Heart of the South West LEP Annual Conference Explores Clean Growth and Inclusive Growth for Devon, Plymouth Somerset and Torbay

A successful Annual Conference with over 300 delegates focussing on clean growth and inclusive growth was held in Torquay on Monday 4 November by the Heart of the South West LEP, which is tasked with raising productivity and prosperity for all across Devon, Plymouth, Somerset and Torbay.

Clean growth and inclusive growth are the overarching themes of the LEP’s emerging Local Industrial Strategy; to make sure that increased productivity is sustainable and that prosperity benefits the whole of the community.

Therefore at this year’s conference, the keynote speaker was Charlotte Alldritt, Director at the Centre for Progressive Policy, who gave an inspiring presentation on the practical measures that can be taken to make inclusive growth a reality. Charlotte commended the LEP’s soon to be published Local Industrial Strategy for having inclusion as a running theme throughout the document.

A video showcasing the area’s key sectors and LEP projects underway with its funding programme of over £3/4bn set the scene of the conference, followed by welcome addresses by Torbay Council Leader, Steve Darling and Torbay MP Kevin Foster.

Steve Hindley gave his final conference speech as LEP Chair before his term of office comes to an end, and he outlined the major challenges and achievements that have been made over his six years with the LEP.

HM Lord-Lieutenant of Devon, David Fursdon presented on the Queen’s Award for Enterprise and how the scheme can benefit businesses’ growth and profile immensely.

LEP Chief Executive David Ralph gave an update on the impacts of the LEP – showing what’s been done so far and what has been achieved against the LEP’s targets. For example, employment and productivity is up compared to the UK average, but wages still lag behind in the area. Amongst other good news in the impact report is that there is a net increase of 53,000 jobs since 2014 – already higher that the 2020 target of 50,000 – and superfast and ultrafast broadband continues to increase through various LEP funded schemes going up until 2025. The impact report presentation and this year’s Annual Report can be seen at the LEP’s website: https://heartofswlep.co.uk/hotsw-lep-conference-and-agm-2019/

David pointed out that in order to achieve transformational growth that is both “clean” and “inclusive” partners need to look at doing things differently and employing creative new ideas – which was referenced in Charlotte Alldritt’s presentation – and he paid tribute to Steve Hindley for his leadership and advice as chair of the LEP for the last six years.

Professor Judith Petts from The University of Plymouth gave an overview of clean growth and what it means for the area. LEP Chief Operating Officer Eifion Jones set the context of inclusive growth and why it’s particularly important for the Heart of the South West with its relatively high housing prices compared to salaries.

Charlotte Alldritt, Director at the Centre for Progressive Policy said:

“I’m delighted to come to the Heart of the South West area to talk about inclusive growth.

“It’s clear that local and national policy makers need to go beyond traditional measures of economic progress if we are to achieve greater productivity and shared prosperity.

“Based on intelligence gathered by the Centre for Progressive Policy, the HotSW area includes some of the highest and the lowest levels of inclusive growth; so it’s encouraging that this critical factor is central to the LEP’s Local Industrial Strategy.”

With the spotlight also on clean growth, HotSW businesses presented case studies on how their own operations are working towards clean growth targets:

Langage Farm MD Paul Winterton talked about sustainable practices in their dairy business and how they’ve responded to make positive changes over the years in fertilisation and recycling; Chair of Gravity, Martin Bellamy, talked about the new 635-acre Enterprise Zone in Somerset that will be a leading innovation campus underpinned by clean growth; and David Eccles, Head of Stakeholder Engagement at Hinkley Point C, spoke about the role of nuclear in achieving net zero emissions – and the part that Hinkley has to play in securing a long-term legacy of transformational economic growth.

Glenn Woodcock, Director at Oxygen House & Exeter City Futures presented on the opportunities that data analytics offer individuals in every career and every sector to develop smart processes and improve their performance.

The conference was rounded up by the AGM in which the LEP’s income and expenditure was published in line with its diligence and transparency as a publicly funded body.

Steve Hindley CBE DL, Chair of the Heart of the South West LEP said:

“This year’s conference was very exciting – we had sixteen speakers and really drilled down into what clean and inclusive growth can mean for our modern economy. It’s been my pleasure and honour to chair the LEP for the last six years, in which time I’ve seen many achievements and successes.

“We started off with a budget of zero and we’re now ploughing ahead with a £3/4bn investment programme that’s delivering infrastructure and skills projects across the area”