EAST cities call for more powers
EASTERN region towns and cities are pressing for greater powers to allow them to boost the local economy and “punch their weight”.The group of six, made up of Ipswich, Colchester, Peterborough, Luton, Norwich and Southend-on-Sea, have written to Secretary of State Ruth Kelly setting out a business case for them to work together, and radical proposals to help the region support 160,000 new homes and 140,000 new jobs.
EASTERN region towns and cities are pressing for greater powers to allow them to boost the local economy and “punch their weight”.
The group of six, made up of Ipswich, Colchester, Peterborough, Luton, Norwich and Southend-on-Sea, have written to Secretary of State Ruth Kelly setting out a business case for them to work together, and radical proposals to help the region support 160,000 new homes and 140,000 new jobs.
The group, called Regional Cities East, believes it is possible to support more jobs and homes in a sustainable way.
The region is under such pressure to accommodate growth that many fear it could stretch infrastructure beyond capacity and damage the countryside.
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The partnership, which has the support of the East of England Development Agency and the Government Office for the East of England, is calling on the Government for greater powers to fast-track key developments, fund infrastructure, and work more closely with their neighbouring councils on issues that cut across local authority boundaries.
Richard Atkins, economic portfolio-holder at Ipswich Borough Council and the newly-elected chair of the Regional Cities East Board, said that many think the East of England is “anti-growth”, but this is not the case.
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“We're not. We simply want to see it done properly. If we build in our existing cities, capitalise on our particular strengths and collaborate, rather than compete for investment, we can hit tough targets for jobs and homes. We can bring prosperity to everyone in the region without damaging the environment,” he said.
“Council leaders representing all the main political parties sit on the RCE Board and support these plans.
“This level of political sign-up from towns and cities across a region who don't share boundaries is unprecedented. But, to help the East of England fully punch its weight, we need help from Central Government.”
In its letter to Government, the partnership calls for support for a regional team of “regeneration trouble shooters” to fast-track key urban planning and development projects and new mechanisms to raise money for infrastructure based on the profits developers make from new developments.
It also wants a more streamlined framework for planning and economic development, based on the assets and ideas of cities and their surrounding local authority partners, and not simply on traditional council boundaries.
The group has set tough objectives to achieve by 2021, including adding £10billion a year to the UK economy, achieving a 3% reduction in carbon emissions, creating at least 140,000 jobs and building 160,000 new homes, mainly on brownfield sites.
The business case set out by the RCE includes a package of city-led measures to stimulate enterprise and innovation, a five-year programme to reduce carbon emissions, a package of measures to promote the creative strengths, and a skills initiative for the six partnership towns and cities.
Mr Atkins is supported by two deputy chairs, John Holdich, Peterborough City Council's cabinet member for housing, regeneration and economic development and Steve Morphew, Norwich City Council's leader. RCE director, Mike Crouch, executive director at Colchester Borough Council, is responsible for managing and running the organisation.
The partnership is hoping the Government will respond to its business case after the summer break.