support small businesses in the area."
Grant Davey, leader of Northumberland County Council, said: "With the development of more enterprise hubs in rural areas, now is a great time for small businesses in Northumberland, as there are lots of exciting opportunities available to them.
"The authority have brought forward a particularly innovative and high quality initiative for small businesses and the fact the first phase of development is already full speaks for itself. I am confident this new enterprise hub, with its flexible facilities and pleasant working environment, will be a great boost for the county."
Paul Woolston, chairman of the North East Local Enterprise Partnership, said: "The rural areas of the North East are critical to a balanced economy. We were delighted the North East LEP's bid for rural funding in the Local Growth Fund awards, was successful, bringing a further £6m to the region's rural areas.
"Through this funding, we are able to continue to support vital enterprise activity, as part of the LEP's Strategic Economic Plan. The rural growth network, managed by Northumberland County Council on behalf of the enterprise partnership, is already working closely with businesses to boost local aspirations and job creation through initiatives such as the enterprise hubs.
"We welcomed the visit of Lord de Mauley to the North East to see the enterprise hubs and the beauty of Northumberland National Park for himself."