Local power, combined capability: how devolution can deliver for the East Midlands

Ed Catchpole

Regional Director – Yorkshire & Central

Devolution has finally been realised in the East Midlands. The region’s first mayor, Claire Ward, and the newly-launched East Midlands Combined County Authority (EMCCA) can become the champion and vehicle needed to spearhead growth and investment across Derbyshire and Nottinghamshire.

Home to 2.2 million residents and an economy already worth over £50 billion, the region is brimming with potential. However, it faces challenges in unlocking this; productivity lags behind the national average and economic inequality is undermining growth.

Central government has arguably long overlooked spending in this part of the country. The East Midlands receives the least government investment of all UK regions, sparking a vicious cycle of underinvestment and perceived lack of value, leading to stunted growth and a low levels of inward investment.

The East Midlands is not alone in this. Areas such as South Yorkshire and the Tees Valley have also historically been low-priority regions for investment – but over the past decade both have benefited from devolution and high-profile regional mayors in Oliver Coppard and Ben Houchen, establishing successful combined authorities that have started to have an impact on the socioeconomic fortunes of their regions.

Devolution brings decision-making and resources closer to the people and places they serve. The regions get stronger, develop confidence, and position themselves better for future growth.

Harworth has significant interests across the East Midlands that could deliver over 10,000 new homes and more than 5,000 new jobs, as well as generating £15.2 million in additional council tax receipts and a further £9.9 million of business rates which can be reinvested in public services. Our developments can play a central role in supporting the combined authority’s ambitions.

We are committed to supporting efforts to unlock the vast potential of the East Midlands. Whether this is through sustained collaboration or new and innovative partnerships, our ambition is to create the places that communities and industries want to be part of.

Mayor Ward has spoken about bringing greater investment into the region, building on the East Midlands Freeport, increasing tourism and leveraging the region’s assets including its industrial history.

For the region to thrive, we must build on its industrial strengths in advanced manufacturing, logistics and the automative sector, as well as support burgeoning sectors for the future such as life sciences and green energy.

Significant attention also needs to be paid to upgrading the area’s transport infrastructure. The East Midlands ranks bottom of all UK regions for public funding into transport, despite research demonstrating that, compared to all other UK regions, it actually delivers the greatest return on investment.

At our site in Staveley, we are waiting on crucial government funding to enable the Chesterfield-Staveley Regeneration Route – which could in turn unlock 1,290 homes along with major employment opportunities. But decisions on schemes like this often take too long to materialise – the mayor and combined authority can help change this by making these important decisions a priority.

Such transport projects would better connect areas within the East Midlands region, and in doing so unlock further opportunities to attract investment. My colleague Chris Davidson wrote recently about the importance of community in development – looking at the role our industry can play when cultivating new places. Likewise, local, regional, and central government all play a crucial part in delivering infrastructure to enable this.

Across Harworth’s sites in the East Midlands, we want to create the homes and commercial space to support thriving industries and provide areas for people to live, work and socialise.