The Executive Member for Planning and Growth submitted a report which provided an update on the Economic Development Vision for East Herts. The Head of Communications, Strategy and Policy provided a summary of the report in terms of achievements since 2015 based on the six key themes and the challenges the Council could face after BREXIT in terms of supporting local businesses and the local economy.
The Head of Communications, Strategy and Policy explained that 11,700 businesses were registered in the District but this figure had become skewed and it was difficult to establish which were “shell” companies which masked statistics in terms of macro economics.
The Head of Communications, Strategy and Policy referred to the need to hold onto employment land as this was being lost at a rapid pace and converted into more profitable residential land. Members noted that 20HA of employment land had been identified within the District Plan to provide an additional sustainable level of employment space over a period for the next 10 – 15 years. It was noted that the use of an Article 4 Direction could play some part in protecting land. Further work was being undertaken on this aspect.
Members debated the report at length in terms of:
· Approaches taken by neighbouring authorities (such as Welwyn Garden City) in developing business land;
· The role of the Herts LEP in identifying the net loss of employment space over the last decade;
· The potential to work with others on e.g. DIZ, tourism, inward investors and why certain towns had been targeted;
· the challenges of boundaries and how this impacted on employment land/investment opportunities;
· Whether Life Sciences in the Cambridge corridor could be extended south and the need to attract global “players”. It was noted that a bid for Euro Development Monies had been submitted for investment in three sectors including Life Sciences and Stansted Airport.
· The success of Launch-pad in Bishop’s Stortford and the need to accommodate the facility within plans for the Old River Lane;
· The need to protect the vibrancy of all Town Centres, including Sawbridgeworth Town Centre and how business rate relief could help some new businesses;
· The roads and poor infrastructure in the approach to Buntingford which could detract businesses from establishing a presence locally;
· The need to review inward investment and encourage employment opportunities in the District. The role of the District Plan in this process was acknowledged.
Members further debated the need to encourage employment opportunities in the District and that there should be greater narrative in supporting what was being done in the five towns in the district. This was supported.
Following a review of the Economic Development Vision it was moved by Councillor A Alder and seconded by A Curtis that the recommendations on (A) the need to encourage employment opportunities in the District and (B) that there be greater narrative in supporting what was being done in the five towns in the district be conveyed to the Executive Member for Planning and Growth. After being put to the meeting and a vote taken, the motion was declared CARRIED.
RESOLVED – that (A) the progress made against the Economic Development Vision be noted; and
(B) that Members’ views that greater narrative be included within the Plan in supporting what was being done in the five towns in the District be conveyed to the Executive Member for Planning and Growth and that Officers prepare a written statement for circulation on how the five towns are being supported.