City and Rural Must Work Together to Maximise Economic Growth

11 April 2016

Our chairman, Barry Dodd CBE, blogs on the Northern Powerhouse and the importance of city and rural areas working together to maximise economic growth.

“AS the Northern Powerhouse agenda gains momentum, I want to reflect on what this means for areas like York, North Yorkshire and the East Riding. We hear much about how the Northern Powerhouse will connect our great cities, but we must appreciate that the real added value of the North is the interplay between urban and rural.

World class rural assets
In our part of the North we don’t have the large cities of Leeds, Manchester, Sheffield or Liverpool. But we do have world class agriculture and food manufacturing alongside internationally renowned research. We are the energy powerhouse of the North, with Drax and Eggborough in Selby, and one of the largest wind farms in the world is being built off our coastline. There are plans for enormous investment in Cumbria’s nuclear industry. None of this could happen in a city.

In the age of the global nomad, we must not underestimate the importance of having a great place to live in attracting private sector investment from around the world. We are blessed with an unrivalled quality of life: two national parks, the stunning Yorkshire Coastline and the historic City of York. These areas are our breathing space. It is no wonder we are regularly voted the area most people would like to live. No other UK city without a premiership football team is as well known internationally as York, and this is no accident.

Largest private sector investment in the North of England
In 2012, an OECD report found that many rural areas have shown faster than average growth. While major global cities account for a large share of output, a lot of economic growth occurs in the areas outside. For example, our area is about to benefit from the largest private sector investment in the North of England. A £2.3 billion potash mine with a potential £2 billion annual turnover and 1000 new higher paid jobs for generations to come.

We welcome the work that is being done to ensure we have transport connectivity. Joined-up thinking to improve infrastructure to reduce journey times and connect labour markets more effectively. There is no point building HS2 if the wider region is not connected into it. For decades we have lacked the investment in road, rail, ports and airports. The Transport for North partnership is working on this. But much more needs to be done if our connectivity levels are to approach those of London or other major conurbations.

100 per cent broadband coverage is a priority
In relation to broadband and mobile also, it’s unacceptable that any part of the North does not have high speed connections. We are making real progress, but if we are serious about a genuine Northern Powerhouse, delivering 100% coverage must be a priority. I can promise you now, as a rural LEP, we will continue to lobby hard for greater, faster investment in these key services.

Scale is important
Critical mass is important. In future years, megacities of 10 million will become commonplace. There will be at least 200 megacities in China alone by 2030. The North’s economy is currently worth £289 billion – twice the size of Scotland’s and potentially the tenth largest in the EU. We will need our own inward investment and export ambassadors within these megacities beating the drum for the Northern Powerhouse.

The rest of the world is organised on a regional basis. We will need to collaborate right across the North including the rural areas if we are to achieve world competitive scale and gain the economic growth we both need and deserve.

A rural and urban vision
My vision of a Northern Powerhouse, is one that can compete with the very best in the world. One where we have 5 million people and a £300bn economy all connected to deliver the skills and industry to support global investment opportunities.

• Ports of Liverpool and Hull: Gateways to Europe on each coast
• Manchester international airport
• York world-class tourism
• Powerful financial and industrial bases in West and South Yorkshire
• Largest private sector investment in the North
• World class innovation from agro-tech to nuclear

We have much to celebrate in the North, let’s build together on this success. Any Northern Powerhouse plan must recognise the real strength of the north, capitalising on our strengths, urban and rural, to build an offer which stands out on the world stage. Success will be a north which is connected and joined up, physically and politically, delivering major investment and jobs for people across the whole region.”