Haven Gateway: Partnership to continue as ‘broker’ for sub-region

George Kieffer, chairman of the Haven Gateway Partnership

George Kieffer, chairman of the Haven Gateway Partnership

THE Haven Gateway Partnership will enter a new phase in its history in March as it restructures and bids farewell to its chief executive for the past five years, David Ralph. Sheline Clarke spoke to him and chairman George Kieffer about the future of the organisation and its work to date delivering projects in Suffolk and north Essex

The Haven Gateway Partnership was created in 2001 to promote economic growth in Suffolk and north Essex and has been instrumental in delivering millions of pounds worth of investment.

Its remit is to provide a framework through which its partners from both the public and private sectors could work together to promote economic opportunities and secure the future prosperity of this important gateway to the UK.

Achieving Growth Point status in 2006 and the appointment of David Ralph as chief executive a year later marked a step change in the partnership’s ambitions with a strong focus on sustainable growth.

As a result, it was awarded £30millon to spend and has helped draw down many more millions and put the needs of the region, including its unique cluster of ports, high on the political agenda. In short, it has been brokering the importance of the Haven Gateway and attracting money to see through its varied programme of projects identified as being of benefit to the welfare and economy of the region.

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Last month, the Board agreed that the partnership would continue with the support of Essex County Council, Tendring District Council and Colchester Borough Council, but without partnership with councils in Suffolk, although two were still undecided. Private sector partners BT, Harwich Haven Authority, Hutchison Ports UK and the University of Essex would remain involved.

“Essentially, Haven Gateway Partnership is going through a restructuring and that is largely happening because of the formation of the Local Enterprise Partnerships (LEPS),” said David Ralph.

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“With Suffolk and Norfolk having the New Anglia LEP and Essex joining Kent in the South East LEP, Haven Gateway was always going to struggle in the middle of that a little bit. LEPs have this county identity which makes life a bit difficult for a partnership spanning Suffolk and north Essex and I think the restructuring is sensible. The partnership will continue, driven by Essex, and part of my job before I go is to develop a business plan and transition plan to secure its future.”

Chairman George Keiffer says the partnership’s work to lobby ministers and keep the Haven Gateway in the public eye will not change.

“The nature of a partnership is that the partners decide whether or not they want to stay,” he said, “and in the case of Suffolk the reason they are withdrawing from the partnership is not because it has failed to meet aspirations but because they want to focus all their efforts onto the New Anglia LEP.

“The Essex authorities want the partnership to continue, the private sector partners including Hutchison Ports and BT are continuing their support and so we will continue, if a little bit differently.

“The work we do to engage with Ministers and get them to visit us is vital. It’s not about going to them with a begging bowl for money, it’s just saying these are our infrastructure challenges and if we can resolve them then there will be jobs and economic growth at the end of it.”

As part of the restructure, the post of chief executive has been abolished. As a result David Ralph announced last week his appointment as chief executive of the D2N2 Local Enterprise Partnership responsible for Derbyshire and Nottinghamshire.

“David has done an awful lot to professionalize the Haven Gateway Partnership, particularly preparing the evidence base and intelligence to convince civil servants and Ministers to support various bids,” said George.

“I am delighted for David that he has found a billet within the new economic structures that are developing.”

Councillor Judy Terry, Suffolk County Council’s cabinet member for economic development, said: “The county council values very highly the contribution that the Haven Gateway Partnership has made over the years and recognises the importance of the contribution made by the ports and logistics to the local economy; this being a particular strength to the Haven Gateway Partnership.

“However the landscape has changed since the introduction of the Local Enterprise Partnership, and the county council and other local authorities are keen to continue supporting our local ports and logistics sector through the LEP, as we expect government will be channelling funding for economic growth through this body.

“Suffolk and Essex county councils are both working with the partnership to agree a new working relationship, linking in both the New Anglia LEP and South East LEP.”

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