A new vision for the long-term way forward for the East Midlands economy has been revealed with images which show how landmark sites could together deliver thousands of new jobs and drive a futuristic recovery from the pandemic.
They show how three massive zones – covering areas around East Midlands Airport, Toton Hub, and Ratcliffe-on-Soar Power Station – might be transformed by major development which would boost growth to levels which drive large-scale job creation and unlock a new era of ‘green’ growth for the regional economy.
The new images happen to be released as the region takes a decisive step towards establishing the organisation which will help drive the vision’s progress – and merely two weeks after Chancellor Rishi Sunak backed the region’s bid to host a trade-boosting inland freeport.
The five councils taught in three zones have come together to fund an interim body which will begin the work of the planned East Midlands Development Corporation before parliament formally approves what will be a pioneering new model for upping the pace of regional growth.
The interim body can help masterplan and enable development, working with businesses, investors and universities to help get projects off the ground.
It has just submitted a Business Case to government which outlines what investment in the sites could deliver for that region: 84,000 jobs, more than £4.8bn in added value, and a large number of new homes.
The Business Case will be considered by government, which revealed within the Budget that the East Midlands had been chosen as the site of 1 of eight new Freeports in England.
The Development Corporation is one of the key projects of the Midlands Engine, the partnership of private and public sector sector organisations which works to promote investment and growth across the region.
Midlands Engine chairman Sir John Peace has chaired the group which led development of the new body.
He said: “What we have in front of us is one of the biggest opportunities the united kingdom has ever seen to not just build on the potential of some major economic assets, but to transform the economy of an entire region along the way.
“The sites themselves are collectively the size of three London Olympic Parks and the vision for their growth is both ambitious and futuristic, embracing our net zero future and unlocking new opportunities including international trade to community-level growth.
“We should begin the work to unlock that potential now, and we start next month with the launch from the interim body.”
The five councils initially backing the interim vehicle are Leicestershire and Nottinghamshire County Councils, together with Rushcliffe and Broxtowe Borough Councils, and North West Leicestershire District Council. Talks how the model can be extended further into the East Midlands are continuing.
Councillor Kay Cutts, Leader of Nottinghamshire County Council, said: “We are united in our support for the proposed East Midlands Development Corporation because this our opportunity to unlock growth and make tens of thousands of new jobs to profit generations to come.
“We are asking the federal government to invest in our communities once we have built a vision to draw in inward investors from all over the world – for every £1 invested we'll deliver £2 back.”
Councillor Nick Rushton, leader of Leicestershire County Council, said: “These are bold plans designed to transform the East Midlands and unlock a large number of much-needed new jobs and investment. By advancing our green technology sector, they create a good opportunity to put our region firmly on the map.
“Like other areas, our economy has had a big hit during the pandemic and I’m keen we seize every opportunity to bolster covid recovery and support our businesses to bounce back quickly.”
Councillor Richard Blunt, Leader of North West Leicestershire District Council, said: “This is a real opportunity for North West Leicestershire and the wider region and it offers huge possibility to support the economic recovery and growth of the area.
“How we rebuild our local economy following the Covid-19 pandemic will be key to the long run to prosperity of our district, and it’s great to determine key partners working together on this ambitious, once-in-a-generation plan.
“North West Leicestershire is proud to become a green district with ambitious zero carbon targets and we’re pleased that ‘green growth’ is a key part of the development plan.”
Leader from the Broxtowe Borough Council, Councillor Milan Radulovic MBE, said: “This is an incredibly exciting project that will shape the future of our Borough. Thousands of jobs and homes will be made for local people and the benefits is going to be felt not just in Chilwell and Toton, but over the whole Borough.
“This project, together with Stapleford Town Deal and our plans to pursue funding for Eastwood and Kimberley as part of the Government’s Levelling Up Fund, will help drive sustainable investment in the local area.”
Councillor Simon Robinson, Leader of Rushcliffe Borough Council, said: “This submission of the business case to Government is a big step to securing a Development Corporation for that East Midlands. The project has the full support from the Borough Council alongside all other key local partners.
“The expansion Corporation provides an exciting opportunity for Rushcliffe and the wider East Midlands to attract significant investment, improved infrastructure and high skilled jobs for our communities.
“We’re dedicated to low carbon initiatives and are very pleased to see the very ambitious plans for future years of parts of the Ratcliffe on Soar site. We'll continue to work with our partners to make these ambitions a reality.”
While the new Development Corporation requires Westminster approval, it will likely be locally-led and also supported by cash from local Business Rates.
The Business Case submission to government throws a spotlight around the key role prominent regional economic assets like East Midlands Airport will play in driving economic growth. It's home to the UK’s largest dedicated air freight handling operation.
By attracting ambitious, private-sector investment, the three sites will have the capacity to shift the dial of productivity for that regional economy. They are:
· East Midlands Airport area: which assists the region’s status as a centre for advanced manufacturing & research, and it is a national and international logistics gateway which will be at the heart of the new Freeport zone
· Ratcliffe-on-Soar Power Station site: transforming area of the site of the UK’s last coal-fired power stations right into a national centre for carbon zero technologies and manufacturing innovations, which is also in the Freeport zone
· Toton & Chetwynd: creating a new, connected community which will centre on a Garden of Innovation and the proposed HS2 Hub Station.
Clare James, East Midlands Airport’s Managing Director, said: “I welcome the chance to work in partnership with businesses and public sector bodies to assist shape a future vision for this region and deliver economic growth and prosperity for those who live, work and study in this region.
“When the region does well, so too does the airport and the other way around. It’s therefore in all of our interests that the East Midlands prospers, and the airport, that is our doorway to the world, continues to play a key role within this.”
Elizabeth Fagan CBE, Chair of the D2N2 Local Enterprise Partnership, said: “The Freeport has been a fantastic win for the region and we're now working with partners to deliver it at pace.
“The proposed East Midlands Development Corporation will provide significant investments to accelerate and sustain our region’s economic recovery and growth.”
Kevin Harris, Chair from the Leicester and Leicestershire Enterprise Partnership board of directors, said: “This is an exciting time for the East Midlands. Our bid for any freeport for our region has been accepted, meaning we will play host to the UK’s only inland freeport.
“This latest initiative will build on this: the East Midlands Development Corporation is placed to attract even more investment, once we look to emulate transformational infrastructure projects in places like Manchester and East London. I am pleased that the LLEP is supporting this programme, that will see marked improvements to the already world-class transport infrastructure.
“The goal of the EMDC is to ensure that the East Midlands is provided to take full advantage of the boundless business opportunities of the future, and to make our region the place for long-term investment.”
East Midlands Chamber of Commerce Chief Executive, Scott Knowles, said: “The East Midlands economy now has in front of it a series of major opportunities which must play a decisive role both in the recovery of the region within the wake of the pandemic and in unlocking the commercial opportunities presented by our digital and carbon zero future.
“Government’s decision to award a freeport to the East Midlands is a huge vote of confidence in our prospects. The Development Corporation and the partnership behind it provide us with an additional opportunity to drive joined-up progress faster than in the past and to turn the region into the UK’s investment destination of choice.
“It’s vital that the whole region now gets behind these opportunities and makes the most of their potential.”