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Time for region to seize moment

19/08/2021 Think Piece
Time for region to seize moment

Helen Simpson OBE, Chair of the York & North Yorkshire Local Enterprise Partnership, discusses local government reorganisation and the benefits of Devolution.

After much discussion, the decision on York and North Yorkshire’s local government reorganisation is now made.  Devolution was always the driver for local government reorganisation. So, now is the time to turn the words into action and bring forward Devolution and its accompanying opportunities for everyone in our region. To make this happen, we will need to work together, with a unified vision, to develop and agree a great deal for York and North Yorkshire.

We have worked hard to create our region’s “Devolution Asks”, a set of proposals to government for York and North Yorkshire that have been built in collaboration with region-wide partners. They are framed around a core ambition for a carbon negative economy, presenting an economic win-win for York and North Yorkshire. This ambition can see our region sit at the heart of the UK’s Net Zero goal and tackle the inevitable leveller of climate change.  

The carbon negative ambition presents a huge economic opportunity for York and North Yorkshire. New supply chains, business growth and inward investment propositions can all be scaled from this ambition, leading to new and better job creation. The benefits of carbon reduction measures, such as improving biodiversity, reducing air pollution and supporting health and wellbeing, will provide a huge boost to the already great quality of life within the region, making York and North Yorkshire THE place to live, work, play and invest. Achieving this ambition of carbon negative by 2040 will take a collective approach by regional partners and stakeholders and our businesses and communities working with the support of the LEP.

In our region, we work together to make our investments deliver. Over the last five years, alongside our partners, we have delivered locally to drive enterprise and fulfil our promises. Our Local Growth Fund programme is one such example, a £145m capital fund, delivered in full, on time and on budget and providing a legacy that can take us forward in our ambitions for Devolution.

From the Local Growth Fund, a £750,000 investment in feasibility studies, drawn up in partnership, have provided evidence and propositions that are driving the forward relationships with government around our region’s unique proposition. We supported 24 feasibility studies across a broad range of activity that included town centre regeneration, SME start-up workspace, improving transport and highway infrastructure, employment sites, tourism growth, flood resilience, and, importantly bio-economy and energy. Mapping of biomass potential within the region is helping to inform the government’s biomass strategy and is just one such example of how our region has nationally significant green growth potential.

At the heart of our proposition is BioYorkshire, a cluster of world-class innovation assets in bioeconomy all situated within our region. The Department for International Trade has identified the region as a ‘High Potential Opportunity’ in agri-food, whilst major industry investment such as Drax investment in Bioenergy with Carbon Capture and Storage provides further potential. This industry potential alongside our natural capital assets of land and sea, which can sequester carbon, underpin the economic USP for York and North Yorkshire.

The government’s Plan for Growth centres on a Green Industrial Revolution. As we emerge from the most economically challenging period of our lifetimes, in our region we can come together and dare to do things differently. We can reframe our rural proposition to provide nationally and globally significant solutions. We can achieve prosperity for our people and our communities that can change lives and deliver economic growth for our business community that will strengthen and sustain our economy through any future economic shocks.

Our carbon negative ambition presents an opportunity for York and North Yorkshire to deliver on the UK government ambitions for Net Zero, for Levelling Up and to ensure that our region plays a strong and unique role in a Global Britain.

It is time to champion our own cause, share in our common values and the pride and passion we have for our amazing region. It is time to bring home a great deal and create a greener, fairer and stronger economy, for everyone, everywhere across York and North Yorkshire.

From an article originally published by The Yorkshire Post, 19 August 2021.

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