New vision for future of East Midlands economy post Covid is revealed

Date posted: March 24, 2021
A birds eye view of houses and buildings at night

A new vision for the long-term future of the East Midlands economy is revealed today with images that show how landmark sites could together deliver tens of 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 that drive large-scale job creation and unlock a new era of ‘green’ growth for the regional economy.

The new images have been released as the region takes a decisive step towards setting up the organisation which will help drive the vision’s progress – and just two weeks after Chancellor Rishi Sunak backed the region’s bid to host a trade-boosting inland freeport.

The five councils covered by the three zones have come together to fund an interim body that 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 will 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 the region: 84,000 jobs, more than £4.8bn in added value and thousands of new homes.

The Business Case will be considered by Government, which revealed in the Budget that the East Midlands had been chosen as the site of one 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 organisations that works to promote investment and growth across the region.

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 on how the model can be extended further into the East Midlands are continuing.

Councillor Kay Cutts, Leader of Nottinghamshire County Council:

We are united in our support for the proposed East Midlands Development Corporation as this our opportunity to unlock growth and create tens of thousands of new jobs to benefit generations to come. We are asking the Government to invest in our communities as we have built a vision to attract inward investors from all over the world – for every £1 invested we will deliver £2 back.

Councillor Nick Rushton, leader of Leicestershire County Council, said:

These are bold plans designed to transform the East Midlands and unlock thousands of much-needed new jobs and investment. And 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 taken 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 potential to support the economic recovery and growth of the area. How we rebuild our local economy after the Covid-19 pandemic will be key to the long term prosperity of our district, and it’s great to see key partners working together on this ambitious, once-in-a-generation plan. North West Leicestershire is proud to be a green district with ambitious zero carbon targets and we’re pleased that ‘green growth’ is a key part of the development plan.

Leader of 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 created for local people and the benefits will be felt not just in Chilwell and Toton, but across 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.

Our plans are ambitious but are also firmly focused on balancing the needs of local people with protecting existing heritage and the natural environment for generations to come, with enhanced green spaces, new cycle and walking paths and improvements to places like Bennerley Viaduct.

Councillor Simon Robinson, Leader of Rushcliffe Borough Council, said:

This submission of the business case to Government is a huge step to securing a Development Corporation for the East Midlands. The project has the full support of the Borough Council alongside all other key local partners. The Development 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 committed to low carbon initiatives and are very pleased to see the very ambitious plans for the future of parts of the Ratcliffe on Soar site. We will continue to work with our partners to make these ambitions a reality.

While the new Development Corporation requires Westminster approval, it will be locally-led and also supported by cash from local Business Rates – giving the region’s businesses a stake in its progress.

The Business Case submission to government throws a spotlight on the key role prominent regional economic assets like East Midlands Airport will play in driving economic growth. It is 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 the regional economy. They are:

  • East Midlands Airport area: which supports the region’s status as a centre for advanced manufacturing & research, and 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 part of the site of the UK’s last coal-fired power stations 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 opportunity to work in partnership with businesses and public sector bodies to help shape a future vision for this region and deliver economic growth and prosperity for people who live, work and study in this region.

When the region does well, so too does the airport and vice versa. It’s therefore in all of our interests that the East Midlands prospers, and the airport, which is our doorway to the world, will continue to play a key role in this.

Elizabeth Fagan CBE, Chair of the D2N2 Local Enterprise Partnership, said:

The Freeport has been a fantastic win for the region and we are 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 of the Leicester and Leicestershire Enterprise Partnership board of directors, said:

This is an exciting time for the East Midlands. Our bid for a 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 set to attract even more investment, as we look to emulate transformational infrastructure projects in places like Manchester and East London. I am pleased that the LLEP is supporting this programme, which will see marked improvements to our already world-class transport infrastructure.

The goal of the EMDC is to ensure that the East Midlands is equipped to take full advantage of the boundless business opportunities of the future, and to make our region the place for long-term investment.

The East Midlands Chamber of Commerce represents 4,300 businesses across the region. Its 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 in both the recovery of the region in the wake of the pandemic and in unlocking the commercial opportunities presented by our digital and carbon zero future.

The 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 give us an additional opportunity to drive joined-up progress faster than ever before 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 its potential.

For the latest on our region, subscribe to Midlands Matters, the official newsletter of the Midlands Engine.

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