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Hethel centre launches expansion plans

PUBLISHED: 11:45 16 October 2009 | UPDATED: 15:10 14 July 2010

South Norfolk's advanced engineering sector has received a fresh fuel injection after an enterprise hub for start-up businesses submitted expansion plans.

SOUTH Norfolk's advanced engineering sector has received a fresh fuel injection after an enterprise hub for start-up businesses submitted expansion plans.

The £4.5m Hethel Engineering Centre was opened three years ago to help small automotive and high-tech companies get off the ground.

Officials from Norfolk County Council, which owns the centre near the Lotus Cars headquarters, have now submitted a planning application to extend the site as a result of increased demand.

Despite the recession, the building that promotes engineering excellence and training is full to capacity and wants to create 11 new 'incubator' units for start-up companies at its site in Chapman Way.

It comes after Hethel Engineering Centre has so far helped develop 27 businesses, creating more than 100 highly skilled jobs, and seen 5,000 trainees through its doors since its inception in 2006.

The £2m expansion of the enterprise hub would see the creation of 1,500sqm of new workshops, offices, and conference facilities on land to the west of the building.

Simon Coward, centre director, said the scheme was vital to help the centre become self-sufficient and work could start in the New Year, if planning permission and funding is secured.

“It is for start-up businesses primarily, but there have been some young businesses that have set up in garden sheds and need to move on somewhere bigger like Hethel before they move on to their own premises.”

“The expansion is critical to us and despite the recession we are full and the demand is there to grow. Out of the 27 businesses, only two have not succeeded in going on to better things and it is a very high success rate. It shows that if you get in here it increases your chances of succeeding,” he said.

Mr Coward added that the design of the extension was “in keeping” with the existing building, which currently has 14 offices and 14 workshops, and there were already six prospective tenants on the waiting list.

Brian Iles, cabinet member for economic development at Norfolk County Council, said: “Hethel Engineering Centre has become a real Norfolk success story and has been a driving force in making the county's engineering sector world class.”

“The centre was constructed in a way that would easily facilitate expansion, and growth of the centre was always envisaged if the centre met or exceeded expectations. We're delighted to be in a position to do this.”

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