The Oxford to Cambridge Arc has helped create a ’cocktail for growth’ in Buckinghamshire, delegates heard at the first property festival for the county.
In a panel debate on the arc at BucksPropFest at the Aylesbury Waterside Theatre on June 6, Turley director Tim Burden asked panellists to define what the arc is, prompting Buckinghamshire Thames Valley LEP chief executive Richard Harrington, to point to a combination of factors driving exceptional opportunities for the region.
He said: “It is an area of massive potential. It is already an £111 billion economy which places it right up there in UK economic development terms.
“Add to that, that it is one of the few areas in the country that is actually a net contributor to the UK economy.
“Then if you think about where our economic development and our economy is going to go in the future, and how it is going to be reliant upon the utilisation of data and the creation and processes of products on the back of that, and you think about what the strengths are in our area, then you’ve got really exciting cocktail for growth.
“So for us the arc is defined by economy, and the economic potential of the area and the infrastructure that’s required to facilitate that economic growth.”
Naisha Polaine, senior advisor, property & capital investment, for the Department of International Trade, said she is working to map a pipeline of investable opportunities across the arc which will form a shopfront for investment and urged delegates to tell her what those opportunities are.
However, Mr Harrington highlighted what he called a disconnect between the statutory planning process and where the country needs to be in the future. Bucks has managed to get three enterprise zones which are hugely successful but which are not part of the Local Plan.
He said: “On this side of the equation we are very ambitious to not only grow the economy but also to win global market share to have a Britain that is great in terms of its resilience, its economy and its success.
“So that’s where our focus is and at the moment it feels as though we are doing it against the grain.”
He hopes the creation of a unitary authority for the council will mean a return to strategic planning.
Sarah Greenwood, head of strategy for Homes England, said the arc offers an opportunity to question how planning is carried out and proposed that a framework for growth is created.
She said: “We need a framework that allows us to grow in a more holistic way and in the right places. That means having challenging conversations about whether existing planning allocations are the right ones.”
* Image: Sarah Greenwood; Naisha Polaine; Richard Harrington, Chris Williams, chairman for Bucks and Milton Keynes Natural Environment Partnership; Tim Burden.
© Thames Valley Property No 166 (tvproperty.co.uk).