Urban and rural areas must work together on economy

AS the Northern Powerhouse agenda gains momentum, I want to reflect on what this means for areas like York, North Yorkshire and the East Riding.

We hear much about how the Northern Powerhouse will connect our great cities, but we must appreciate that the real added value of the North is the interplay between urban and rural.

World class rural assets

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In our part of the North we don’t have the large cities of Leeds, Manchester, Sheffield or Liverpool.

But we do have world class agriculture and food manufacturing alongside internationally renowned research.

We are the energy powerhouse of the North, with Drax and Eggborough in Selby, and one of the largest wind farms in the world is being built off our coastline. There are plans for enormous investment in Cumbria’s nuclear industry. None of this could happen in a city.

In the age of the global nomad, we must not underestimate the importance of having a great place to live in attracting private sector investment from around the world.

We are blessed with an unrivalled quality of life: two national parks, the stunning Yorkshire coastline and the historic city of York.

These areas are our breathing space. It is no wonder we are regularly voted the area most people would like to live. No other UK city without a premiership football team is as well known internationally as York, and this is no accident.

Largest private sector investment in the entire North

In 2012, an OECD report found that many rural areas have shown faster than average growth.

While major global cities account for a large share of output, a lot of economic growth occurs in the areas outside.

For example, our area is about to benefit from the largest private sector investment in the North of England.

A £2.3bn potash mine with a potential £2bn annual turnover and 1000 new higher paid jobs for generations to come.

We welcome the work that is being done to ensure we have transport connectivity. We welcome joined-up thinking to improve infrastructure to reduce journey times and connect labour markets more effectively. There is no point building HS2 if the wider region is not connected into it.

For decades we have lacked the investment in road, rail, ports and airports. The Transport for North partnership is working on this. But much more needs to be done if our connectivity levels are to approach those of London or other major conurbations.

100 per cent broadband coverage is a priority

In relation to broadband and mobile, it’s unacceptable that any part of the North does not have high speed connections. We are making real progress, but if we are serious about a genuine Northern Powerhouse, delivering 100 per cent coverage must be a priority.

I can promise you now, as a rural LEP, we will continue to lobby hard for greater, faster investment in these key services.

Scale is important

Critical mass is important. 
In future years, megacities of 10 million will become commonplace. There will be at least 200 megacities in China alone by 2030.

The North’s economy is currently worth £289bn – twice the size of Scotland’s and potentially the tenth largest in the EU.

We will need our own inward investment and export ambassadors within these megacities beating the drum for the Northern Powerhouse.

The rest of the world is organised on a regional basis. We will need to collaborate right across the North including the rural areas if we are to achieve world competitive scale and gain the economic growth we both need and deserve.

A rural and urban vision

My vision of a Northern Powerhouse, is one that can compete with the very best in the world. One where we have five million people and a £300bn economy all connected to deliver the skills and industry to support global investment opportunities.

Combined rural & urban vision

The York, North Yorkshire and East Riding Enterprise Partnership helps businesses to start up, grow and become more competitive. It is governed by a private-sector led board with representatives from the public sector.

Here are some of the key elements of its strategic vision, which aims to ensure rural and urban communities work in harmony:

The ports of Liverpool and Hull offer gateways to Europe on each coast.

York is promoted as a world-class tourism base.

There is also world class innovation in sectors ranging from agro-tech to nuclear.

Manchester international airport

Powerful financial and industrial bases in West and South Yorkshire

Largest private sector investment in the North

We have much to celebrate in the North, let’s build together on this success. Any Northern Powerhouse plan must recognise the real strength of the North, capitalising on our strengths, urban and rural, to build an offer which stands out on the world stage.

Success will be a North which is connected and joined up, physically and politically, delivering major investment and jobs for people across the whole region.

Barry Dodd CBE is an entrepreneur who transformed the GSM Group from a two person start-up into a multinational business. Apart from chairing the LEP, he also carries out a wide range of public service roles.