GOVERNMENT support for plans to create a pan-regional partnership overseeing growth in the Oxford-Cambridge region has been described as a “major milestone” by SEMLEP chair Peter Horrocks.
He was speaking in the wake of the announcement by Michael Gove, Secretary of State for Levelling Up, Housing and Communities, that ministers had come down in favour of the pan-regional partnership.
The decision unlocks access to up to £2.5million of government funding for the Partnership to support its priorities in delivering sustainable growth and environmental enhancements for the region.
The partnership’s role will be to champion the region between Oxford and Cambridge – including Milton Keynes and North Buckinghamshire, Northamptonshire and Bedfordshire – as a world leader of innovation and business, acting to achieve environmentally sustainable and inclusive growth. It will strengthen cross-boundary collaboration among its partners to focus on tackling the issues that matter to the people who live and work in the region.
The partnership’s initial programme is to develop a set of propositions to attract international investment and profile the region on a global stage and to continue the work under way to embed shared environment principles.
The new pan-regional partnership has begun the search for an independent chair. In the interim, a shadow board has been set up to oversee the partnership’s programme and agree governance and funding.
Mr Horrocks pictured right, who is a member of the shadow board, said: “Clear-cut government support for our local vision for the Oxford Cambridge area is a major milestone. By developing ambition for the economy and environment in tandem this region can help lead the UK in environmentally sustainable economic growth. For the vibrant and beautiful area between Oxford and Cambridge this represents a golden chance to create investment in an improved economy and enhanced environment that benefits all.”
He is joined on the shadow board by Milton Keynes City Council leader Cllr Pete Marland and Cllr Richard Wenham, leader of Central Bedfordshire Council representing the Central Area Growth Board.
Cllr Wenham pictured left said: “We have ambitious and bold plans for Central Bedfordshire to continue to deliver jobs, growth and prosperity for our communities and residents. We welcome government focus to continue to work on growing the economy and the international brand to attract world-class employment and innovation opportunities to Central Bedfordshire.”
Cllr Wenham also chairs the England’s Economic Heartland, one of seven sub-national transport bodies at the forefront of planning and promoting the transport infrastructure and policy framework required to realise the region’s economic potential while reducing the transport system’s impact on the environment.
The shadow board is chaired by Cllr Barry Wood, leader of Cherwell District Council. He said: “We believe that by working together, the whole Oxford to Cambridge region can be greater than the sum of its parts. With official status as a Pan-Regional Partnership backed by government, we can unlock potential and further strengthen our area’s position as a hub of innovation, a globally recognised region of science and technology that delivers prosperity for our communities.
“It will enable us to better achieve inclusive and sustainable outcomes for residents, business and the environment.”
Also on the interim shadow board are:
Cllr Susan Brown, Leader of Oxford City Council representing the Future Oxfordshire Partnership;
Cllr Anna Smith, Leader of Cambridge City Council representing the Cambridgeshire and Peterborough Combined Authority ;
Professor Alistair Fitt, Pro-Vice Chancellor Oxford Brookes University sitting as chair of the Arc Universities Group;
Cllr Bridget Smith, Leader South Cambridgeshire District Council, Chair of the Environment Sub-Group
A representative for England’s Economic Heartland is to be confirmed