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Recommendations for economic growth of Fenland discussed at business briefing in Wisbech



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A one hundred and 36 page document could be one of the most important to be published for Fenland as it outlines how the area will grow over the coming decades.

The CPIER briefing at Wisbech Boat House. (5586948)
The CPIER briefing at Wisbech Boat House. (5586948)

The Cambridgeshire and Peterborough Independent Economic Review (CPIER) was published earlier in the autumn but was discussed publicly in Fenland for the first time yesterday (Thursday) at a special briefing held at the Boat House in Wisbech.

Attended by councillors, business people and representatives of other key organisations, the briefing heard from one of the report’s authors Daniel Timms, of Metro Dynamics, an economic analysts firm.

He gave an overview of the report, which has been drawn up by the Cambridgeshire and Peterborough Independent Economic Commission led by Dame Kate Barker. It was commissioned by Cambridgeshire Mayor James Palmer and the combined authority.

The CPIER briefing at Wisbech Boat House. (5586950)
The CPIER briefing at Wisbech Boat House. (5586950)

But while the report focuses on 14 key areas such as infrastructure, skills, productivity-driven growth, housing and health and how Fenland can overcome challenges to optimise opportunities in those areas, the document barely mentioned the B-word.

Brexit was dismissed in just one page with Mr Timms explaining they did not want the focus to be on Britain’s withdrawal from the European Union, but rather to concentrate on ways to ensure Fenland prospers economically in the future.

In fact Brexit was only mentioned in relation to the EU workers and how businesses will get the labour they need going forward.

Mr Timms explained the report aims to influence the local industrial strategy and policy decisions of local government, and help Cambridgeshire and Peterborough to achieve its target to double its GVA (the value of goods and services produced) over the next 25 years. Fenland has the second lowest GVAs in the combined authority area with only East Cambridgeshire less.

Mr Timms urged: “Seize this report it has got the attention of the government, and write a new narrative for Fenland - this is a perfect opportunity.”

Fenland council leader Chris Seaton agreed describing the document as “a crucial piece of economic evidence base” which will help shape the area’s new local industrial strategy.

He said: “It is pleasing to note that the Fens has been highlighted as a key economic area (separately from the other two economic areas of Cambridge and Peterborough). The report identifies the Fens as the most economically challenged of the three areas, but it also highlights the ‘immense potential for the Fens as the apex of British agricultural production and an attractive way of life in thriving Market Towns’.

“It’s important the rest of Cambridgeshire recognises these challenges and helps this part of north Cambridgeshire to achieve a level of equality in terms of economic fortunes and opportunities for its community. The recommendations not only focus on the key issues of business, housing and infrastructure but also the equally important socio economic elements of education and health which are areas that need particular attention in the Fens.”

He also said he was pleased to see Fenland’s Market Towns “front and centre to the long-term economic success of the area”, and an interesting CPIER case study on Wisbech, which has aspirational plans for a Garden Town to transform the town’s future fortunes.

Cambridgeshire county council leader Steve Count said the foresight of the Combined Authority in commissioning the CPIER has now put the area six to eight months ahead of the rest of the country in terms of developing its own economic evidence base.

He said: “The CPIER is the first report of its kind and puts us one step ahead. It also gives Fenland a strong lead as part of the wider combined area geography in the development of a new Local Industrial Strategy.”



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