Haven Gateway 'well set for recovery'

THE strengths and advantages of the Haven Gateway area will help the sub-region to emerge from recession significantly faster than many other parts of the country, business leaders will be told today.

THE strengths and advantages of the Haven Gateway area will help the sub-region to emerge from recession significantly faster than many other parts of the country, business leaders will be told today.

Delegates attending the annual general meeting of the Haven Gateway Partnership will hear about a number of projects designed to boost economic growth - and the launch of a “green” infrastructure strategy to limit its impact on the environment.

“The next 12 months will see a strong focus on making the most of the sub-region's key competitive advantages,” said HGP chief executive David Ralph.

“Our investments as a partnership are long-term in nature and clearly take place against the background of the effects of the current downturn. But I am confident that the partnership's actions, combined with the Haven Gateway's key competitive advantages and proximity to Europe, will help us to emerge from recession significantly earlier than many other areas.

“However, I feel strongly that to do so, public and private sectors across the Haven Gateway sub-region should not do business coming out of recession in the same way as we went in,” said Mr Ralph.

While the recession had impacted on private sector investment already, pressure on public spending would increase over the coming months and years, and the need for collaborative working between agencies would increase as a result.

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“We must be increasingly aware, creative and decisive, and work better together to minimise both the impact of recession - and take advantage of the upturn when it comes,” he added.

Besides Mr Ralph, speakers at today's AGM will include Tony Rich and Jane Wright from the University of Essex, on the University of Essex Knowledge Gateway; Peter Funnell from the IDEA initiative, on IDEA, ICT and the Skills Escalator; and Judith Grice from Groundwork, on The Economic Value of Green Infrastructure.

The meeting will see the launch of a “green” infrastructure programme, consisting of a package of measures to protect and enhance both the Haven Gateway sub-region's natural environment and residents' and visitors' access to green spaces.

The HaGGIS (Haven Gateway Green Infrastructure Strategy) is one element of the HGP's Integrated Development Programme (IDP) which identifies 11 areas for investment packages within the sub-region, the launch of which was identified by Mr Ralph as one of the partnership's highlights in the past year.

The IDP focuses six key spatial areas (Colchester North, East Colchester, Colchester Town Centre, IP-One, Ipswich East and Coastal Towns) and five theme packages (Transport, Culture & Tourism, Skills and Housing, as well as Green Infrastructure).

On the tourism front, the partnership is working to secure a greater share of the spend represented by cruise ship passengers calling at Harwich International Port's Cruise Terminal, where today's AGM is being held.

Although the port is attracting a growing number of cruises, most visitors head either for London or Cambridge, and the HGP is now working with partners to promote the attractions of Constable Country and the towns nearby.

Mr Ralph said the IDP was being reviewed to ensure it was “geared towards growing the economy out of recession” adding: “We will increasingly engage business and develop economic intelligence, and we will target European funding to support us in gaining the most from our activities and current funding.

“And above all, through the HaGGIS, we will continue to focus on our vision to deliver a high-quality environment for the Haven Gateway's residents, workers and visitors.”

Besides the launch of the IDP, the HGP had also played a successful role in the past year in securing a number of major funding awards, said Mr Ralph.

These included New Growth Point and Community Infrastructure funding; �120million confirmed by the Government for A12 improvements; and �50million earmarked by Network Rail for Felixstowe-Nuneaton rail freight capacity improvements.

“The Haven Gateway sub-region has key strengths in growing diverse and innovative sectors, including tourism, creative industries, energy provision and ICT,” he added. “All these plus its strong ports, maritime and logistics sectors are likely to be key economic drivers in the coming years.

“Hutchison Ports (UK) has started work on its new Felixstowe South deep sea container terminal and this will put the port way ahead of the competition in terms of desperately needed deepwater facilities when we come out of recession and container volumes begin to build again.”

And Mr Ralph added: “The huge and ongoing investment in further and higher education facilities in the sub-region will ensure that we have a robust infrastructure for delivering skills.”