Developer criticises 'enterprise' status for Edinburgh Science Triangle
Iain Mercer, group managing director of Cosmopolitan Investments and Almondale Investments, has criticised the decision to make the BioQuarter in Edinburgh and the BioCampus in neighbouring Midlothian part of the four new enterprise areas announced earlier this week by the Scottish Government.
Mr Mercer said: "While I am not against genuine efforts to boost industry and employment, the decision to include these two sites creates a distinctly unlevel playing field for other sites in the Edinburgh Science Triangle.
"By offering incentives such as reduced business rates, simplified planning and broadband assistance the Government is providing unfair competition to private developers who - without a penny in public money - are endeavouring to grow the Edinburgh Science Triangle (of which these two sites are part) and bring new jobs to the area."
Edinburgh-based Cosmopolitan Investments owns Discovery Terrace, a pavilion-style development of part office/part research space on the Heriot-Watt Research Park, also part of the Science Triangle. Since its completion, in 2005, Discovery Terrace has attracted several blue chip companies as tenants, including the Weir Group plc.
Mr Mercer continued: "We have built and let out two of the three pavilions originally envisaged but our effort to complete the development has been thwarted by the difficult borrowing situation affecting the entire property sector. Our task will not be made any easier if the government, through Scottish Enterprise, begins offering subsidised facilities in other parts of the Science Triangle."
Meanwhile, Mr Mercer said that Scottish Enterprise's involvement in the Science Triangle had been less than impressive up to now. "They built BioCampus (a 25,000 sq ft building) in a bespoke manner ten years ago but the company for whom it was designed never actually moved in and the agency has failed to find a replacement tenant since then. So for a decade the building has been sitting empty, at a significant loss to the taxpayer, without the creation of a single new job. I think awarding enterprise status here simply rewards failure."
Mr Mercer said that Discovery Terrace enjoyed a high level of occupancy rates and that one current tenant, Scottish Business in the Community, had just agreed a five-year renewal of its lease while similar discussion with another tenant had just got underway.
"Developments by ourselves and other private property companies in the Science Triangle are giving the market what it wants and hopefully we will be able to do even more once the general credit situation in this country eases. But our task will not be helped by artificial, highly subsidised and unnecessary competition from Scottish Enterprise."
Source: Ken Houston Media
Date: 20th January 2012
Scotland on Sunday, January 23rd 2012
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