The East Midlands is preparing to fight back against the economic impact of the coronavirus pandemic with a £235 million investment vision for the region’s future.
Plans unveiled for the first time today reveal the proposed developments of key sites, which would be big enough to cover the size of three Olympic parks, and could create in the region of 84,000 jobs.
And ensuring the vision becomes a reality in the post-Brexit trade world will be the task of a newly-created East Midlands Development Corporation, backed by the Midlands Engine partnership.
This will drive forward the plans for the large-scale development sites and link them to local communities through better transport connections.
Councils, businesses, local enterprise partnerships and universities across the region will come together to develop the long-term plans, which it is anticipated will add around £4.8 billion to the economy of the East Midlands a year.
The proposal for the development corporation has been brought forward by a partnership of local authorities in Derbyshire, Nottinghamshire, Leicestershire and Lincolnshire, the cities of Derby, Nottingham and Leicester and supported by businesses, universities, Midlands Connect and local enterprise partnerships.
They are already working with the Ministry of Housing, Communities and Local Government, Department for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy and the Government’s treasury and cabinet offices.
A key factor in the plan is East Midlands Airport, which is set to build on its status as the UK’s biggest airfreight gateway to drive international trade to the region.
And the vision is already being hailed as having “huge, long-term potential in these proposals” for the region’s economy by regional leaders.
Midlands Engine chairman Sir John Peace, who has steered the oversight board behind the proposals, said: “Both Covid-19 and the Brexit transition pose significant challenges for our economy. It’s therefore critical that we have ambitious plans for the future – and that we’re ready to move fast.
“What we’re proposing is nothing short of a transformation. It has inclusive growth at its heart, and will deliver a level of social mobility which brings new community prosperity.
“Our economy is at an historic turning point. We must grasp industrial and environmental change, look beyond the impact of the pandemic, and drive new opportunities as the UK builds new trading relationships with the world.”
Sir John explained that the new East Midlands Development Corporation had been designed to achieve rapid progress and was working with Midlands Engine to secure an initial £235 million from the Government, to enable it to finalise proposals for three developments. These are:
Toton and Chetwynd
The vision proposes using the planned HS2 hub station at Toton as a super-connected centrepiece of a garden of innovation, featuring a new community and innovation district, with homes, jobs and National Skills Academy for the 21st century. This new community will stretch from Toton station to MoD Chetwynd Barracks, which is due to close. The hub will also unlocks vital new transport capacity created by HS2, which will drive better connections across the region.
The vision aims to transform one of the UK’s last coal-fired power stations into a technology, advanced manufacturing and energy hub starting with ZERO, a global research centre combining the expertise of the region’s universities to develop real-world zero emissions technologies, which will open up new markets and help the UK hit climate change targets.
East Midlands Airport
The vision sees the airport – already the UK’s largest airfreight hub – as the centrepiece of an inland freeport, which will provide regional businesses with a lower-cost gateway to international trade post-Brexit.
Freeports are a special kind of port where normal tax and customs rules do not apply. These can be at airports as well as maritime ports. At a freeport, imports can enter with simplified customs documentation and without paying tariffs.
Businesses operating inside designated areas in and around the port can manufacture goods using the imports and add value, before exporting again without ever facing the full tariffs or procedures. Freeports are designed to specifically encourage businesses that import, process and then re-export goods.
The development corporation will work alongside councils to make sure the major sites – which cross local authority boundaries – are developed in a way which enables them to exploit their full potential.
Its work will be part of a much wider Midlands Engine vision for the whole of the Midlands region which centres on investing in transport and digital infrastructure, helping firms grow through skills and finance, and driving a green recovery.
Sir John said: “We have identified a series of major opportunities which will enable us to not only confront those challenges, but turn them into jobs and prosperity for people in communities, towns and cities.
“To make the most of this massive potential, we are working together in a regional partnership to build a new organisation which will have the drive and purpose to achieve rapid progress.
“The Covid-19 pandemic offers a rare opportunity for the UK to reassess its needs, to build back stronger, better and greener.
“And as a region where the adverse social and economic impacts will be felt deepest, it is clear to me that we must seize this moment to do so, and crystallise – and fully deliver on – levelling up our region.”
Businesses across the East Midlands have also thrown their weight behind the proposals. Scott Knowles, chief executive of the East Midlands Chamber of Commerce, said: “This is the right time to launch a united vision for the future of the region.
“Businesses and investors are looking for clear, long-term plans so that they have the confidence to exploit new opportunities.
“We can see huge, long-term potential in these proposals. The better connectivity unlocked by HS2 and the proposals for airport expansion can be combined with the redevelopment of Ratcliffe to achieve a long-term impact which really shifts the dial of regional economic performance.
“It is vital now that the Government backs these proposals to the hilt. We want to turn challenge into opportunity and the East Midlands Development Corporation is the right vehicle for us to do that.”
Find out more about the vision with our at-a-glance Q & A
Q: What is the proposed East Midlands Development Corporation?
A: It is a new type of locally-led urban development corporation designed to provide the capacity to fully exploit large-scale economic development opportunities whose scale goes beyond local authority boundaries. Setting up this new statutory body will require Parliamentary approval.
Q: What are its initial projects?
A: There are three at Toton station and Chetwynd Barracks, Ratcliffe-on-Soar Power Station and East Midlands Airport.
Q: How much will it cost?
A: The initial ask is £235m so that an interim body can begin the development corporation’s enabling work ahead of formal Parliamentary approval. The interim body will build momentum, provide confidence for investors, and enable the development corporation to hit the ground running when approved.
Q: What value will it deliver?
A: The programme is forecast to deliver 84,000 jobs and add £4.8 billion of value a year to the East Midlands economy. Informally, it will create confidence in the East Midlands as a long-term investment destination and address historic under-investment in transport and under-performance in productivity and growth.
Q: What policy agendas does it address?
A:Levelling-up – these proposals provide an ambitious vision for the future, which delivers jobs, business and growth accessible across the region; Skills – proposals include a new National Skills Academy at Toton which will focus on the economy’s future training/retraining needs; Net carbon zero – individual developments and the ZERO Centre at Ratcliffe-on-Soar Power Station itself will target real-world progress in reducing emissions; Transport – a detailed connectivity strategy means the new capacity created by HS2 will open up better local and regional transport services which will connect more communities to growth.
Q: Who are its key partners?
A: The proposal for the development corporation has been brought forwards by a partnership of local authorities across Derbyshire, Nottinghamshire, Leicestershire and Lincolnshire, the cities of Derby, Nottingham and Leicester, supported by businesses, universities and the Midlands Engine, Midlands Connect and local enterprise partnerships. They are working with Government departments to finalise proposals.
Elected leaders, chief executives, senior executives and officers of all the partners are represented on an oversight board, which has been steering progress of the proposals.
Q: Who are the key people?
A: The development corporation’s oversight board is chaired by Sir John Peace, chair of the Midlands Engine, and led at executive level by Anthony May, who leads the Midlands Engine’s operational board.
It is supported by a small programme office and a team of specialist consultants developing the programme, the structure, the sites and building the profile of development opportunities.