The biggest development opportunity in the Midlands

Is the East Midlands economy finally on the cusp of something big? That was one of the questions posed by Ken Harrison, the Programme Director for the East Midlands Development Company, when he spoke to a packed house of Nottingham Partners members at our latest meeting at Nottingham Arena.

The answer to that question is a resounding yes: three huge sites on the borders of Nottinghamshire, Leicestershire and Derbyshire that have the capacity to generate an economic impact in terms of jobs and growth that will be felt not just across our region, but in the UK economy as a whole.

Those three sites are Toton & Chetwynd, a new destination for knowledge-driven jobs and next generation living; the East Midlands Airport area, a national gateway for trade, centrepiece of the proposed Inland Freeport, and the home of next generation moving; and Ratcliffe-on-Soar Power Station area, which after it closes can become a site for industry, innovation and next generation making.

Between them, these sites cover hundreds of hectares of well-connected real estate which can work hand-in-hand with the region’s industrial strengths to transform the economy, with up to 84,000 jobs and an additional £4.8bn of GVA forecast.

Opportunity at this scale requires collaboration and coordination, and this central objective is behind the decision of a consortium of local authorities to come together with universities and industry to propose an East Midlands Development Corporation.

As plans for this statutory body progress, they have set up the East Midlands Development Company to build momentum behind these opportunities, securing Government match-funding. It has a small core team, supported by specialist advisers, and has recently appointed a high-profile commercial partner, Areli Developments, to advise on the scale and nature of development potential.

EM DevCo is also taking an ambitious approach to fully realising the potential these sites have to deliver benefits from community to economy level. It has set-up specialist working groups to focus on the contribution they can make to helping the UK achieve its net zero targets, to embrace and enhance the natural capital these sites include, and to ensure industry and universities are engaged and involved.

It is also committed to sustainable, high-quality design, having been recognised by government as one of the organisations that will be piloting Design Codes aimed at creating beautiful places.

While development at this regional scale will be carried out over many years, EM DevCo is already hard at work identifying potential and ensuring it integrates with initiatives like the Inland Freeport and the government’s confirmation that high-speed trains will come into the East Midlands.

The East Midlands has in front of it the potential to secure billions of pounds worth of investment in new communities, new commercial development and new infrastructure. With the right plans and a strong partnership, it can unlock growth which helps the UK generate jobs for the future and meet the climate change challenge.

So yes, we are on the cusp of something big. Now is the time for us to come together and grasp that opportunity.

Richard Baker – Baker Baird