A £1.3 MILLION business centre could be created in Harwich as part of a major regeneration project.

Moves are under way to launch a new centre on Harwich Quay to serve the offshore energy industry, as well as maritime, ports, logistics and engineering sectors.

Tendring Council, which is leading the project, said it had already consulted businesses and 26 firms had expressed a firm interest in securing space at the centre.

The 26 businesses alone would help to create at least 87 jobs in the town – and another 35 businesses said they were keen to use meeting rooms and support services.

Giles Watling, council cabinet member for regeneration, said: “This is a great opportunity for Harwich and Tendring.

“From a regeneration point of view, this is one of the most exciting projects for the council that we have had in Harwich for a long time – and it will lead to real jobs.

“Harwich has been an ignored corner of the district for too long and this is much-needed investment. This is a big, banner project for Harwich.”

He said the district council had been working with Essex County Council on the scheme and had identified Mermaid House as a potential location.

It is expected the renovation of the vacant building, which is owned by Trinity House, to include private office space, meeting rooms, networking areas, a reception, kitchen and toilets, will cost in the region of £1.3 million. It is believed the site could bring in about £180,000 a year in rent.

Mr Watling said the council has already earmarked £500,000 for property-related projects and if the new centre went ahead, that money could be used.

The county council has provisionally allocated £350,000 towards the capital costs of the initiative –and bids will be made for further funding.

“A lot of work has gone into establishing the need and demand for an incubation centre which would focus on the growth in the maritime, ports and logistics, offshore renewables and engineering sectors,” he said.

“Major investment is planned in the East of England in offshore wind, oil and gas, as well as decommission- ing redundant rigs and platforms.

“What we need to make sure is that we in Tendring are ready to make the very most of the economic and em- ployment growth opportunities that will arise.

“It is up to us to have the necessary infrastructure in place to attract and support these industries – along with their associated supply chain.”

Mr Watling said Harwich needs to be prepared so the investment does not end up elsewhere along the East Coast.

Tendring Council’s cabinet will today decide on whether to commit £40,000 to undertake the necessary technical work to progress with the scheme.