CHANCELLOR George Osborne confirmed Birchwood will be given 'enterprise zone' status in last Wednesday's Autumn Statement.

During the announcement Mr Osborne revealed 26 new enterprise zones will be created across the UK, including a new Cheshire science corridor.

The corridor will join together Cheshire and Warrington's nationally and internationally significant research facilities at Alderley Park and the nuclear cluster at Birchwood.

Earlier this year, led by Warrington & Co, the Cheshire and Warrington Local Enterprise Partnership (LEP) submitted an application to the Government for a new enterprise zone to be created around the corridor that included the nuclear cluster area in Birchwood.

Enterprise zones were established by the Government in 2012 with the aim of creating jobs, boosting businesses and encouraging business growth for both new and expanding companies, with the assistance of Government backing.

Prior to last week's announcement there were 24 across the country, with five of them located within the north west – there are now 44, with eight in the region.

The benefits to companies within a zone can include business rate discount for occupiers worth up to £275,000 over five years, the development of a simplified planning approach that can assist in the growth of new build and subsequent infrastructure, as well as more support for superfast broadband.

The retained business rates are also used by the LEP to then fund development required at such sites.

Warrington has a long established nuclear industry resulting from the UK Atomic Energy Authority and then BNFL being headquartered in the town, which has led Birchwood Park to be the location of an internationally significant nuclear cluster.

The National Nuclear Laboratory and Amec Foster Wheeler's Nuclear Analytical Services laboratory, Europe's largest commercial radiochemical analysis laboratory, are now based in Birchwood.

Birchwood's nuclear presence has led to a wide range of nuclear related companies establishing a presence in Warrington so as to be located at the centre of an important nuclear industry.

And the diversity of operations in the area has led to a deep and broad cluster around engineering, design, R&D, project management and project delivery.

Further benefits to Warrington's economy are also being achieved through local growth fund resources from the Cheshire and Warrington LEP, in terms of investment in Warrington's strategic road network.

This investment will enable the strategic transport network in and around Warrington to be substantially upgraded.

Key schemes include Warrington East phase 1, Birchwood pinch-point project M62 junction 8 and the Centre Park link.

The Government's road investment strategy also includes a commitment to invest £1.5 billion into the north west.

Schemes directly benefitting Warrington include upgrades to 'smart motorways' on a number of junctions, both on the M6 and M62, including improvements to junction 22 near Warrington that will improve access to nearby developments.

Eventually, all of the motorways around Warrington will be converted to smart motorways.

A number of future highway schemes are also in the pipeline including Waterfront east, Warrington North pinch-points and Omega access strategy, southern gateway development area and city centre vision access package.

This package of works will radically overhaul the functioning of the town centre highway system in readiness for rapid growth and transition to city status.

Council leader Terry O’Neill said: "The announcement to award Birchwood enterprise zone status is hugely significant and has the potential to bring huge commercial opportunity to the area based on the strength of its nuclear business."

Warrington & Co managing director Steve Park added: "The Cheshire science corridor is a strategic employment area that employs over 27,000 people, with 4,500 of them employed within the nuclear industry.

"This cluster of nuclear expertise - which is in short supply in other locations across the UK – not only makes the enterprise zone an ideal location for serving the UK's nuclear sector but also has the potential for attracting further commercial research collaborations and start-ups, making Birchwood the main nuclear hub of the UK."