Priority 1 – Increased opportunities for economic growth

What we want to see:

  • beneficial growth that enhances prosperity and quality of life
  • existing businesses that are thriving and new businesses brought to the area
  • people with the educational attainment and skills needed to support business growth
  • vibrant, attractive and clean high streets, village centres and markets

Why was this a priority for 2016/17?

Our first priority of economic growth underpins everything we do across West Suffolk.  A thriving and diverse local economy helps support wider improvements in the quality of life for our residents. High levels of business and employment growth in a broad range of economic sectors can both support improvements to the quality of life of our residents and offer larger scale benefits for our communities.

This section of the annual report sets out our key achievements this year and it shows that we have continued our commitment to ensure that the infrastructure, homes, skills and opportunities exist to enable the economic growth for our communities. In this section we highlight our activities under the headings:

Creating the right conditions for growth

Setting the framework for future growth
  • West Suffolk councils have been working together with partners to plan for where future business, housing and infrastructure growth should be located. This includes:
    • working with our two Local Enterprise Partnerships (LEPs) on the reviews of their Strategic Economic Plans, and
    • developing with partners across Suffolk a Strategic Planning and Infrastructure Framework (SPIF), that builds on the effective relationships that were forged during the work on Norfolk and Suffolk devolution.
  • Preparing the Forest Heath Local Plan. This is covered more fully in the housing section of this document, but is integral to our growth ambitions.
Campaigning for the right infrastructure
  • We have continued to campaign for fast, reliable and safe transport connections to and from West Suffolk, for example through lobbying for more regular east-west rail services in East Anglia, the dualling of the A1307 between Cambridge and Haverhill, and investment in key trunk road junctions.
  • A14 junctions 37, 43, 44, and  the A11 at Fiveways have all been included in Suffolk County Council’s submission to Highways England for Road Investment Strategy 2 funding.  Funding of £400,000 from the Department of Transport has recently been announced to install traffic signals on all or some of the approaches to the A11 Fiveways junction and address safety concerns on the A11 immediately to the south of Fiveways.
Suffolk Business Park and the Eastern Relief Road
  • One of our key economic growth sites is to the east of Bury St Edmunds. The first part of the Bury St Edmunds Eastern Relief Road opened in November 2016.  It means we are closer to realising our ambition of bringing new jobs and housing to the area while a new school and leisure facilities have already opened.
  • The 350 metre stretch of road is part of a £15 million scheme and jointly funded by the New Anglia Local Enterprise Partnership, via its Growth Deal with Government, Suffolk County Council and St Edmundsbury Borough Council.  It has provided access to the new Sybil Andrews Academy and Skyliner Sports Centre run by our partner Abbeycroft Leisure, and has opened up part of the Suffolk Business Park site. Once completed the road will enable the delivery of 500 homes and unlock the rest of the Suffolk Business Park site which will then be used to create thousands of jobs and generate income for the local economy.
  • We are pleased to report that a business has already signed up to relocate to the business park.
  • It is anticipated that the road will be completed by autumn 2017.
RAF Mildenhall and RAF Lakenheath
  • RAF Lakenheath and RAF Mildenhall airbases are home to personnel from the United States Visiting Forces (USVF). While both bases are within the Forest Heath district, the economic impact of approximately 8800 US personnel, staff and 1100 UK civilians employed by the airbases goes far wider into Suffolk, Cambridgeshire and Norfolk. Over the next six years we will see substantial changes at both airbases with the withdrawal of all USVF operations from RAF Mildenhall and the deployment of F-35A aircraft at RAF Lakenheath.
  • The USVF is investing a minimum of $285million in infrastructure construction at RAF Lakenheath to support the deployment of the F-35A by 2021. Other developments on the site such as a new school and hospital, power upgrade and road improvements could bring the total investment to $1billion.
  • In November 2016 the Ministry of Defence (MoD), which owns the RAF Mildenhall airbase, confirmed that the 440 hectare airbase will not be required for a British military purpose and so will be released for redevelopment after the USVF depart in 2023. We believe that the release of the RAF Mildenhall site is a once in-a-lifetime opportunity to shape the future of Mildenhall and the surrounding area. We are therefore working with the MOD to deliver a vision that attracts new businesses, creates employment and delivers appropriate housing.
  • Building on feedback from engagement sessions with local communities and businesses, Forest Heath used One Public Estate funding to commission a study of the potential future uses of the RAF Mildenhall site and to develop a Prospectus outlining a new vision for its future.
  • In November 2016 Forest Heath approved the Prospectus with an ambition to create:
    • 2000 jobs
    • 2000 homes
    • £70-100 million Gross Value Added
