Driving digital and physical change

By Doug Field, Chair of New Anglia Local Enterprise Partnership (LEP) and Joint Chief Executive of the East of England Co-op

When you start or build a business, access to transport and digital capacity might not feature greatly in your business planning process but they absolutely should. Don’t wait until you are expanding to think about where your next tier of customers or talent comes from, consider the quickest routes to market, and access to skilled people and all your suppliers right from the start.

Norfolk and Suffolk have a number of centres of economic activity, with fast growing urban areas, historic market towns and a large rural economy. We are forward-looking and well-positioned to capitalise on the opportunities created by further advances in technology, digital connectivity and improved infrastructure.

Advantageous location

We are exploring new models of funding and financing the infrastructure we need, because the evidence shows we can deliver growth and returns. We have sixteen sites across both counties that have secured Enterprise Zone status, providing benefits from business rate discounts, simplified planning and access to superfast broadband.

Boosting infrastructure is central to delivering our ambitions as determined in the area’s economic blue print; the Economic Strategy for Norfolk and Suffolk. We want this area to be a well-connected place, locally and to the rest of the world, and where high growth businesses with aspirations want to be. Making the most of our advantageous location with respect to accessing global markets is where our main opportunity lies. In seizing this, we need to ensure that the needs and aspirations of all our communities and businesses are realised. Our road and rail networks can help achieve this by improving capacity and journey times, as well as reliability and resilience.

Investment priorities

We must also build on our existing success in delivering growth and continue to increase our contribution to UK plc. In doing so our economic diversity must be maintained and enhanced, and our transport network can help support world-leading competitive clusters in clean energy, ICT/Digital tech,digital creative, life sciences and bio tech to thrive.

Transport and digital connectivity are an integral part of Norfolk and Suffolk’s economy, helping to unlock the area’s substantial resources in land, labour and capital. It is therefore a significant driver of productivity.

So what is happening in Norfolk and Suffolk to make these online and physical routes faster? Recent LEP investments (incl funding through the Growth Deal) are:

  • £10m in broadband for Norfolk and Suffolk to increase the number of premises with access to superfast broadband
  • £2.65m for Snetterton Electricity Scheme to help boost energy capacity in this key employment area
  • £6.6m for the Ipswich Tidal Barrier, protecting more than 1,600 homes and 400 businesses from flooding
  • £10m for the Broadland Northway, improving connectivity around Norwich and reducing congestion in the city centre
  • £10m for the Bury St Edmunds Relief Road, improving access to and unlocking growth opportunities in the east of the town
  • £3.3m to help advance the case for rail improvements in the Ely area to increase freight and passenger capacity.

According to property agents Roche Chartered Surveyors warehousing and logistics businesses are now considering industrial sites north of Norwich since the opening of the Broadland Northway (source EDP, Nov. 2018).

Investment of £2.65m by New Anglia LEP in the upgrade of the power supply to the Snetterton Employment Area will help to improve access to power for up to sixty existing businesses and will support development of the site to incorporate at least 15 new businesses. A number of companies, including pet food manufacturer Natures Menu have recently moved to the Snetterton site with grant support from the LEP to take advantage of the improved transport links offered by the nearby A11.

Following the Greater Eastern Main Line Taskforce’s successful rail campaign in 2014, which was backed by more than 100 businesses and led by the LEP, £1.5bn investment is being made by Greater Anglia. The funding will transform our railways including new, spacious trains, free Wi-Fi, better timetables and more frequent services, as well as more peak seats into London by summer 2019.

Further focus is on improving the A14 and seven key junctions at Ipswich, Newmarket and Bury St Edmunds, and dualling the A47 between Lowestoft and Peterborough. We are working with businesses, local authorities, chambers of commerce, LEPs and MPs to help secure further investment for the A47.

Chambers of Commerce in Suffolk and Norfolk are leading on the ‘No more not-spots’ campaign aiming to enhance mobile voice and data coverage (www.suffolkchamber.co.uk and www.norfolkchamber.co.uk).

Businesses are essential in taking part in campaigns, developing core plans and supporting local growth plans. The majority of our board members are business representatives and they need your support in driving positive change to make sure we play a role globally in markets where we excel and flourish such as clean energy, agri-food and ICT/ digital.

There are many success stories in the area and with multi-million investments in road, rail, port and digital connectivity, we have an even more promising future.

  • 50mins flight from Norwich to Amsterdam
  • 29m tonnes of freight per year – Felixstowe port is the busiest container port in the UK and 7th busiest in Europe.
  • Secured rail service improvements will increase connections – 60mins Ipswich to London/ 90mins Norwich to London/ 75mins Cambridge to Ipswich/ 90mins Peterborough to Norwich
  • 92% of businesses and homes have access to superfast broadband
  • 330 rail freight movements into and out of Felixstowe port a week
  • 6% travel using public transport compared to 10% UK average in all non-metropolitan areas.
  • Priority places for growth include:
  • Ipswich and the surrounding area. Norwich and the Greater Norwich area.
  • The Norfolk and Suffolk Energy Coast, including Bacton, Great Yarmouth, Lowestoft and Sizewell, with assets on and offshore.
  • The Cambridge Norwich Tech Corridor growth – connecting two global centres of research. https://www.techcorridor.co.uk/
  • The critical east west growth corridors along the A47 from Lowestoft and Great Yarmouth to King’s Lynn and the A14 from Felixstowe through Ipswich, Stowmarket, Bury St Edmunds, Newmarket and Haverhill to Cambridge.
  • King’s Lynn – and the A10 and rail corridor to Cambridge.

Find out more on investments, grants, skills and business support on www.newanglia.co.uk and follow us on Twitter

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