West of England CA mayor Tim Bowles (Con) was at Mipim showcasing investment and development opportunities worth £40bn.
As well as major housebuilding plans, projects highlighted include the expansion of Bristol airport and the creation of enterprise zones. However, Mr Bowles’ pitch to investors goes beyond individual projects to sell the opportunity of investing in the area as a whole.
bowles, tim (wof e mayor)
“We are the only core city region that is a net contributor to the exchequer. If as a region we provide a return on investment to the government, think what that means for you as an investor,” he said.
He told LGC the prospect of Britain leaving the EU was not deterring global investors.
“We have got a region where we can see where the growth is taking place, there is so much investment in tech, we’ve got a strong relationship with Europe. We are part of Europe, it’s vital to us and it always will be.”
We’ve got a strong relationship with Europe. We are part of Europe, it’s vital to us and it always will be
He said attending Mipim led directly to “jobs and homes”, whether through projects led by the combined authority or the businesses that formed part of the Bristol & Bath delegation. Mr Bowles said he would be “promoting to the market the strength of our region”, including the aerospace sector.
All three councils in the combined authority – Bristol City Council and South Gloucestershire and Bath & North East Somerset councils – sent representatives, as did neighbouring North Somerset Council. Mr Bowles said the delegation was at Mipim under the banner of Bristol & Bath, rather than West of England, due to the “global brands” the two cities had.
“If you’re looking for an investment you’re looking for confidence in an economy and people working together, both politically and operationally,” Mr Bowles said, pointing to the fact the combined authority was the first to submit a joint spatial plan to ministers. This seeks 105,000 homes over 20 years; a document developed in parallel sets out how transport infrastructure will support them.
Mr Bowles said the local transport plan would lead to suburban rail improvements, such as reopening stations and building new ones, and support commuter routes even beyond the combined authority’s boundary. There are also plans to expand the mass rapid transit system, Metrobus, in which buses run along a route closed to other traffic. The first line opened in January and it has been used by 250,000 passengers.
Mr Bowles said: “I believe we can get away from car usage if we have a service where people can effectively turn up and go… What we know is where we provide good quality public transport in our region people do use it.”
Asked whether he would consider using his powers to introduce bus franchising under the Buses Act 2017, Mr Bowles said a review of bus services was under way but Metrobus, created through a “partnership with a bus operator”, showed changing how the system operates was not necessarily the answer.
Metro-mayor at Mipim: Investors look for political co-operation