Upgrades to the transport infrastructure of York are pivotal if the city is to remain a competitive destination for commerce, a top business leader has claimed.
Bridget Davies, the new president of York Chamber of Commerce, used her inaugural speech to cite the dualling of the A64, along with improvements to the Northern Ring Road, Hopgrove roundabout and the evolution of York Central as issues that required urgent attention in the city.
Ms Davies also cited the continuing absence of a Local Plan for York as a inhibitive factor for companies and warned that, as the city’s talent pool was becoming increasingly stretched, it was reliant on transport infrastructure to help businesses recruit staff from a wider area.
Ms Davies told attendees at the chamber’s annual dinner: “In parts of York & North Yorkshire there is zero unemployment. Whilst that in itself is positive, conversely it adds to the skills gap and recruitment issues facing many. I do feel that this needs to be dealt with at source, in schools, where I believe all options whether further or higher education, apprenticeships or employment should be given proper consideration with qualified impartial careers advice and guidance being available to all.
“As an employer in York I am competing for talent with other businesses both in the city and in the wider region. We rely on our transport network in all of its guises to enable our workforce to access the jobs we are creating.”
She added: “Without a local plan we will continue failing to deliver the housing our workforce needs at prices they can afford. Without a local plan we are saying that we are effectively closed for business. I know work is progressing towards the completion of this important document but it must be ambitious, something we feel it is currently lacking.
“I know I am stepping into the danger zone of repetition here. I’m acutely aware that the words local plan and A64 dualling are losing their power but we must continue to make the case for infrastructure investment – improvements to the Northern Ring Road, Hopgrove roundabout and the evolution of York Central - recognising that this is a catalyst for economic growth rather than the end goal in itself.”
Her speech came as two of York’s leading councillors wrote to the Department or Transport calling for more funding to repair York’s roads.
Coun Ian Gillies and coun Andrew Waller said the prolonged winter weather had taken their toll on York’s roads and that, over the last three years, the council funded roughly £6m of local funding on top of existing DfT funding, nearly doubling the DfT funding of £7m. A DfT spokesperson said it was investing a record £23bn road improvements including nearly £24m York.