Will Gloucestershire’s Economic Strategy work?
By Ian Mean, Business West Gloucestershire director and vice-chair of GFirst LEP | 11th October 2023
Gloucestershire's five-year Economic Strategy is - in all respects - a good plan, which business can support.
But does it have "teeth"?
This was a big question posed by one of Gloucestershire's leading planning experts, Paul Fong, at a forum last week to examine the draft strategy, compiled by the county council and GFirst LEP.
To me, Paul, who is managing director of Morgan Elliot planning at Tetbury, put his finger on the button. I was impressed by his argument and afterwards he expanded on it to me.
Paul Fong said: "My fear about the emerging Gloucestershire Economic Strategy is that it is a non-statutory document, which in essence means that decision makers can choose to ignore it if it doesn't suit their purposes.
"In order to give this document any teeth, it should have obtained agreement and buy-in from all of the six district councils. Without this, their emerging Local Plans (which are statutory documents) can simply ignore the Economic Strategy and all its 'implicit objectives'.
"Whilst we all recognise the economic issues and problems that the county faces, when it comes to difficult decision making, I fear that many councils will turn their back on the Economic Strategy in favour of ensuring a successful local election when it comes."
I am afraid Paul could be right.
We need a holistic vision for the county as a whole, based on a clear structure plan that encourages growth with sustainability.
That, of course doesn't exist. If it did, our growth - particularly for business through more employment land opportunities - would be so much stronger.
What is the solution?
Putting it simply, the leaders of our six district councils must now put their heads together urgently to create a workable vision for Gloucestershire based on this strategy.
Yes, this draft strategy can be added to, particularly looking at the views of our young people and the employment landscape in the future. But there are excellent foundations here, which should not now become a political football between our councils.
That is not the way to a prosperous Gloucestershire.
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