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Economic arc ‘an extraordinary driver for growth’, says NIC chief

The corridor connecting the university cities via the Milton Keynes, Bedford and Northampton corridor is an extraordinary driver for growth, said NIC chief executive Philip Graham.

“There is an incredible skills base, it is performing strongly and has the potential to perform even better. It has a strong knowledge base, is attracting investment and companies, and is seen as an attractive place to live and work.”

The infrastructure needs of the road and rail corridor are being examined as a priority by the NIC.

Speaking at a dinner hosted by Milton Keynes Business Leaders Partnership, Mr Graham (pictured left with MKBLP chair Dr Philip Smith) said an interim report on the case for change and options is due to be published at the end of this year.

It has received almost 100 responses from stakeholders including business, academics, local government and financial institutions.

The NIC has identified key challenges, including the pressure on housing affordability which could restrain growth. “We will need to find ways to address these challenges,” Mr Graham said.

“It also appears that the corridor may not perform effectively as a single economic cluster. It is too difficult for businesses in Milton Keynes, in Oxford and Cambridge to meet and work together.”

The NIC, set up by the government to form independent infrastructure policy, expects to publish its final report next year.

Mr Graham said: “Our aim will be to build a broad consensus of support so it can be built into local plans and inform business decisions.” 

MKBLP members and guests, including the Lord Lieutenant and the High Sheriff of Buckingham-shire and Milton Keynes South MP Iain Stewart, took part in a question and answer session during which Cranfield University vice-chancellor Sir Peter Gregson described Milton Keynes as “the fulcrum of this economic arc”.

Mr Graham said: “I think there is likely to be more to do to develop a cross-border vision that links and meets all the challenges of transport, productivity and housing though Milton Keynes has made significant progress with its MK Futures 2050 project. I look forward to the NIC working with the business community to develop a project I feel passionately about.”

The dinner, sponsored by NatWest Entrepreneurial Spark and part of MKBLP’s Quarterly Dinners programme, was the best attended in its history.

Chairman Philip Smith thanked Mr Graham for his presentation on a subject that is vital to the development of Milton Keynes and the wider region. Mr Smith said: “Identifying the right level of infrastructure is the key to unlocking our potential.” 

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