Environmental sustainability is of central importance to the WLEP’s ambitions. Sustainable development is being integrated fully into the delivery of the Strategic Economic Plan (SEP) and the European Strategic Investment (ESI) Funds Strategy and has been at the heart of partnership working across Worcestershire since the early 1990s. The quality of the natural landscape and built environment is a major asset to the local area and its economy. It enhances the quality of life of people who live and work in Worcestershire and helps to attract and retain residents, visitors, businesses and investors.
The future growth of businesses involved in low carbon and environmental goods and services (LCEGS) is a key element. Valued at over £1 billion in terms of sales and growing at some 4.9% per annum, it has been estimated that more than 7,600 jobs and over 400 businesses in the county are directly involved in LCEGS. These activities cross many sectors in particular the advanced manufacturing and agri-food growth sectors.
Worcestershire Local Nature Partnership (WLNP) leads the environmental sustainability networks across Worcestershire. The WLNP is working through its well-formed relationships and a range of private, public and third sector interests to further advance Worcestershire’s natural qualities and built heritage. The WLEP and WLNP have a well-established strategic relationship and collaborate to tackle priorities of mutual advantage through the combination of SEP, ESI Funds Strategy and WLNP Business Plan processes.
The Natural England Local Environment and Economic Development (LEED) Toolkit has provided a systematic and focused lens to examine various environmental assets and develop their potential contributions to local economic growth. The LEED Five Point Framework will guide priority initiatives around:
- sustainable development, particularly through the ‘game changer’ programme sites and sustainable infrastructure resilient to future flooding;
- Worcestershire Brand – Tourism and Inward Investment;
- “Made in Worcestershire” Agri-Food, Agri-Tech, Horticulture and Forestry Sector;
- Sustainable Training and Skills – sustainable development and sector oriented; and
- Water and Environmental Impacts.
Better Regulation for Businesses
Strong synergies forged between the WLEP, WLNP, Worcestershire Regulatory Services (WRS) and wider local-to-national regulators are collaborating to demystify regulatory compliance for businesses alongside pro-active business support. With a focus on the Agri-Food Growth Sector and development of new simplified frameworks for innovative environmental technologies, this pioneering approach has been welcomed by the Better Regulation Delivery Office, Business Innovation and Skills Department and the Defra family including Environment Agency, Forestry Commission and Natural England.
The WLEP has been allocated £2.2m EAFRD (Rural Development) Programme which is expected to align and reinforce the WLEP ambitions and EUSIF (European Strategy Investment Fund) commitments for many existing and new rural enterprises and make significant contributions to the local and national economy. The WLEP is also sharing the management of the Greater Birmingham and Solihull LEP EAFRD allocation through its Joint Protocol arrangement to benefit North Worcestershire
The Worcestershire LEADER Programme has established a successful track record of delivery in the past and the WLEP is currently working with the Worcestershire Local Action Group (WLAG) to ensure the future LEADER Programme substantially shifts towards delivering the Government’s Growth Agenda, Defra objectives and priorities as well as aligning implementation of the WLEP’s SEP ambitions and objectives. The strong WLEP-WLAG relationship emerging will ensure the future LEADER strategic direction will be fit for purpose and secure effective and sustainable solutions that reinforce local growth objectives. Stakeholder consultations during 2014 will help shape a new LEADER Local Development Strategy in readiness for prompt implementation of the new LEADER Programme in January 2015. The new LAG membership will incorporate business interests and a strategic agreement will formalise future joint WLEP-WLAG working arrangements and programme delivery mechanisms.