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East Midlands Chamber News

£235m vision for future of region's economy unveiled with proposal for new East Midlands Development Corporation

The East Midlands is planning a historic fightback from the economic impact of Covid-19 with a bold new vision to grow the economy.

Councils, businesses and universities across the region have come together to develop long-term plans that aim to create 84,000 jobs, unleash new technologies and add billions to the value of the East Midlands economy.

Backed by the Midlands Engine partnership, they will use proposals for a new East Midlands Development Corporation to drive a series of large-scale development sites, linking them to local communities through drastically improved transport connections.

They are also looking to East Midlands Airport to build on its status as the UK’s biggest airfreight gateway to drive international trade for key regional industries and businesses.

Each of the proposals individually covers an area the size of the London Olympic Park. They are being hailed as a potential transformation for the region’s economy by business and political leaders.

Midlands Engine Chairman Sir John Peace, who has steered the oversight board behind the proposals, said: “Both Covid-19 and the Brexit transition pose significant challenges for our economy. It’s therefore critical that we have ambitious plans for the future – and that we’re ready to move fast.

“What we’re proposing is nothing short of a transformation. It has inclusive growth at its heart, and will deliver a level of social mobility which brings new community prosperity.

“Our economy is at an historic turning point. We must grasp industrial and environmental change, look beyond the impact of the pandemic, and drive new opportunities as the UK builds new trading relationships with the world.”

Sir John added: “We have identified a series of major opportunities which will enable us to not only confront those challenges, but turn them into jobs and prosperity for people in communities, towns and cities.

“To make the most of this massive potential, we are working together in a regional partnership to build a new organisation which will have the drive and purpose to achieve rapid progress.”

Key projects for East Midlands Development Corporation

The East Midlands Development Corporation team is working with the Midlands Engine to secure an initial £235m of funding from Government, which will enable it to finalise proposals for three massive developments that will feed into each other to create regional impact:

  • Toton and Chetwynd – using the HS2 Hub Station at Toton as the super-connected centrepiece of a new “Garden of Innovation” featuring a new community and innovation district, setting new standards in 21st century living, working and connectivity
  • Ratcliffe-on-Soar – transforming the UK’s last coal-field power station into ZERO, a global research centre that will develop real-world low-emission technologies, which open up new business markets and help the UK hit its climate change targets
  • East Midlands Airport – already the UK’s largest airfreight hub, the airport could be the centrepiece of an inland freeport that will provide regional businesses with a lower-cost gateway to international trade post-Brexit

The Development Corporation will work to make sure the major redevelopment opportunities – which cross local authority boundaries – are joined up and maximise their potential.

Its work will be part of a much wider Midlands Engine vision for the whole of the Midlands region – which centres on investing in transport and digital infrastructure, helping firms grow through skills and finance, and driving a green recovery.

Sir John added: “The Covid-19 pandemic offers a rare opportunity for the UK to reassess its needs, to build back stronger, better and greener.

“And as a region, where the adverse social and economic impacts will be felt deepest, it is clear to me that we must seize this moment to do so, and crystallise – and fully deliver on – levelling up our region.”

Chamber backs new East Midlands Development Corporation

Businesses across the East Midlands have also thrown their weight behind the proposals.

Scott Knowles, chief executive of East Midlands Chamber, said: “This is the right time to launch a united vision for the future of the region. Businesses and investors are looking for clear, long-term plans so that they have the confidence to exploit new opportunities.

“We can see huge, long-term potential in these proposals. The better connectivity unlocked by HS2 and the proposals for airport expansion can be combined with the redevelopment of Ratcliffe to achieve a long-term impact which really shifts the dial of regional economic performance.

“It is vital now that the Government backs these proposals to the hilt. We want to turn challenge into opportunity and the East Midlands Development Corporation is the right vehicle for us to do that.”