Friday, 7 June 2013

Next Steps To Unlock £1Billion Improvements For Greater Cambridge

The next steps towards a City Deal for Greater Cambridge which would help unlock at least £1 billion of transport investment, create thousands of new jobs and boost the economy are to be debated.

Cambridgeshire County Council Cabinet, South Cambridgeshire District Council Cabinet and Cambridge City Council Strategy & Resources Scrutiny Committee will each discuss the proposed outline of the City Deal and have been asked to approve this as a basis for continuing negotiations between the City Deal partners and Government.

If successful the deal would see the establishment of a revolving fund of at least £1 billion, consisting of existing funding from local partners, and importantly, additional tax revenues from central Government which would be used to provide vital new infrastructure, mainly transport. This will be essential to allow our existing businesses to grow and thrive, support new housing growth and attract new businesses in the future to increase jobs and prosperity in the area.

Councillors will hear that negotiations are due to take place with Government over the Summer. The key event will be a meeting between the City Deal partners (Cambridgeshire County Council, Cambridge City Council, South Cambridgeshire District Council, the University of Cambridge and the Local Enterprise Partnership) and a cross-departmental Ministerial Group, chaired by the Deputy Prime Minister, on 4 July.

The Greater Cambridge team is asking Government to consider allowing more of the dividends that result from growth, such as increase in national taxation, to be retained in the local area under a new City Deal Board. This money would be reinvested to support infrastructure, drive sustainable economic growth and enhance quality of life locally, rather than these funds going to the Treasury as now. The proposed Deal would also benefit the rest of Cambridgeshire and the wider Local Enterprise Partnership area, as stronger growth in Greater Cambridge would help to create jobs and prosperity across that wider area, and support the development of the Enterprise Zone at Alconbury.

Government has already signalled its understanding of the importance of a successful Greater Cambridge economy for the economic recovery of the country. The area already competes on the world stage, is the home of a remarkably diverse set of business clusters in areas such as information technology, bio-tech and bio-medical industries, environmental technologies and creative industries, boasts more patents per 100,000 of the population than the next 10 UK cities combined and has an enviable global brand.

However, research has showed there are major barriers that, unless addressed, could threaten future growth and prosperity. These include a vital need for investment in transport to reduce congestion which will otherwise strangle business growth. More homes are also vital as housing costs, both for purchase and for rent, have risen significantly faster than wages – with the average house price now costing more than nine times the average salary. At the same time funding for local government has been reducing year on year, making it ever harder to find funding for the projects needed to overcome these problems.

The City Deal would address these constraints and bring more funding and powers to Greater Cambridge, devolved from central Government. It is anticipated that the bulk of the funding from the deal will be invested in transport infrastructure. This is vital to unlock the growth potential of the local economy by improving connectivity, linking more effectively the main centres where people live and work and supporting the delivery of new and more affordable housing, all of which will increase the pool of labour available to businesses in the area and improve the efficiency and reliability of business operations.

The City Deal team is developing a package of principally transport schemes, focussing on public transport, cycling, pedestrian and road improvements that will deliver these objectives. This includes:

  • Facilitating major new developments - this will focus on infrastructure that is required to bring forward the planned new areas of housing in the draft Local Plans such as at Cambourne/Bourne and Waterbeach, and supporting the continuing development of Northstowe;
  • Connecting key labour markets - this package will improve links between substantial areas of existing population and Cambridge to increase the pool of available labour, especially along the A10 (south) and A1307 corridors to improve links to towns such as Royston and Haverhill;
  • Enhancing transport capacity in and around Cambridge - this package will focus on the movement, particularly on key radial routes within Cambridge to ensure there is good connectivity within the city; and
  • Enhancing orbital capacity - this package will aim to improve connectivity around the city to ensure efficient movement between key areas of population and key areas of employment without having to traverse the city centre. This will also improve links around the City and in particular between the Busway, the new Science Park station, Addenbrookes, the University development in West Cambridge and the redevelopment of the NIAB land in north west Cambridge 

Cambridge City Council Leader, Tim Bick, said: “The city-region needs to grow if it is to meet its unrivalled potential and help the wider UK economic recovery, but it needs to do so in a way that protects the quality of life for existing and new residents and business which is part of what allows our world-class firms and universities to attract the best talent in the world to come and live and work here.

Cambridgeshire County Council Leader Martin Curtis, said: “To ensure economic prosperity we require a means of delivering enhanced transport infrastructure to meet the needs of a rapidly growing population, including better public transport, cycling and walking and road improvements. This will allow people to move quickly and reliably from where they live to where they work, and for the major employment hubs to be connected to each other far more effectively than they are now.”

South Cambridgeshire District Council Leader Ray Manning, said: “We stand ready to come together, to pool powers and funding to help support growth, but we need Government to play its part.”

Pending the outcome of the negotiations with Government, any emerging deal will be brought back to each authority’s Full Councils to be debated and a decision taken before an implementation plan is agreed with Government.