A masterplan to create 100,000 jobs in the M42 corridor has been unveiled – in what would be the first initiative funded by a huge shake-up of regional spending.
A blueprint for what is being dubbed UK Central (UKC) – the area around the NEC and Birmingham Airport – has been drawn up with claims it could boost the region’s economy by £19.5 billion by 2040, the Post can reveal.
Solihull Metropolitan Borough Council and the Greater Birmingham and Solihull Local Enterprise Partnership (GBSLEP) along with private firm Arup will present the proposals to investors and developers in London this week.
The plans come a week ahead of the Chancellor’s spending review, which will reveal the size of a “single pot” funding initiative to give billions of pounds of Whitehall’s spending powers to the regions after plans driven by Michael Heseltine.
The Post understands the Government and Greater Birmingham LEP have been in talks over the region being the first to be handed devolved funds in the form of a local growth fund pilot scheme.
The latest proposals build on major plans for Birmingham Airport and HS2, and follow investments into the £125 million Resorts World complex and Jaguar Land Rover plant nearby.
The area around junction six of the M42 – taking in the Blythe Valley and Birmingham Business Park – already supports 100,000 jobs and contributes £5.1 billion to the economy.
Andy Street, chairman of the Greater Birmingham and Solihull LEP, said: “This opportunity is undoubtedly one of the LEP’s big ideas as it has a unique combination of advantages for business growth.
“Investments in an expanded Birmingham Airport and the arrival of the HS2 network makes it vital that we put the arrangements in place now to capitalise on the improved offer that UK Central will present to investors.
“By taking a structured approach to the development of UK Central and maximising the GBSLEP’s links with Government, we can ensure development is both appropriate and beneficial to the whole Greater Birmingham city region.”
A 200-page plan has been drawn up by the Arup-led consortium, outlining how to capitalise on growing potential.
It would see a new company called UKC, set up to procure and deliver schemes in line with the business plan and target investment. It also includes the controlled development of four key sites –North Solihull, Solihull Town Centre, Blythe Valley Business Park and the Hub – the epicentre of UKC which includes the NEC, airport, Birmingham Business Park and proposed high speed rail station.
Councillor Ken Meeson, leader of Solihull Council, said: “UK Central represents one of the most important economic opportunities for the city region, wider West Midlands and the UK as a whole.
“Its position at the heart of the UK transport networks and existing strengths as a growing centre for advanced engineering, high value manufacturing and tourism, combined with major assets such as Birmingham Airport, National Exhibition Centre and the home of Land Rover, already make it one of the UK’s premier business locations.”
The UK Central development stands to be a ground-breaking scheme with a shake-up of local funding expected following Lord Heseltine’s No Stone Unturned report.
The Government has committed to 81 of 89 recommendations from the former Deputy Prime Minister designed to boost regional growth by putting local decision-makers in charge of major infrastructure spending.
Mr Street told the Post he wanted the region to pilot the single pot initiative – set to begin after 2015 – ahead of the rest of the country.
However, much will rely on the amount of money given to the regions by the Chancellor – as much as £80 billion was mooted by Lord Heseltine – but the Government’s commitment will be made clear in Mr Osborne’s announcement on Wednesday (June 26).
Lord Heseltine recently warned the Chancellor it would be a “slap in the face” for the regions of England if the large-scale devolution of public funds to local bodies is not announced
Jerome Frost, project director at Arup, said be believed UK Central would be a catalyst for growth.
He said: “By capitalising on one of the strongest economic bases in the UK today, the UK Central masterplan sets out a road map for growth that can underpin a national economic resurgence.”