A recent report published by the District Councils Network uses three districts in the East of England as exemplar case studies for levelling up places.

The report aims to show examples in the form of case studies where districts are doing things which in turn are boosting employment, reimagining, and regenerating their town centres, providing housing, boosting connectivity and improving their public realm.

Breckland District in Norfolk features under the ‘collaboration and engagement for thriving businesses and communities’ section, having created the ‘Future Breckland: Thriving People and Places’ initiative. Being one of the largest districts in the country, with a large number of stakeholders, the programme aims to build a long-term investment plan built around the people and places of the district. They hope that over the next 12-month period, they will have a new vision with tangible delivery and investment plans, the opinions of the local residents and business to help build an agenda for change, a costed 10-year development programme, and a new partnership to help deliver the strategy.

Cllr Paul Claussen, Breckland Council’s deputy leader and portfolio holder said “By creating a shared vision, local organisations can align their priorities and ensure we are all pulling towards the same goal. This will ensure Breckland’s success going forward and put us in pole position when it comes to bidding for national funding, which can be spent making the district even better for our residents and businesses.

We are truly excited about the potential of the Future Breckland project. We believe this won’t just be a roadmap for the success of our people and places, but it could be a blueprint for how Market Towns, and urban/rural economies, feature in future of the UK growth story. “

Norwich also features as a case study district, within the ‘levelling up skills and removing barriers to the labour market’ section of the report. Norwich City Council was awarded £25 million at the end of last year from the Department for Levelling up, Housing and Communities, to deliver eight projects to help major regeneration, and boost skills, infrastructure, and jobs.

One of these projects is the ACE Centre, a scheme delivered by City College Norwich, which provides new T levels in construction and engineering, supporting the apprenticeship offer and supporting study at HNC/HNC level. The facilities also support adult learning opportunities, including upskilling and reskilling. The centre will also provide the first motor vehicle training facility in the region specifically designed for supporting hybrid and electric vehicles, to help train future generations.

Another part of the scheme is the regeneration of East Norwich, by creating a sustainable new urban quarter for the city, with the potential to create up to 4,000 new homes and 6,00 new jobs, potentially the largest development opportunity in the East of England. The masterplan will be funded by the Towns Fund, landowners, Homes England, and the city council, overseen by East Norwich Partnership, a public-private sector group.

Leader of Norwich City Council, Cllr Alan Waters, said “We are proud to be among the first of 101 councils to receive business case sign off to move ahead with all eight of our ambitious Town Deal funded projects. This is testament to the work of the Town Deal board who have helped to ensure each project feeds into our Norwich 2040 Vision of a city which is creative, fair, liveable, connected and dynamic.”

The final district in the area features in the ‘tailored approaches for place-based growth’ section of the report. South Cambridgeshire is focussing on helping local businesses and the wider local economy to recover to a point stronger than it was previously. Having developed two enterprise zones, and interacting with thousands of local businesses, it hopes to reignite rural growth.

The district hopes to boost the visitor economy through its dedicated ‘Visit South Cambs’ initiative, the district’s first dedicated tourism website, which aims to help visitors explore the district to its full potential.

South Cambridgeshire District Council’s lead cabinet member for business recovery and skills, Cllr Peter McDonald said “Visit South Cambs has come about as a result of the council’s commitment to encourage local people to use their shops and food outlets so that high streets are retained – but people can only support these local businesses if they know they exist. There really is so much on offer but, without one major ‘high street’ on which to discover our independent cafés or boutiques, or with our best days out being hidden away in countryside locations, people may not be aware of everything available to us. I’d encourage local people to visit the website and explore, discover and enjoy what’s on our doorstep.”

Another initiative is the investment in local jobs, green space and active travel. Following extensive investment into the new Northstowe neighbourhood to create jobs, green spaces and pedestrian and cycle facilities. Purchasing land has also enabled a Local Centre and the Northstowe Enterprise Zone to be created. It is hoped that the Local Centre becomes a hub for local businesses and the community, whilst the enterprise zone becomes an integral part of the local economy. The construction of the zones should start in the summer of 2022.

Cllr McDonald continued “We’re doing everything we can to help create and shape a thriving, healthy community in Northstowe. We’re making sure that local people and businesses have every possible chance to help us bring forward the plans; after all, those are the people that already know the area best. This is proof of our commitment to helping bring forward local facilities and jobs at Northstowe – benefiting local residents and businesses too. We hope that the Enterprise Zone will in future be home to many new and growing local businesses. “

It is hoped that these districts provide a benchmark and live examples of national levelling up. The full report is available online, via the District Councils Network.

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