New scheme adds to uncertainty on LEPs

THE boundaries of the Local Enterprise Partnerships to be set up in East Anglia following the Government’s decision to abolish regional development agencies remain shrouded in uncertainty.

With three different, and largely incompatible, proposals having already been put forward by groupings in Suffolk, Norfolk and Cambridgeshire, the picture has become clouded still further with the emergence of a fourth scheme.

The East of England Development Agency, which is to be replaced by LEPS, covers the six counties of Suffolk, Essex, Norfolk, Cambridgeshire, Herfordshire and Bedfordshire.

A proposal developed within Suffolk for an East Anglian LEP, based on the counties of Suffolk, Norfolk and Cambridgeshire, and possibly parts of north Essex and south Lincolnshire, has attracted support from across the region, including the Choose Suffolk partnership and CBI East of England.

However, local authorities and business groups in Norfolk have backed a go-it-alone bid for a county-based LEP while the existing Greater Cambridge Partnership, which covers a 25-mile radius around the city, including Bury St Edmunds, Newmarket, Haverhill and Stansted, also has ambitions of gaining LEP status.

Now, a proposal has also emerged for a coastal alliance which would stretch from King’s Lynn to Harwich.

Essex, meanwhile, could become an LEP in its own right, or could be sub-divided to reflect the north of the county’s greater links with Suffolk and Cambridgeshire rather than the Thames corridor.

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Peter Funnell, president of Suffolk Chamber of Commerce, said the organisation was currently consulting with members, and with other business groups including the Institute of Directors and the Federation of Small Businesses.

No definitive view had been reached, but it was plain there was substantial support for a regional LEP.

However, it was vital for the new partnerships to add value, rather than add to bureaucracy, and businesses of all sizes should seek to make their views known before the close of the consultation period on September 6, he added.

Nobody from the Haven Gateway Partnership, which covers the ports of Felixstowe, Ipswich and Harwich, and could find its area split between two LEPs, was available for comment yesterday.