Investing to Grow Our Economy and the Wider North

28 April 2016

With the largest private sector investment in the North; the “Yorkshire Opportunity Coast” and a £50million investment in agricultural research centres, our chairman Barry Dodd, CBE shares how rural areas are as important as urban for economic growth.

“IT still surprises me that one of the challenges here at the York, North Yorkshire and East Riding Enterprise Partnership (LEP) is explaining that economic growth is just as important in rural areas as it is in our urban centres. You need to keep the lights on and feed folk – it’s as simple as that, but I’m still out and about talking to people making sure our rural areas don’t get overlooked.

Securing a significant £122million infrastructure Growth Deal a year ago from government came with quite some responsibility. To many people our rural areas don’t look like centres of growth. Fortunately times have changed. Experiences, leisure time and a beautiful environment are increasingly important to people. Increasingly, many don’t have to go into fixed offices or factories, they can choose where to work.  Our area is known for its quality of life – one of the happiest places to live.

With our eyes fixed on our massive growth targets: helping create thousands more jobs, new homes and connecting students to business, much of our work is about convincing people to invest. As a partnership between the public and private sectors, we leverage public funds with private sector investment. It’s a great way to maximise resources. Our board too, is a great mix – of extremely well regarded, highly skilled business and local authority people, bouncing ideas off each other and getting the best for our local economy and residents.

For me, now is an opportunity to reflect. None of us thought our area would pull off one of the largest private sector investments in the North, a deal about which I feel immensely proud.  York Potash – £1.6billion mine will help create a thousand direct jobs and add a six per cent to our local economy. A much needed rural boost, to complement our natural assets.

Deals like that don’t come along every day – it’s one that only a highly skilled team of strategic planners can set up. Ours realised early on that the mine wouldn’t happen without the right infrastructure, which is how the extension to Whitby Business Park and its supply chain came about. It perfectly demonstrates our work here at the LEP – creating the right conditions for growth.

On the back of these developments, for the nearby coast we have negotiated twice as many train services between York and Scarborough. Less packed roads on a sunny bank holiday we hope! On a more serious note, more journeys to this part of the world during others times of the year, are a must. The Yorkshire coast really is becoming the opportunity coast.”

We have also used our growth deal to invest in housing. We know it is not all about increasing house building numbers, but building houses for families and increasing affordable housing for young people that are most important too.

Alongside all this of course is our agricultural backbone. That’s why we made agri-tech – i.e. innovation in agriculture and the bio-economy central to our plans. And yet, even some Yorkies still don’t know about FERA just outside the city at Sand Hutton where 350 scientists are researching agricultural innovation. It’s a hugely important asset.  We want to build a world class agri-tech industry here, and have provided £50m funding for two innovation centres as part of the UK Agri-Tech industrial strategy. We also invested in Malton Agri-food Park to provide space for growing food businesses, and Askham Bryan College to deliver skilled people to support the industry.

Of course we recognise more generally that a skilled workforce is essential for a growing economy. Growth deals are about investing in capital projects, so we are also helping to provide high quality college environments. In Harrogate, for example, we are investing £6m for a significant improvement in facilities.

These are just a small number of our achievements this year. Of course, we are pleased but focussed on maintaining our momentum. We want to ensure our investments deliver a lasting impact, so more people have better jobs and can afford to live in good quality homes.

Overall, we know this major capital programme can only be delivered through true partnership and collaboration. The principle of being stronger together is at the heart of how we operate, and will continue to be the case.”

 Our Growth Deal Investments So Far

Harrogate College – new building & refurbishment
Askham Bryan College – Agri-Engineering Centre
Askham Bryan College – Agri-Tech Centre
Selby College – new equipment
Scarborough Housing growth – to unlock development site
Catterick Garrison growth – improved road junctions
Northallerton housing and employment – enable major housing development
Malton Agri-Business Park – Infrastructure
Skipton Employment / Flood Alleviation Scheme
North Yorkshire Road Improvement Programme – first phase
Newlands Bridge – bridge improvements between Drax and M62