Worcestershire LEP calls on business minister to speed up planning process for ambitious growth agenda

Business investment, job creation and a dynamic economy are part of the vision unveiled by Worcestershire Local Enterprise Partnership (WLEP) today (7 July 2011) to Mark Prisk MP, Minister of State for Business and Enterprise.

As part of a fact finding meeting with WLEP executives hosted by Thomas Vale Construction in Stourport, Mr Prisk was told how the LEP’s business agenda is already being put into practice, with new employment opportunities as the top priority.

WLEP Chairman Peter Pawsey outlined an ambitious programme of key initiatives to boost the Worcestershire economy and create new jobs including the proposal for South Kidderminster Enterprise Zone submitted to Government last week.  Plans for the 200 hectare business park along Stourport Road and Worcester Road corridors could create an additional 4,000 jobs.

Elsewhere, provisional plans for The Worcester Technology Park scheme for land east of the M5 at J6 is one of the winners to benefit from £17.85million investment in the first bidding round of the Government’s £1.4bn Regional Growth Fund.

Speaking to the Minister, Mr Pawsey said: “We have a business-led approach and a ‘can-do’ attitude to growing the Worcestershire economy and supporting business to invest and create jobs – whether they are large urban employers, rural businesses or third sector and social enterprises.

“Already we have thrown our weight behind two projects with Worcester Technology Park and the South Kidderminster Enterprise Zone, which together would support over £300million of private sector investment and create over 8,000 jobs.”

WLEP has also prioritised a number of other opportunities, which with the right level of co-operation and focussed effort could be delivered over the short to medium term, explained Mr Pawsey.

He said: “The primary focus of the LEP is to identify and get behind projects that are realistic, deliverable and which make a significant impact in terms of private sector investment and job creation.”

WLEP executives also called for wider support from Government to deliver its agenda for growth, added Mr Pawsey.

“The LEP has received considerable support from the local authorities and our local MPs.  We are delighted to have the opportunity to share our vision and challenges with the Minister today, and to gain his support for our ambitions.

“We need Government to reinforce the messages it has given about a faster and business-driven planning process, and by speeding up the statutory consultee processes through national bodies such as the Highways Agency and the Environment Agency.

“Equally, we need Government to go much further with the banking and funding sectors to ensure that resources and facilities are far more accessible to businesses so they can achieve their growth ambitions.

“We’re also asking Government to look again at higher and further education.  So many young people incur enormous debts just to go through a university system towards a degree, which in many cases has limited access to a job – when many manufacturing companies still find it hard to recruit sufficient employees with the requisite hands-on skills.”

Business Minister Mark Prisk MP said: “I am meeting Local Enterprise Partnerships across the country who, like Worcestershire LEP, have ambitious and innovative plans to promote growth in their areas.

“In the Plan for Growth we published earlier this year, we set out our commitment to put in place a fast-track planning process for major infrastructure applications and to introduce a powerful new presumption in favour of sustainable development.

“We have also agreed with the biggest banks a commitment for them to make more lending available this year to the small and medium sized businesses, who are the lifeblood of our economy. In addition, we are boosting our investment in apprenticeships to ensure businesses can develop the skills they need.

“I am confident that the steps we are taking and the plans of LEPs like Worcestershire, who are best placed to identify solutions to local challenges, will secure a return to long-term sustainable growth.”

As part of his visit with WLEP executives, Mr Prisk met young apprentices from Thomas Vale Construction and Bosch Thermotechnology.  They include Thomas Vale’s trainee construction management apprentices Sasha Hyde, Gavinder Rana and post-graduate estimator Alex Kallitsakis, and Bosch trainee service engineer Corrine Berridge.

Worcestershire LEP is led by private sector businesses in partnership with the public sector.  Its task is to shape the best business environment for the county, stimulate growth of the local economy, encourage inward investment, boost enterprise and job creation, and actively promote Worcestershire as a great place to invest and work.

Its geographical remit comprises Worcestershire County Council and the six district councils of Worcester City, Bromsgrove, Redditch, Malvern Hills, Wyre Forest and Wychavon.

Councillor Simon Geraghty, Worcestershire County Council’s Cabinet Member for Economy & Infrastructure, added: “I’m very pleased that the work of the Worcestershire LEP is attracting the attention of the Government.

“Our new Corporate Plan has improving the economy at its heart and we’re already working closely with partners on a number of key schemes including the Kidderminster Enterprise Zone proposals. Our success in securing the £17.8m Regional Growth Fund award shows how seriously our intentions to grow the local economy are being taken. This has been a great opportunity to talk to the Minister about the county’s plans around improving economic prosperity.”