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Wards in Sittingbourne and Sheppey nominated for assisted area status, subject to EU approval

By Lewis Dyson

Parts of Swale are set for a business boost after being nominated by the government to receive aid.

Five wards in Sittingbourne and three on Sheppey have been selected for assisted area status until 2020.

The decision is still subject to final approval from the European Commission. This is expected by July 1.

European Union flag
European Union flag

Under EU rules, areas which are economically disadvantaged in some way, yet are recognised as having potential for growth, can qualify.

If granted, it means businesses in those areas would be eligible to bid for additional funding and tax breaks to create jobs, help growth and invest in new premises and equipment.

It is also hoped firms would be more attracted to move to those locations because of the aid they could receive.

The selected wards are: Chalkwell, Iwade and Lower Halstow, Kemsley, Milton Regis, Murston, Queenborough and Halfway, Sheerness East and Sheerness West.

They were put forward, along with a number of wards from Chatham and Gillingham, in a joint bid by Swale and Medway councils.

MP Gordon Henderson has called the announcement “brilliant news”.

He said: “While it doesn’t actually give Sittingbourne and Sheppey any money as such, it does allow companies within our area, or who are considering moving to our area, to apply for government money, so that is a huge step forward.”

Assisted area status could attract more “knowledge-based” companies to the Kent Science Park and bring major investment into plans to expand the Eurolink industrial estate, he said.

On the Island, he said, once the current dispute over the Sheerness steel site is resolved, it could encourage a steel maker or another company looking for an alternative industrial use to apply for grants to move there.

He added: “This is actually given not for areas where there are large amounts of poor housing but actually where there is a good potential of increasing employment.

“It’s obvious the government has recognised that out of the whole of Kent, Sittingbourne and Sheppey and parts of Medway are actually better prepared to provide the opportunity to increase employment."

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