Over recent years, the Humber has had huge success in securing and delivering major infrastructure and investment projects, from Greenport Hull and the Siemens Gamesa blade factory, to the new A63 footbridge and rail gauge enhancement on the South Bank.
These projects have created new jobs and attracted further investment into the region, such as the planned Siemens Mobility train factory in Goole and the recently approved Yorkshire Energy Park at the former Hedon Aerodrome.
This recent success is great news for the Humber, demonstrating a real commitment to deliver from a range of partners in an area of the country which has to balance economic growth with a need to protect and enhance the vital environment of the Humber Estuary.
A great deal of effort has been made to achieve this balance, with a unique initiative, spearheaded by the Humber LEP and our chair, Lord Haskins, playing a crucial role over recent years.
The Single Conversation Group was established in 2013 as a first-in-the-nation pilot to bring together key regional stakeholders involved in the planning and development process to discuss major projects and investments across the Humber.
It serves as a forum for informal consultation between stakeholders at both the pre-planning stage, through to the delivery of projects.
The group is made up of representatives from the four local authorities, Hull, East Riding, North Lincolnshire and North East Lincolnshire, as well as a number of statutory agencies and utilities companies.
Meeting every two months, the group works through a list of major projects at various stages of planning and development across the region.
One of the primary drivers behind the group’s creation was concern around the barriers to investment presented by the unique environmental designations and protections of the Humber Estuary. The LEP, whilst mindful of the vital need to protect and enhance the Humber’s natural environment and habitats, also has a responsibility to promote investment and development across the region.
Conscious of this, the Single Conversation Group helps to develop a better understanding between, on the one hand, investors and developers keen to push ahead with projects, and on the other, statutory consultees such as Natural England and the Environment Agency with legal obligations to protect the natural environment and ensure that new developments appropriately mitigate or compensate against their environmental impacts.
Recently, the Single Conversation Group has worked to develop a more strategic approach to the issue of environmental mitigation and compensation. At present, if a development comes forward that might displace a protected species from its habitat, or degrade the natural environment, developers need to identify land to mitigate for this or compensate against it. This can often delay projects, or lead to significant cost and resource challenges, thus acting as a barrier to investment.
The strategic approach being developed on the Humber seeks to proactively identify sites across the region that might be utilised to mitigate for or compensate against future developments. As and when projects come forward, they could ‘buy in’ to these pre-identified sites, incentivising investment whilst ensuring the Humber’s environment is protected and enhanced.
The Single Conversation Group remains an initiative unique to the Humber.
It stands as a successful example of how a proactive, cooperative approach can help to deliver major projects in the area whilst being cognisant of the need to protect and enhance the natural assets of the Humber.
Kishor Tailor - CEO - Hull and Humber LEP