Advertising

60,000 new jobs and 55,000 homes targeted for region by 2038

By James Pugh | Business | Published:

Ambitious plans have been unveiled to create about 60,000 jobs and 55,000 homes in the region by 2038.

The population of the region is expected to grow

The Marches Local Enterprise Partnership has also targeted growing the economy to £23.8 billion over the next 20 years.

The Marches LEP launched its refreshed Strategic Economic Plan in the House of Commons yesterday – a blueprint of how it hopes to grow the economy in Shropshire, Telford and Wrekin, and Herefordshire.

The LEP is one of 38 "enterprise partnerships" across the country, where private sector businesses work with local authorities and education providers to promote innovation, investment and economic growth.

The Marches LEP includes the local authorities, Herefordshire, Shropshire and Telford & Wrekin.

Graham Wynn, chairman of the Marches LEP, said: "We think we can grow the economy of the Marches to £23.8 billion by 2038, creating 58,700 new jobs, building 54,400 new homes and increasing productivity per head to £29,425.

Graham Wynn, chairman of the Marches LEP

"At the same time we expect to see the population of Herefordshire, Shropshire and Telford and Wrekin grow to 807,500, to increase skill levels so that 60 per cent of our residents have level 3+ qualifications and to establish the region firmly among the best places to live and work in the country.

"These targets are not, of course, just plucked out of thin air. We have talked to hundreds of businesses as well as local authorities, educational and development partners and regional and national strategic stakeholders to build up the evidence base which supports our plans.

Advertising

Significant

"We do not underestimate the challenge and complexity of achieving our goals, but the prize is significant and will benefit every single one of us who lives and works in this region."

Mr Wynn said it will continue to support its important economic sectors in the Marches – advanced manufacturing, business and professional services and food and drink – as well as developing emerging ones.

"The Marches is already home to more than 13 per cent of the UK’s anaerobic digesters, and there is huge potential to build on our reputation for innovation in the field of environmental technology and become a national leader in the work to help overcome the challenges of climate change.

Advertising

"Harper Adams University near Newport is a world-leader in research and sits at the centre of a nationally-significant cluster of pioneering businesses. The development of Ni-Park, a specialist agri-tech business park in Newport, will help us build on this reputation for innovative excellence in the way technology is being used to sustainably increase agricultural yields," he added.

Ambitious targets in new plan

Marches Local Enterprise Partnership chairman Graham Wynn explains his vision for the region

"Our new Strategic Economic Plan sets some ambitious targets.

We think we can grow the economy of the Marches to £23.8 billion by 2038, creating 58,700 new jobs, building 54,400 new homes and increasing productivity per head to £29,425.

At the same time we expect to see the population of Herefordshire, Shropshire and Telford and Wrekin grow to 807,500, to increase skill levels so that 60 per cent of our residents have level 3+ qualifications and to establish the region firmly among the best places to live and work in the country.

These targets are not, of course, just plucked out of thin air. We have talked to hundreds of businesses as well as local authorities, educational and development partners and regional and national strategic stakeholders to build up the evidence base which supports our plans.

We do not underestimate the challenge and complexity of achieving our goals, but the prize is significant and will benefit every single one of us who lives and works in this region.

Let’s put our plans into context for a moment. The Marches is a great place to live and work. Our economy already contributes £14.3 billion to the national economy and boasts some major international brands alongside innovative and pioneering SMEs and start-ups.

Challenges

We have the highest two year business survival rate – 80.2 per cent – of any LEP in the country and our businesses currently export £1.8 billion of goods around the world every year.

But there are challenges too. Currently the Marches has a population of some 684,300 but it’s older than the national average and ageing more rapidly than other areas. For example, some 22.1 per cent is aged over 65, significantly higher than the national average of 18.2 per cent.

We also have a lower proportion of young people than the national average and too many of them are leaving the area to go to university and build their futures.

There are also some important skills challenges that need to be addressed, with the region having a lower skill base relative to the UK and lower numbers of higher-level jobs. Just 32.5 per cent of our working age population has a degree or equivalent qualification, compared to a national average of 38.4 per cent, for example.

So there is work to do. But having gathered the evidence, we have now produced a plan which maps a route to an even more prosperous future in which the whole region can share.

We’ll continue to work to support our core economic sectors – advanced manufacturing, business and professional services and food and drink – but we’ll also be tireless in developing new, emerging sectors.

The Marches is already home to more than 13 per cent of the UK’s anaerobic digesters, and there is huge potential to build on our reputation for innovation in the field of environmental technology and become a national leader in the work to help overcome the challenges of climate change.

Similarly, we have a huge expertise in cyber security, centred around our enterprise zone at Skylon Park in Hereford, which can help us become a leading international centre of excellence in this crucial sector.

The same is true of the fast-developing agri-tech sector, where Harper Adams University near Newport is a world-leader in research and sits at the centre of a nationally-significant cluster of pioneering businesses. The development of Ni-Park, a specialist agri-tech business park in Newport, will help us build on this reputation for innovative excellence in the way technology is being used to sustainably increase agricultural yields.

And our ageing population presents a real opportunity too. By leading the way in the application of technological solutions to the health and social care challenges facing the whole country, we can carve out a hugely prosperous and improved future.

Our plan is, as you would expect, very much aligned with the vision for growth set out for the Midlands as a whole.

We’ll help connect the Midlands through investment in priority schemes, working alongside partners including Highways England, National Rail and local authorities to ensure these plans feed into the bigger picture of improved Midlands connectivity.

We’ll support capacity and speed improvements on major rail lines, such as those linking Shrewsbury and Hereford to Birmingham and Shrewsbury to Crewe – all future HS2 links.

Our infrastructure will be constantly improved to further our ambitions and help the region as a whole to prosper. We’ll provide high-quality employment sites that are accessible, close to housing for staff and have the best possible broadband and utilities.

So, yes, our plan is ambitious and we make no apologies for that.

But there is a hugely exciting future on the horizon for the Marches for all of us. Our plan will help us achieve it."

James Pugh

By James Pugh
@JamesP_Star

Shropshire Star Business and Farming Editor.

Advertising

Top stories

Advertising

More from Shropshire Star

UK & International News