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Assisted Areas Map 2014-20

Volume 579: debated on Wednesday 30 April 2014

I am today publishing the Government’s response to the stage 2 consultation on the UK’s 2014-20 assisted areas map. This includes the final UK map notified to the European Commission. The new map will replace the current version which expires on 30 June 2014. Copies of the consultation response document and the map will be placed in the Libraries of both Houses.

A two-stage public consultation seeking views on the designation of assisted areas for 2014-20 took place from July 2013 to February 2014. Approximately 330 written responses were received from a wide range of organisations and individuals. The consultation included an interactive online draft map that allowed respondents to search easily for areas of interest, bringing greater clarity and transparency to the consultation process.

The Commission’s regional aid guidelines (RAG) define the parameters for assisted areas for 2014 to 2020. Under the guidelines the UK’s overall regional aid coverage may cover a maximum of 27.05% of the UK population, an increase on the 23.9% coverage in 2007-14.

Working within the guidelines, assisted areas coverage has been granted based on the potential to use regional aid to encourage economic growth through levering private sector investment, as well as the economic need of the locality. A strong principle underpinning the map is for coverage to focus on areas that are able to use the flexibility provided: many parts of the UK do not have the scale of industrial or development sites necessary to exploit assisted area status.

There was a high level of demand for assisted areas status, and given the limited population coverage available, we have targeted those areas that can benefit most. The UK’s industrial heartlands are central to the map, and a wide range of different sized manufacturers are included, from the high-tech sectors at the core of our industrial strategy to the more traditional industries that still provide vital employment to many communities. Support will also be available for additional disadvantaged coastal areas. Sites and businesses that can support growth in less advantaged localities have been included, as well as many that will make significant contributions to growth at a regional and national level.

Assisted area coverage permits the UK to provide additional financial support to firms in the designated areas. It does not itself bring specific funding. Other forms of financial support are available both inside and outside assisted areas, including aid for research and development, to improve access to venture capital and to support environmental projects.

The map has been sent to the Commission for approval, and its decision is expected by the end of May. The new map is expected to come into force from 1 July 2014.