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Mayor James Palmer puts collaboration at heart of meeting challenge to double the size of the Cambridgeshire and Peterborough economy

Mayor James Palmer puts collaboration at heart of meeting challenge to double the size of the Cambridgeshire and Peterborough economy

Mayor James Palmer was today (November 6) joined by local elected representatives and business leaders to present his and the Combined Authority’s vision for meeting the housing, transport, skills and economic challenges raised in this Autumn’s Cambridgeshire and Peterborough Independent Economic Review (CPIER) report.

The event, called Ambitions for Growth, was an opportunity for the Mayor and Combined Authority to formally respond to the series of actions recommended by the CPIER report if the target of doubling the size of the economy, as set down in the devolution deal, was to be met.

The Combined Authority Board has agreed to endorse and support the 14 recommendations set out in the CPIER final report, which was published in September. (The 14 recommendations can be viewed from page 126 on the online version of the report.)

In a wide-ranging speech, the Mayor said the challenge for the Combined Authority was to be prepared to be bold, to think differently and challenge conventional approaches to delivery, which have previously not been sufficient to fully tackle the significant challenges the economy faces.

He also pointed to the need for the Combined Authority and its partners to work collaboratively if Cambridgeshire and Peterborough is to stand the best chance of tackling its significant strategic housing, transport and skills challenges head-on. It was incumbent on the Combined Authority, he said, “to be more than the sum of its parts”.

Also revealed in the speech was an indicative map of the extent and reach of the proposed Cambridgeshire metro, which the Mayor described as a system which can not only alleviate the significant congestion around Greater Cambridge, but also open up economic opportunities more people, while also bringing forward significant, sustainable housing developments along its transport corridors, particularly through garden villages.

He said the Metro was the ideal example of the transformational potential of working collaboratively, and of thinking strategically about how world class public transport and housing can be planned and delivered together to create the sustainable solutions needed to keep the economy driving forward.

The map showed how the vision for the Metro, which is planned to be delivered in phases between 2023 and 2028, will go well beyond the Greater Cambridge area, with corridors to St Neots, Mildenhall and Haverhill.

Speakers joining the Mayor included Professor Andy Neely, CPIER Commissioner and Pro-Vice-Chancellor for Enterprise and Business Relations at the University of Cambridge; Professor Aamir Khalid, Chair of the Business board (CPCA LEP) and Technology Director at TWI Ltd; and Dr Mike More, Chair of Cambridge University Hospitals.

The event was held at the Combined Authority’s premises at the Enterprise Campus, Alconbury Weald.

Mayor James Palmer said:

“Today was an important day because it has provided an opportunity for the Combined Authority to formally respond to the recommendations contained within the Cambridgeshire and Peterborough Independent Economic Review (CPIER).

“This was a fantastic report that has played an extremely valuable role giving us an independent evidence base in which to go to Government and call for far greater levels of investment and support. I know that the report’s chief author Dame Kate Barker was very keen for this report not to share the fate of many other reports and to simply gather dust on a Cambridgeshire shelf somewhere. It’s the job of the Combined Authority Board and those with whom we work in partnership to ensure that this is not the case with this report.

“As a Combined Authority we have two choices. One option is for us to simply continue to do things in the way they’ve always been done. If we do this, we will not be successful in overcoming the challenges this report lays before us. The other option is for us to be prepared to be radical, to challenge convention, and to do things differently and to be truly bold in seeking to grapple with the significant challenges our area faces, whether that be a housing challenge, a transport infrastructure challenge or a skills challenge.

“When it comes to housing we need to appreciate that in the past many communities’ concerns about new homes have not been unreasonable. I strongly believe that the vast majority of people in this area appreciate the need for more housing. However what many communities have objected to is housing without appropriate infrastructure and housing that has a negative impact on the character of their communities and the environments in which they live. Bolt-on extensions to existing settlements do not provide the answer to the challenges outlined in this review.

“If we’re going to get close to meeting the ambitious housing delivery figures set out in the review whilst taking the people of Cambridgeshire with us, we need a new approach. Few people think that the current system of local plans that we currently work with is delivering. It’s not delivering the homes on the scale needed to ensure that Cambridgeshire can continue to be an economic success story, it’s not providing the opportunities for enough of our young people to make their first step on the property ladder – but it’s also failing to get wide support for the scale of development we need because it doesn’t support housing with infrastructure.

“To start with we need an ambitious Non-Statutory Spatial Plan (NSSP) based on really understanding the need for affordable homes. It’s also my personal view that in time the Combined Authority needs to seriously consider the potential for there to be a Statutory Spatial Plan (SSP), like other Combined Authorities, that can make sure new homes are supported by our major transport investments . It’s also clear to me that if we’re to deliver the CAM Metro then the Combined Authority will need to have tools like Development Corporations available. They would bring together planning and transport powers in one place and speed things up by years. However let me be clear, any such approach must be consensual and must have the relevant local planning authorities at its heart. I welcome the support that the Government provided for Mayoral and Business-led Development Corporations in last week’s budget and I know Ministers were thinking of us when they set that out.

“New garden villages linked to new transport infrastructure would enable to us to deliver the homes to meet the figures set out in the review and to play a key role in helping us to provide the finance necessary to deliver a world class public transport system for Cambridgeshire.

“By working more intensely together with the Greater Cambridge Partnership (GCP) we will be able to accelerate the first phase of the CAM Metro between Cambourne and Cambridge. But the overall network map makes it clear that it will be a system for the whole of Cambridgeshire and Peterborough, not just Greater Cambridge and complements our ambitions for road improvements in other parts of the area. Over the past few months we have been working to identify potential sites for new garden villages along the proposed transport. The Combined Authority continues to investigate the role that Land Value Capture and Tax increment funding (TIF) can play in the funding of the Metro.

“The CAM Metro is deliverable and I’m confident enables us to meet both the transport and the housing challenge set out in the review.

“The review calls for the franchising of bus services. In principle I can see the advantages of bus franchising and the bus review that the Combined Authority has commissioned will shortly be making a recommendation on the future of bus services. We need to ensure that we have a bus service that serves the CAM Metro and fits with our agenda of designing new communities around public transport.”

The ground-breaking CPIER report now provides the evidence base for the development of the Local Industrial Strategy by the Business Board.

Photograph left to right: Dr Mike More, Chair of Cambridge University Hospitals, Professor Andy Neely, CPIER Commissioner and Pro-Vice Chancellor for Enterprise and Business Relations at the University of Cambridge, Mayor of Cambridgeshire and Peterborough James Palmer, Professor Aamir Khalid, Chair of the Business Board and Technology Director at TWI Ltd.

To view the Cambridgeshire and Peterborough Independent Economic Review final report, visit: www.cpier.org.uk/final-report

A news release on the GCP and Combined Authority working together on the A428 transport corridor can be viewed: https://cambridgeshirepeterborough-ca.gov.uk/news/mayor-james-palmer-and-greater-cambridge-partnership-welcome-agreement-to-deliver-first-phase-of-cam-metro/