MORE than 300 new jobs have been created in southern Oxfordshire by the creation of a government Enterprise Zone one year ago.

DHL Express, which opened on Monday, is the latest firm to move to Milton Park, one of two major employment sites in the Science Vale UK zone.

The firm has created 40 new jobs at its £2.5m parcels hub, the latest of 250 new posts created at the business park near Didcot during the past 12 months.

Milton Park and Harwell Oxford have bid for a total of £4m to improve road access and cut congestion at the two sites.

The Government announced southern Oxfordshire – including Milton Park, Harwell Oxford, Culham Science Centre and Grove Technology Park – as one of 10 new zones across the country on August 17 last year.

A total of 8,400 new jobs are expected by 2016.

Firms that have moved to Milton Park during the past year include DHL Express, logistics firm Panalpina and Yasa Motors.

DHL spokesman Laura Scott said: “The location is one of the key Enterprise Zones in the country so it is strategically important to the DHL Express business and we are delighted to invest in an area set to experience significant growth.”

Milton Park managing director James Dipple said 12 new hi-tech units now being built at the site would attract another 50 jobs.

He added: “During the past year, Milton Park has experienced significant growth and success.

“The zone gives us an extended platform to talk to companies around the globe who will be attracted by the overall package of benefits.”

There are about 6,500 people working in 180 businesses at Milton Park and Mr Dipple said last year that the number of businesses could grow by 50 per cent by 2016.

Mr Dipple added that there could be a £9m-a-year boost to the local economy once about 8,000 jobs have been created.

He added: “The speed of job creation will depend on the state of the economy – this flat economy can’t last forever and we are planning for jobs growth on the basis of an improving economy.”

Earlier this year it was announced that diamond firm Element Six, which makes synthetic diamonds for industrial use, has started work on a new £20m research and development centre at Harwell Oxford, bringing more than 50 jobs.

Oxfordshire Local Enterprise Partnership, which staged the bid to win Enterprise Zone status, has £8.4m from the Government’s Growing Places Fund to “unlock” infrastructure projects.

South Oxfordshire District Council leader Ann Ducker, a member of the LEP board, said: “There is no doubt that the Enterprise Zone is having a positive effect. Didcot is a growth area where thousands of new homes are being built at Great Western Park and with new houses we need new jobs.”

As a result of Enterprise Zone status, new businesses are expected to benefit from more than £1bn of business rate discounts over five years, simplified planning procedures, and access to superfast broadband.

Each firm in the zone will benefit from business rate discounts of about £50,000 a year.