  • Forest Heath and local partners (Local Enterprise Partnerships, Suffolk County Council and Suffolk Chamber of Commerce in Newmarket and District) will work with the MoD and the Homes and Communities Agency to drive the vision forward by developing the business case for future uses and preparing an initial masterplan for the site during 2017/18. The masterplan will be used to identify key infrastructure requirements and to bid for up-front investment to unlock the site for development.
  • We have information regarding the USVF changes at RAF Lakenheath and RAF Mildenhall d_Mildenhall/index.cfm
Enterprise zones
  • The Government’s Enterprise Zone programme includes two sites in West Suffolk: Haverhill Research Park and 14 hectares of land at Suffolk Park (which is part of Suffolk Business Park), Bury St Edmunds. Enterprise Zones help to grow the local economy by offering benefits to businesses such as a potential business rates discount.
  • West Suffolk councils are currently undertaking a Planning Improvement Plan (PIP), more of which is included later within this annual report. The PIP aims to minimise delay in the planning process and will assist applications for the Enterprise Zones.
  • We have been working with Local Enterprise Partnerships and developers to finalise the individual development plans for each site and to consider the support needed to bring forward the Enterprise Zones.
  • Haverhill Research Park is now also actively being marketed as part of the Greater Cambridge Greater Peterborough’s ‘Cambridge Compass’ Enterprise Zone. Similarly, Suffolk Park is being marketed by New Anglia within its ‘Space to Innovate’ Enterprise Zone.  We will be able to update on this later in 2017.
Investing in our commercial property
  • In August 2016 a new factory extension at Omar Group opened on a site rented from Forest Heath District Council in London Road, Brandon. The district council invested £500,000 in the extension, which will result not only in increased rents to the council, but also in an increase in production capacity of 50%, and an increase in workforce of 80 people. Forest Heath invested in 10 new light industrial units small business units at Sam Alper Court in Newmarket.  The site is adjacent to six existing industrial properties owned by Forest Heath and the new units are built on the site of a demolished factory unit. The project budget was £1.85 million. Pentaco, the main contractor, took possession of the site in December 2015 and the site was completed in December 2016.
  • The units have underfloor heating supplied by air-source heat pumps. Solar panels are fitted on each unit which will benefit occupiers and generate additional income for the council.
  • Eight out of ten units are already occupied by new tenants and the remaining two are due to be let shortly. The total rental income is £97,000 each year compared to £84,000 in the business case.
  • The new tenants include a number of local firms ranging from a cleaning company to a roofing business.
Small business grants
  • The small business grants scheme enables new businesses or those still within their first year (subject to criteria) to apply for a grant of up to £1500.
  • In 2016/17, eight grants totalling £12,000 have been awarded across West Suffolk. We have supported a wide variety of businesses including a bakery in Bury St Edmunds, a pre-loved children’s clothes business in West Row and a commercial photographer in Tuddenham.
West Suffolk Greener Business Grant
  • In early 2017 the scheme received its 100thgrant application. Since its launch in 2011, the grant has supported organisations to reduce their energy expenditure in a wide variety of ways, with LED lighting upgrades being the most popular measure.
  • To date, the grant has assisted these organisations to make annual savings of £83,763.
Solar for businesses
  • This service, launched in June 2015, installs solar panels on local businesses, reducing electricity bills and supplying the electricity grid with energy from renewable sources.
  • During 2016/17 we have continued to build on the success of this scheme by increasing the number of buildings benefiting from council-owned solar panel installations to 27, with a further 10 likely to be installed later in 2017.
  • Host businesses receive discounted electricity, usually around 30% cheaper than the existing grid tariff.  This is projected to save the host business around £15,500 in one year and £315,000 over the life of the 20 year project.
  • To date, £711,684 has been invested into the scheme generating an annual income of £75,000. In 2016/17, £92,915 was invested into the scheme.
Business events and inward investment
  • In October this year, West Suffolk councils jointly held the sixth business festival with partners.  It was attended by 2000 people who came to events across West Suffolk over ten days. The event started with the annual Menta Trade Fair with over 100 exhibitors, free training and business funding advice. A total of 24 events were hosted by a range of our partner organisations and the event concluded with the Bury Free Press Business Awards.
  • Businesses from across West Suffolk were invited to attend a Hong Kong Trade Event, a free seminar held in Bury St Edmunds. The aim of the seminar was to boost trade between local firms with Hong Kong and Asia. The seminar in May 2016 followed on from an event held the previous year in partnership with the Hong Kong Trade Development Council. Suffolk companies have already shown huge interest in opportunities in Hong Kong and China and the seminar provided an opportunity to develop that interest, to network and gain insights into how to do business with Asia.

