The North East Local Enterprise Partnership working with the Leadership Board of the seven North East councils (the LA7) that will early next year form a Combined Authority, have launched a consultation for allocating £460m of European funding over six years.
LEPs were tasked by government to lead on European Structural and Investment Strategies for 2014-2020 and the NELEP’s £460m allocation is one or the largest in the country. It will attract match funding and be invested in driving economic growth and the creation of new jobs through supporting businesses and communities.
Through their consultation, NELEP and the councils want our views on how and where the money should be spent. I would urge all readers to let their views be known – the consultation can be found online at www.nelep.co.uk/european-funding . You have until November 29, to do so.
The thrust of the strategy is the creation of growth by seeking to boost key areas of the economy. This includes research and development, the commercialisation of innovation with a focus on smart specialisation, entrepreneurship and start-up companies, the low-carbon economy and energy generation sector and employability.
Under-represented groups and places with high deprivation will be targeted, alongside high value and strategically important businesses and sectors. It will enhance the North East as a place in which to invest. The conundrum for the region has been how to achieve development and to supply employment space (offices and factories) when most projects suffer from development costs exceeding development value, that is where a negative gap is created.
In the longer-term, through the supply and demand factors in the open market, creating demand will help to increase values. But we have a challenge to ensure that employment space is provided where this gap exists until the open market adjustment is achieved. Otherwise that growth plan will be frustrated by the lack of supply in suitable accommodation.
The European Strategy proposes a North East Fund or Urban Development Fund to provide a bespoke solution for local markets to deliver development. This will operate in a similar way to the JESSICA Fund but under this the North East did not do well. Essentially we needed grant aid to plug the gap in development viability but the JESSICA fund is for loan funding. A delivery plan is essential and the fund must be used to structure a pattern of growth that will ensure we arrive at a viable development scenario in the provision of employment space to attract investment.
:: Kevan Carrick is a partner at JK Property Consultants LLP, policy spokesman for RICS North East, a mediator, a member of the RICS Dispute Resolution Panel and chairman of Northern Dispute Resolution