The South East Plan is in danger of reversing the prosperity of the region. This is the message from Business South East, a new high level forum of leading businesses and employer organisations.
Business South East brings together including the CBI, IOD, Federation of Small Businesses, South East Chambers of Commerce and support organisations such as the South East England Development Agency (SEEDA) and the South East Economic Partnerships (SEEPs). They represent 380,000 businesses that employ 3.2 million people and each year turn over £390 billion and export £28 billion worth of manufactured goods. They create the wealth that contributes £17 billion net a year in taxes.
Business South East’s Chairman, Jim Brathwaite, commented on the public consultation now being undertaken by the South East England Regional Assembly (SEERA), which is responsible for drawing up the Plan:
“The Regional Assembly is about to put a questionnaire through 8 million homes in the South East, which appears to stress the negative aspects of economic growth and imply that we can somehow avoid them by standing still. But the key question should be “Do you want growth or do you want to see the economy decline? Staying where we are is not an option – economies, like individual businesses, either go forward or they decline"
“The South East is a successful region to do business in. That benefits the people and enables investment in the environment and infrastructure of the South East. It also supports the quality of life enjoyed in other parts of the UK. But this success must not be taken for granted – it is more fragile than many realise. Unless we provide for the housing, education, health, transport, water, waste disposal and other infrastructure needs of our businesses and people, we put this success at serious risk.
“The South East Plan should send a message to Government that the South East, as a region, is genuinely committed to sustainable growth. Otherwise we provide them with an excuse for not investing in our people and infrastructure. This investment is essential to provide an environment in which businesses in the South East can remain globally competitive and people can continue to enjoy a high quality of life.
“We want sensible planned growth driven as far as possible by increased innovation, productivity and a skilled workforce, with maximum use of already developed but under-used land. But all the analysis suggests that we will still need a larger workforce that will have a right to decent and affordable homes in healthy communities. There are already 150,000 fewer available workers than jobs in the region and the Assembly’s own research forecasts that up to 800,000 new jobs will be needed by 2026.
“None of the three options for housing development being put forward by the Assembly (25,500 p.a., 28,000 p.a. or 32,000 p.a.) provide for this number of jobs. All three would therefore risk driving away businesses from the South East to more welcoming locations overseas.
“The South East Plan is still at a very early stage. As it develops, over the next 18 months Business South East will continue to press the case, not just for meeting our housing needs, but also for the investment we need in the infrastructure essential to support a prosperous region and high quality of life.”
The Brighton & Hove Economic Partnership (BHEP) is preparing a formal response to SEERA’s South East Plan and it is in the process of widespread consultation with key individuals and business associations. If you would like more information contact Tony Mernagh on 01273 735062 or firstname.lastname@example.org
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