The East of England is under pressure to accommodate growth, which many feel could stretch infrastructure beyond capacity and damage the countryside. But, Peterborough, Luton, Ipswich, Norwich, Colchester and Southend-on-Sea, who together form Regional Cities East (RCE), believe it is possible to support more jobs and homes in a sustainable way. The RCE partnership, which has the support of the East of England Development Agency and the Government Office for the East of England, is calling on the Government for greater powers to fast track key developments, fund infrastructure, and work more closely with their neighbouring councils on issues that cut across local authority boundaries.
'Many people think the East of England is anti growth. We're not. We simply want to see it done properly. If we build in our existing cities, capitalise on our particular strengths and collaborate, rather than compete for investment, we can hit tough targets for jobs and homes. We can bring prosperity to everyone in the region without damaging the environment.
'Council leaders representing all the main political parties sit on the RCE Board and support these plans. This level of political sign up from towns and cities across a region who don't share boundaries is unprecedented. But, to help the East of England fully punch its weight, we need help from central government.'
In their submission to Ruth Kelly, the RCE partnership requests:
--support for a regional team of regeneration trouble shooters to fast track key urban planning and development projects across RCE
--new mechanisms to raise money for infrastructure based on the profits developers make from new developments
--a more streamlined framework for planning and economic development based on the assets and ideas of cities and their surrounding local authority partners, not simply traditional council boundaries
RCE has set tough objectives to be achieved by 2021:
--to add£10bn a year to the UK economy
--to create at least 140,000 new jobs
--to build at least 160,000 new homes - the vast majority on brownfield land
--to deliver a 3% reduction in carbon emissions for the whole of the UK
In their business case, the RCE also propose:
--a package of city-led measures to stimulate enterprise and innovation
--a five-year programme to reduce carbon emissions
--a package of measures to promote the creative strengths of the cities
--a skills initiative for the six cities, sharing best practice through close collaboration
Mr Atkins is supported by two deputy chairs: John Holdich (Peterborough City Council's cabinet member for housing, regeneration and economic development) and Steve Morphew, Norwich City Council's leader. RCE director, Mike Crouch (Executive Director at Colchester BC) is responsible for managing and running the organisation.
The RCE partnership hopes government will respond to its business case after the summer break.
--Regional Cities East (RCE) is an alliance of six medium-sized cities in the East of England - Peterborough, Luton, Ipswich, Norwich, Colchester and Southend-on-Sea - who believe that by sharing best practice, collaborating on joint ventures and setting clear priorities, they can create more jobs and affordable homes than they could by working alone. Regional Cities East is supported by the East of England Development Agency and the Government Office for the East of England.
--The RCE chair is Richard Atkins, holder of the economic development portfolio at Ipswich BC. Richard Atkins has been group leader of the Liberal Democrats at Ipswich since 2005. He is also a board member of the Haven Gateway Partnership and director of Suffolk Development Agency. Richard runs his own telecoms and web consultancy.
--The RCE Director is Mike Crouch, Executive Director at Colchester BC. Mike, who trained as a town planner, has spent his career working for a variety of county and district councils in the East of England, becoming Director of Planning and Development at Babergh DC, before moving to his current authority, Colchester BC in 1997 as the then Director of Environmental Services. Now, as Executive Director at Colchester, he leads on the Council's ambitious growth and regeneration programmes and has just been appointed by RCE as its first, part-time, Director leading a small core team working on this exciting new initiative.