A regional strategy to make the most of the opportunities in the South West, tackle the challenges it faces and deliver long-term, sustainable growth has today been released.
The Heart of the South West Local Industrial Strategy comes in response to the Government’s national Industrial Strategy and sets out how the area will build resilience in the recovery from Covid-19. It has been developed by the Heart of the South West LEP and the Heart of the South West Joint Committee, working closely with 16 local authorities, two National Parks, local businesses and other organisations, and builds on the ambitious Heart of the South West Productivity Strategy published in 2018.
The strategy recognises the particular challenges the area faces as it seeks to recover from the pandemic. The unprecedented impact caused by COVID-19 was reflected in the OBR’s forecast on Wednesday this week, with a prediction that the UK will contract by 11.3% this year and output won’t return to pre-crisis levels until the end of 2022. The sector mix in Heart of the South West means economically it’s been one of the worst-hit areas in the country with tourism and hospitality alongside manufacturing and construction being significantly impacted.
The LEP and its Growth Hub have been working with partners to lead the response to the crisis, supporting businesses and communities in the short-term. The Local Industrial Strategy then sets out an approach to invest in and strengthen the economy in the long term. It covers the areas of Devon, Somerset, Plymouth and Torbay and aims to improve the economic performance in all of these areas, including underperforming towns, peripheral areas and coastal communities.
There are three key areas of focus within the plan that aims to grow the economy and deliver clean and inclusive growth. It’s built on the region’s key assets:
- Energy: stemming from the construction and legacy of Hinkley Point C – one of Europe’s largest infrastructure projects – and pioneering the next generation of marine renewables;
- Engineering: leading on the development and commercialisation of marine autonomy and supporting the sustainable aviation challenge through development of rotary technologies and electric planes;
- Digital: specifically through environmental intelligence, the marine geospatial innovation market and health and agri-technologies.
Karl Tucker, Chair, Heart of the South West LEP, said: “This strategy creates a long-term approach to ensure that we navigate a route through the current challenging climate and maximise the opportunities and potential, whilst at the same time making sure we are taking action to reduce our carbon footprint, increase social mobility and protect our natural environment.
“Our area has so much to offer, including Hinkley Point C, world class research in marine renewables and autonomy, significant aerospace and defence capabilities, and of course our bedrock industries of farming, food, fishing and tourism. We also boast some of the most beautiful natural landscapes and coastlines in the UK, which is why so many people choose to live and work here. However, our economy is not as strong as it could be and there are significant disparities in economic performance and productivity across our area. This strategy will help us to address these disparities, creating a stronger and more sustainable economy and high-quality jobs.”
Councillor Val Keitch, Chair, Heart of the South West Joint Committee, and Leader, South Somerset District Council, said: “This year has thrown unimaginable challenges at us with COVID-19 impacting on our health, wellbeing and the economy, and the overhanging prospect and uncertainties around Brexit, and unfortunately parts of our area have been disproportionately affected. Sadly, we also know that these won’t be the last crises we have to overcome – there are many other global challenges such as climate change to deal with. It is vital therefore that we have a strategy that will make us more resilient in a rapidly changing world.
“This strategy builds on the wealth of expertise in our part of the country and the distinctive assets it offers, whilst seizing new opportunities to move our economy towards a cleaner and more inclusive future.”