Ambitious plans to realise the future potential of the East Midlands economy was the the focus of an investment summit in Leicester.
The East Midlands Infrastructure Summit was held on 8 February, where local MPs, council and business leaders were made aware of plans to launch a Development Corporation. The Corporation’s goal is to maximise the potential of the land around the site of the proposed HS2 station at Toton and East Midlands Airport. Its focus also includes the Ratcliffe-on-Soar power station site, which is expected to close by 1st October 2025, in line with the Government’s coal phase-out policy.
These sites have been identified as the region’s most strategically important, around which a new dynamic economy can be built. By harnessing the combined potential of high-speed rail, energy supply, and international air travel, the foundations are already in place to create a masterplan for a future economy which would transform the East Midlands into one of the UK’s most desirable regions in which to live and work.
A new East Midlands Development Corporation (dev-corp), is currently being assembled following the allocation of £2m funding for the East Midlands, announced by Chancellor Philip Hammond last autumn. The ‘dev-corp’ model was instrumental in transforming the London docklands area into the global financial hub that is now Canary Wharf. Led by Midlands Engine Chair, Sir John Peace, it is hoped that the East Midlands ‘dev-corp’ will deliver on an equally ambitious scale.
Compared with neighbouring West Midlands and other regions of the country, the East Midlands has traditionally had comparatively lower levels of funding from central government for infrastructure investment. A new ‘dev-corp’ is seen as a way of addressing this imbalance and help focus attention on an area of the country which has so much potential.
As part of his keynote address to the East Midlands Infrastructure summit, Sir John Peace outlined his vision for the ‘dev-corp’ and the role he expects it to play in transforming the region’s economy.
Sir John said:
In the coming years we have an unprecedented opportunity to make the East Midlands one of the UK’s most desirable regions in which to live, work and invest. The opportunity that the development of land around Toton and the power station cannot be overstated. They have the potential to put the Midlands on the world stage and offer a substantial return to the UK economy. The Development Corporation will help ensure that this potential becomes a reality and helps power the whole of the Midlands economy.
The East Midlands ‘dev-corp’ has been championed by Newark MP and Exchequer Secretary to the Treasury, Robert Jenrick MP. In the coming weeks a business case will be considered by his department which will then release a start-up fund of £2m to pay for the initial scoping, visioning and analysis work to begin. He said:
As an East Midlands MP I want to see the region thrive not least so that the people in my constituency have access to better jobs and improved transport infrastructure. I’m backing the Development Corporation concept because it is a tried and tested mechanism which could very rapidly help usher in a new dawn for the East Midlands economy, by building on the strength of the region’s existing assets to realise a more ambitious and prosperous future for this part of the UK. Our plan for Toton has the full support of the Treasury.
In the same week Transport Minister Nusrat Ghani MP visited the region to find out more about HS2 and how it will benefit the East Midlands region and what plans are in place to make best use of the proposed HS2 station at Toton.
An East Midlands Dev-Corp also has the backing of business in the region. Scott Knowles, Chief Executive of East Midlands Chamber (Derbyshire, Nottinghamshire, Leicestershire), which represents over 4200 members in the East Midlands, said:
The East Midlands is already one of the most exciting places to live and work in the UK, with an abundance of important economic assets, including sites around the airport, the Power Station our Universities and of course the HS2 Hub station to be developed at Toton.
It is essential that we have a suitable vehicle that allows us to get the right infrastructure in place to join up and maximise these opportunities, further enhancing the competitiveness of the fantastic businesses we have locally and attracting new incomers to the East Midlands. The Dev-Corp plans being developed could provide us with that vehicle, moving the region as a whole into the fast-lane when it comes to creating the economy of the future for the UK.