A £120 million growth funding package announced by Northamptonshire Enterprise Partnership during the summer was formally signed off in October by MP Penny Mordaunt on a visit to NEP’S offices in Northampton. Part grant and part long term loan form the Public Works Loan Board , this money will help pay for 12 significant infrastructure projects across the county, including improvements to the A45, the A43 and the creation of new transport initiatives such as ‘Smart Commuting’ and ‘Smart Corridors’ which will help improve journey times and public transport and thereby reducing congestion.
This is a significant amount of money and it to be welcomed. However the old adage ‘never a lender or a borrower be‘ comes to mind and we should remember that the public purse is not a bottomless pit of cash and it is the private sector that will ultimately drive long term productivity and growth in the UK economy.
It could be argued that Northamptonshire has fared better than many other areas during the recent economic downturn. The High Performance Technology sector is thriving and according to a report produced earlier in the year by Grant Thornton the food and drink industry based in Northamptonshire produced cash revenues in excess of £1.7 billion in 2013. However if these industries and new sectors are to further develop and expand and if we are to encourage new industry sectors to the County they will need land and buildings in which to operate. There are a number of significant development schemes across the county that are edging ever closer to providing tangible opportunities for existing business and those companies that are looking to move to Northamptonshire. One of the biggest is Stanton Cross in Wellingborough which Drake Commercial are directly involved with and which was one of the 12 infrastructure projects that has secured some of the growth funding mentioned above. Approximately £9 million has been allocated to assist in the construction of the first main road bridge across the railway close to the proposed new station. Bovis Homes who are promoting Stanton Cross have indicated that work will start on site in early 2015 with the initial site infrastructure works.
Rushden Lakes Lakes finally gained planning approval from the Secretary of State at the start of the year this 465,000 sq ft retail based scheme on the outskirts of Rushden. Both Rushden Lakes and Stanton Cross, once fully developed, will provide several thousands of job opportunities going some way to fulfilling Northamptonshire Enterprise Partnerships’ plans for 32,000 new jobs and 37,000 new homes by 2021 as set out in their Strategic Economic Plan published in March.
For those looking for tangible signs of things happening on the ground now the Homes and Community Agency are reported to be shortly placing a 4 acre site under offer in Northampton’s Enterprise Zone which will hopefully see further development taking place in a key development area of the town following on from the completion of Cosworth’s new 30,000 sq ft manufacturing facility, which is currently under construction. As a further positive sign of confidence in the market Prologis are speculatively developing a new 340,000 sq ft distribution facility at Grange Park, close to Junction 15 of the M1 at Northampton and one of the other leading distribution property developers in the country, Goodman have recently announced their purchase of a 22 acre site also at Grange Park where they have plans to develop two buildings each totalling 450,000 sq ft. While the distribution sector is often criticised for developing unsightly ‘Big Boxes’ with ‘too few employees’ it should be noted that the logistics business in Northamptonshire provides employment for nearly 45,000 people.
While sustainable economic growth may need to be driven by the private sector, the public sector in Northamptonshire particularly in the form of Northamptonshire Enterprise Partnership, have done an important job in helping to kick start a number of key schemes and initiatives by keeping Northamptonshire on the map and in the minds of those holding the purse strings in Central Government. If the public and private sector can now take advantage of this funding and use it creatively to help bring forward new development across the County it would be a perfect example of the public and private partnership working hand in hand.
For further information, contact Nicholas Roberts on 01604 620616.