Rail, skills and new homes are top priorities of West of England
Better and more frequent rail services, investing in skills and building new homes more quickly are top priorities for the West of England and Regional Mayor, Tim Bowles, over the coming year.
These are set out in the West of England Combined Authority and Local Enterprise Partnership’s business plan for 2018 – 2019.
West of England Mayor, Tim Bowles, said: “Devolution is already making a big difference to our region – over the past year we have secured £150 million in additional funding from government to invest in transport, homes, business support and skills.
“Our business plan sets out where we will focus our time and resources during 2018/19 to benefit our residents.
“Transport is a priority. We’ve already allocated millions to kick-start improving our busiest routes – including rail, road and walking / cycling. Improving suburban rail is an area I’m passionate about and I’m working with Government and Network Rail to make sure we have more and better services. I was with the Secretary of State for Transport on Friday and I know he supports my ambitions for better suburban rail services.
“Building homes, particularly affordable homes, is another priority for us all. New government funding announced earlier this month is going to help progress housing development sites, and we’re making plans, working with our constituent councils and our housing associations, to deliver more affordable homes.
“Skills will also take centre stage. We have many high-quality jobs and we need to give locally-grown talent every opportunity to secure employment, by making sure they have the right skills for our businesses. We’re going to review the careers advice and guidance that’s available at the moment and make plans to improve it. Future Bright will be launched soon, and will support around 3000 people living in social housing into to better jobs.”
Professor Steve West, Chair of the West of England Local Enterprise Partnership, said: “We are an economically successful region where businesses start, grow and thrive in high numbers. We have a good business support system in place - but there is more we can do. This plan sets out how we will work with business to look at how we do more to help businesses achieve their potential, as well as attracting more to our region.
“Increasing productivity and exports are key areas of focus along with continuing to find new ways to support innovation, which is at the heart of so much of our success.
“We will also be working with businesses, government and other key partners to develop a Local Industrial Strategy for the West of England, which will inform our business plan into the future.”
Cllr Matthew Riddle, Leader of South Gloucestershire Council said: “I welcome the publication of this Business Plan, which demonstrates the scale of ambition and investment that the West of England authorities are committing to in delivering healthier, cleaner and inclusive communities. First and foremost we want to support the delivery of the Joint Spatial Plan, by investing in our permitted housing sites that have been stalled for too long and need the infrastructure in place up front. I welcome the ambitions to develop a significant housing deal with the government to support this.
“I also welcome the innovation theme throughout the plan and believe that we are very well-placed as a region to remain a global leader in innovation. Supporting the likes of our aerospace, advanced engineering and defence industries with the skills and employment space for the likes of high-value design, cyber security and research and development, is a personal priority for me and I am particularly pleased therefore to see a Skills Innovation Fund, Digital Strategy and further support for the Bristol & Bath Science Park and Filton Enterprise Area.”
Cllr Tim Warren, Leader of Bath & North East Somerset Council, said: “It’s great that we’re building on the successful investment projects which we’ve already begun to benefit from through being part of the West of England Combined Authority. Our business plan will help us to achieve our aims of providing people with opportunities to get better paid jobs in the area, helping them to get to work quicker and easier; and improving their chances of coming back to a better home.”
Marvin Rees, Mayor of Bristol, said: “We are already a successful region but our economic growth is hampered by pressures such as traffic congestion and a lack of affordable housing. In line with our own corporate priorities we will work with our WECA partners to improve transport and connectivity, build more homes and enable people to get the skills they need to gain or progress in employment. Most importantly, we must make sure any growth is inclusive, giving all residents the opportunity to thrive.”
The Leader of North Somerset Council, Cllr Nigel Ashton said: “The business plan shows the benefit of working at a West of England level to deliver the housing targets in the Joint Spatial Plan and our shared determination to deliver improved infrastructure and transport links alongside new housing.
“We are delighted that the proposed Banwell bypass and improvements to the A38 corridor are a key part of the business plan and these have moved forward.”
The business plan sets out those areas of focus for 2018/19 under the following headings:
Infrastructure fit for the future
- Improve train services with more frequent and better services for residents, working with Department for Transport, Network Rail and Great Western Railway.
- Continue to work with Network Rail, Bristol City Council, Homes England and the University of Bristol to produce a master plan for the redevelopment of Bristol Temple Meads station and surrounding Temple Quarter to create a new, improved gateway to the region.
- Improve existing transport routes to support new homes and access to employment. Complete business cases and feasibility studies
- Complete WECA-commissioned feasibility studies into mass transit routes to serve South Bristol and the airport, A4 corridor to Bath, Bristol East Fringe and Bristol North Fringe. Consider options and next steps.
- As part of Government Housing Package, develop joint working programme with Homes England and registered providers on new ways of delivering affordable homes.
- Develop joint working with Homes England on acquiring land and infrastructure to help secure new homes.
- Develop business case to secure full £250m for Bristol Temple Meads to Keynsham A4 corridor and A38-M5 corridor schemes.
- Explore opportunities for innovative ways of delivering new homes, eg off-site manufacturing techniques.
World class skills
- Deliver Future Bright, to improve the job prospects of 3000 people in low paid, low skilled employment.
- Develop proposal to improve digital skills, working with the national Institute of Coding in Bath and other partners.
- Work with Construction Industry Training Board on regional action plan to improve construction skills and availability of workforce.
- Apprenticeships - develop plan to increase numbers of apprentices in key sectors from all communities, particularly at higher levels (level 4 and above).
- Review careers advice and guidance and develop proposals to improve this in our region, working closely with partners.
Business that succeed
- Develop the Growth Hub to improve services for businesses.
- Explore options for a business grant scheme to support scale-up companies, to complement Growth Hub activity.
- Supporting scale-up growth, working with partners to provide suitable employment space for growing businesses.
- Increase our export/trade support activity.
- Support facilities that enable innovation and collaboration eg, Science Park 2, National Composite Centre.