Since my last blog we have appointed Sandra Rothwell, former head of economic development at Cornwall Council, as our chief executive. Sandra will already be well known to many of you and we extend her a warm welcome.
We are fortunate in having built an open and positive relationship with the two local authorities on our patch and this allows us to be clear about who leads on what and avoids duplication, all to the benefit of our economy. Sandras move is part of this partnership approach and she is currently working on what other support resources we need to meet our responsibilities.
I would also like to place on record the fact that both local authorities have endorsed the Strategic Economic Plan for Cornwall and the Isles of Scilly, a commitment which shows that it is not just the LEPs plan but one that has broad support as we seek to maximise the opportunities in the years ahead.
Ever since the LEP was established, transport has been a recurring theme in our discussions with businesses across Cornwall and the Isles of Scilly, and alongside skills it ranks as the most commonly raised issue.
Transport infrastructure has been our deliberate focus before the start of the next European funding programme because it is essential that we give businesses confidence by getting the conditions for growth in place, and fund those things that we know we cannot do with EU money.
It has therefore come as an enormous relief that Newquay Cornwall Airports link to London Gatwick has been safeguarded with confirmation that Flybe will operate the route for the next four years, supported by a Public Service Obligation subsidy from Government of up to £2.8 million.
Securing a route to a major hub airport with good onward connections for international business travellers is critical, as is having a schedule that really works for business and allows a full day in London or Cornwall. Cornwall Council, the LEP, the wider business community and many others lobbied hard for these things and we are delighted that the new service will offer up to three direct flights a day between Newquay and Gatwick.
Not only will it enhance the resilience of our transport network, but it helps underpin the airport itself and with it the growing Aerohub Enterprise Zone where the incentives on offer to inward investors have already seen six businesses create more than 150 jobs on site since 2012.
Since my last blog we have also seen £6 million of funding secured for the first phase of the Aerohub Business Park from the Homes and Communities Agency and the European Regional Development Fund (ERDF) Convergence Programme. Work has just started, putting in essential infrastructure to make the site investor ready as part of a phased development with potential to create a further 750 jobs.
Space and aerospace are an important part of the LEPs Strategic Economic Plan
which is why we welcomed the inclusion of Newquay Cornwall Airport on a long list of eight potential locations for the UKs first spaceport for commercial space flight back in the summer. That list heralded the start of a Government consultation to which we formally responded earlier this month.
The award of Spaceport UK would be a national designation and the site would be the focus for growth of the space industry in the UK. Government is committed to achieving a four-fold expansion of the UK space industry to £40bn by 2030, including an ambition to establish a spaceport in the UK by 2018. The spaceport itself would be for the operation of sub-orbital space planes, not vertical take-off rockets. Space planes are commercial civilian aircraft that may operate to deploy satellites or other space payloads, space flight experiences and scientific tasks.
A spaceport would make Cornwall a centre of excellence for space and aerospace, building on the excellent infrastructure we have at Aerohub and could be a very significant game changer for the whole of our economy due to the high quality jobs it would create and the support services it would need. It is for these reasons that the LEP Board saw this as a very high priority at this early stage.
The next step will be to see whether Newquay remains on the list of potential locations, and whether we are invited to make a formal bid. If so then we will need to see the criteria before deciding whether to proceed with a bid, and that decision will involve other partners, particularly Cornwall Council as owner of the airport, as well as the local community. Given the very sad developments in Virgin Galactics space travel research at the end of October where a test pilot lost his life during a test flight, safety as well as environmental issues and costs will be big factors in deciding our next steps.
In the meantime we are progressing other infrastructure projects designed to unlock growth. Following the announcement of our £200 million Growth Deal with Government in July, we were delighted to welcome the Minister for Universities, Science and Cities, Greg Clark to Cornwall for the official signing of our deal just a few weeks ago.
This was much more than just a signing ceremony because it commits both Government and the LEP to deliver on our respective parts of the deal. It is also an endorsement and vital component of our Strategic Economic Plan, through which we expect to see some £1 billion of investment up to 2020. The deal itself secures almost £49 million of Government funding for a series of road, rail and other public transport improvements, unlocking a further £150m of investment from local partners and the private sector.
Staying with the transport theme, we were delighted to welcome Secretary of State for Transport Patrick McLoughlin to Cornwall and the Isles of Scilly in August, and his announcement of a £7.3 million investment in upgrading the quay on St Marys on the Isles of Scilly and dredging and traffic management improvements at Penzance. A further £5.56m is coming through ERDF Convergence.
This project will significantly improve the resilience of the sea link to the islands and complements the investment we have seen at Lands End and St Marys Airports, including a £1 million contribution from the LEP through the Governments Regional Growth Fund. We held our autumn board meeting on St Agnes in September and it was good to see the positive impact this investment has already had, especially given that transport infrastructure was the biggest single issue raised by island businesses when we visited last year.
It is clear however that the islands still face many challenges but also opportunities in moving towards a more sustainable and diversified economy which are clearly set out in the LEP-funded Island Futures economic strategy. Water and sewage infrastructure remains a significant constraint to growth and we are doing what we can in supporting the Council of the Isles of Scilly with its ongoing discussions with Government.
We were also encouraged by the Transport Ministers pledge to fund investigative work into upgrading one of the last remaining stretches of single carriageway on the A30 between Chiverton and Carland Cross, and we look forward to work starting at Temple next year.
Since my last blog we have been further strengthening our relationship with the wider business community including via the Business Consultative Group, which remains an important part of our ongoing dialogue about the needs and wishes of local business and draws its membership from a diverse range of private sector representatives.
We are very encouraged by the progress of the Better Business for All
project, one of just a handful of pilot projects nationwide where we are working in partnership with the regulatory services at Cornwall Council to reduce the regulatory burden on businesses and encourage them to seek advice from regulators - not fear them. With funding from the Department for Business, Innovation and Skills we have commissioned a series of video case studies and I would urge local businesses to view them on the LEPs Business Pulse
We are busy preparing for the next European funding programme and are working with a wide range of groups looking at specific initiatives such as business support and the proposed Growth Hub, employment and skills, innovation and key future economy sectors like marine renewables. When the programme is finally open for business we must be in a positon to help shape investments that can get off the ground quickly.
So it is with some frustration that we are observing ongoing negotiations between the Government and Brussels over the EU Programmes. This in turn impacts on our own implementation programme for how we wish to invest EU funds and means the next programme will not start until 2015, hopefully by spring but this could be later.
In the meantime we continue our preparations so that we can ensure as far as possible that any gap between the old and new programmes is minimised. We are also working with partners to set up the necessary structures required by the EU to deliver the new programme, including a locally-based partnership committee of which the LEP will be part and whose job it will be to agree investment decisions in line with our Strategic Economic Plan.
Until we know more about the actual operational programme it is not possible to start issuing calls for projects. But you can be sure that as soon as this is clear then we will undertake a wide communications exercise to try and ensure the widest understanding of the funds, eligibility and the processes involved.