THE door to millions of pounds in extra funding for the Isle of Wight has been opened today (Friday), after it was confirmed the European Commission had approved Assisted Area Status for 28 electoral wards.
It marked the end of a 15 year battle to return the funding designation, after it was taken away from the Island in 1999.
The status will allow businesses across the Island to benefit from additional funding and tax breaks from July this year, for the next seven years.
MP Andrew Turner said: "It is a tribute to the Isle of Wight pulling together and I would like to pay particular tribute to Cllr Ian Stephens the leader of the Isle of Wight Council for all the hours he has put in and to Cllr Harry Rees, who represented the Isle of Wight Association of Local Councils during the negotiations."
The designation came following last month’s confirmation by the UK government that it had approved the Isle of Wight’s bid for AAS.
Liberal Democrat MEP Catherine Bearder, who was involved in discussions about the bid with Secretary of State Vince Cable, said: "There is no doubt assisted area status will provide much help and investment, stimulate growth and create hundreds of jobs."
Steve Butler, of the Isle of Wight Trades Union Council — which has long campaigned for AAS — said businesses now needed to make the most of the opportunity and develop proposals to secure investment.