England’s Economic Heartland set to expand as it reaches first birthday

It is 12 months since the forming of the original Strategic Alliance between Buckinghamshire, Northamptonshire and Oxfordshire was celebrated on the winner’s podium at Silverstone.

One year on, the founding partners were back at the world-renowned circuit to welcome Cambridgeshire, Milton Keynes, Luton, Bedford and Central Bedfordshire.

England’s Economic Heartland has already set out its transport proposition to government to demonstrate how working together on transport and infrastructure projects could bring accelerated economic growth.

The Alliance has announced that its Strategic Transport Forum – which will also include representatives from four Local Enterprise Partnerships - will meet for the first time on February 12 next year, to provide the leadership for the Alliance’s work to develop and deliver a transport strategy for the area.

The news of the expansion comes as government plans to enable more devolved powers for transport and infrastructure to sub-national transport bodies move forward: an option that the Local Transport Authorities are looking to explore.

Cllr Jim Harker, chairman of the Strategic Transport Forum and leader of Northamptonshire County Council, said: “This is a significant step for the Strategic Alliance. All of the partners recognise that strategic transport planning gives us the opportunity to plan more efficiently and to work with the private sector to secure the investment we need to continue to realise our economic potential.

“The transport networks across England’s Economic Heartland are critical to the continued economic success of an area that generates a return to the Exchequer; they are also are the arteries along which the lifeblood of much of the UK economy flows.

“Our economic success brings with it many challenges – increased congestion affects both businesses and residents alike.

“It is absolutely essential that we continue to make the case for investment in our transport networks and our services. The Strategic Transport Forum gives us the ability to have a new dialogue with Government: I am determined to ensure that our voice is heard alongside the rest of the UK.”

Councillor Rodney Rose, Deputy Leader of Oxfordshire County Council said:  "Getting our transport network right not only helps Oxfordshire, but also helps the wider UK economy to compete globally.  When you consider that nearly every piece of cargo being brought into the UK will have to travel across areas represented in England's Economic Heartland Strategic Alliance at some point on its journey, you begin to understand the huge economic significance to Oxfordshire and further afield of getting our planning right.

“By working together, we can approach the government with one voice and present a clear business case about the transport infrastructure needs of drivers, businesses, residents and visitors not only in Oxfordshire but also for those located near us and represented in this alliance.”

Creating an efficient transport network is seen as the cornerstone of boosting economic growth in the England’s Economic Heartland area; an economy worth £87bn but with the potential to grow another 20 per cent.

Already home to over 173,000 businesses, investment in England’s Economic Heartland generates 40% higher return than anywhere else outside of London.

Continued investment in England’s Economic Heartland is needed to help close the productivity gap with the UK’s global competitors and to ensure the area remains economically competitive.


Notes to editors:

A photograph taken at Silverstone is available on request with the line-up (left to right):  Ian Wenman, Chairman, Oxfordshire LEP; Guy Lachlan, Board member, Buckinghamshire Thames Valley LEP; Cllr Rodney Rose, Deputy Leader, Oxfordshire County Council; Cllr Martin Tett, Leader, Buckinghamshire County Council; Cllr James Jamieson, Leader, Central Bedfordshire Council; Cllr Steve Count, Leader, Cambridgeshire County Council; Cllr Jim Harker, Leader, Northamptonshire County Council; Cllr Rob Middleton, Cabinet Member, Milton Keynes Council; Hilary Chipping, Chief Executive, SEMLEP and Glenn Barcham, Assistant Director, Bedford Borough Council.

The Strategic Alliance was established in response to a recognition that:

  • In terms of strategic infrastructure, the issues (and solutions) extend beyond any one single local authority area
  • There is a need for stronger integration and alignment of investment made by local partners with that made by Government (and its agencies)
  • There is a need to make the case for sustained levels of investment in infrastructure in order to realise the full economic potential of England’s Economic Heartland
  1. The Strategic Transport Forum is central to the Alliance’s transport proposition and will enable the partners to realise:
  • Added value through the sharing of knowledge, skills and resources
  • More efficient operation of the strategic and local road networks
  • Improved resilience of the transport system, particularly during periods of disruption (both planned and unplanned)
  • More efficient and effective delivery of infrastructure, with schemes delivered faster and at less cost
  • Provide the focus for a single conversation on strategic transport and infrastructure related activities
  1. Members of the Strategic Transport Forum include:
  • Oxfordshire County Council
  • Northamptonshire County Council
  • Buckinghamshire County Council
  • Milton Keynes Council
  • Bedford Borough Council
  • Central Bedfordshire Council
  • Luton Borough Council
  • Cambridgeshire County Council
  • Oxfordshire Local Enterprise Partnership
  • Northamptonshire Enterprise Partnership
  • Buckinghamshire Thames Valley Local Enterprise Partnership
  • South East Midlands Local Enterprise Partnership
  • Oxfordshire Growth Board
  • Department for Transport
  • Highways England
  • Network Rail
  • Civil Engineering Contractors Association
  1. The government is proposing, under the Cities and Local Government Devolution Bill, to enable local transport authorities to put forward a proposal for the creation of a Sub-national Transport Board: the local transport authorities in the Strategic Alliance are developing a proposal for England’s Economic Heartland for consideration in early 2016.