Skills and education

Local skills and education needs
  • Two skills surveys for businesses and young people were launched in December 2016.  The aim of the business survey was to find out what skills and attributes West Suffolk firms need from their future employees.  The young people’s survey, run in partnership with West Suffolk College,  aimed to find out about young people’s future job aspirations and their views on the skills and training they need. The survey closed at the end of March 2017 and results will be used to identify where action is needed in the future.
  • In this context, we recognise that recruitment in West Suffolk is challenging at the moment. We live in an area of relatively full employment and there is a strong pull from Cambridge within the local jobs market. This makes the need to grow our own talent through apprenticeships and other training schemes even more important.
  • Through this work we are contributing towards one of our 2014-16 equality objectives to ensure West Suffolk has ‘people with the educational attainment and skills needed in our local economy’.
Developing our staff
  • We currently have 18 apprentices in post, working for West Suffolk councils and 12 existing members of staff working towards apprenticeship qualifications. The subjects undertaken range from business administration and finance to arboriculture and mechanical engineering.
  • West Suffolk also led an initiative to address the national shortfall of planning officers which has been felt in Suffolk. This saw West Suffolk councils work with neighbouring local authorities to take on ten planning apprentices working across the county. West Suffolk recruited three of those ten. All ten were recruited with the view to retaining their employment within the public sector and developing their careers.
  • In the last five years we have employed 54 apprentices, of which 35 have stayed with us in either permanent or temporary jobs. Of our current workforce, 5% started their careers as an apprentice.

Supporting our markets

  • Local markets
  • Developing our markets
  • Christmas markets
  • Our commitment to develop the regular markets and introduce special events and additional markets has continued this year. We recognise the importance of a thriving market to local residents but it is also a good way to provide employment and opportunities to new businesses, as well as increasing footfall in our towns by attracting visitors, boosting the local economy.
  • Bury St Edmunds Christmas fayre attracted its highest visitor numbers so far with 125,000 people visiting over the four days of the fayre.
  • We are working with Suffolk County Council to improve the offer on the market in Newmarket and look forward to reporting on how this progresses later in the year.
  • We have increased the number of speciality markets. During the school summer holidays we held six community markets every Tuesday in Newmarket, while special events hosted on the market square in Haverhill included a crafts and gifts market, a motor show, beer festival and a young people’s market. Special events were also organised as part of the Mildenhall Christmas market.
  • Further highlights from this year can be found in the attached case study.
  • We are also working with a group of businesses and individuals in Clare who have asked St Edmundsbury to consider the possibility of reinstating the town market.  The market closed back in the 1990s. A drop-in event was held in the town to ask residents and businesses leaders for their views.  We will update you as this initiative progresses.

Creating prosperous places to live in, work in and visit

Bury St Edmunds Town Centre Masterplan
  • We want to ensure that Bury St Edmunds town centre remains a vibrant and interesting place for residents, employees and visitors. In this year, we have begun the process of creating a masterplan for the area in order to address this challenge. The aim of the masterplan is to attract investment, set the guidelines for the future growth and development of Bury St Edmunds town centre and to provide a framework against which individual development proposals can be assessed when they come forward. The masterplan is also about recognising that growth in Bury St Edmunds and the wider area is happening and the need to look at how we accommodate that, as well as changes in technology and changes in shopping patterns.
  • With Peter Brett Associates and David Lock Associates, we are exploring how the masterplan can address a number of town centre issues such as traffic management (including parking), heritage conservation and accessibility for all users.
  • This work is being led by a working group of partners including the Business Improvement District, Suffolk Chamber of Commerce in Bury St Edmunds, Bury market traders, the Bury Society, the Bury Town Trust, Bury Town Council, St Edmundsbury Borough Council and Suffolk County Council.
  • We recognise that co-producing the masterplan with our partners, local people and visitors will help to ensure that we can best shape town centre growth so that it works for people.
  • Public engagement on an issues and options report during the spring gave residents, town centre workers, shoppers and visitors the opportunity to give their views on the challenges and opportunities for the town centre both now and as we look to the next decade and beyond.
  • We are now collating the results of this engagement exercise and preparing a draft masterplan which will go back out to public consultation in the summer.
Haverhill Masterplan
  • Working with the ONE Haverhill partnership, St Edmundsbury developed a masterplan for Haverhill town centre which was adopted in September 2015.
  • The masterplan is being progressed through five workstreams:
    • Workstream 1: Highways and movement – including delivery of highway improvements
    • Workstream 2: Marketing – such as advertising Haverhill and specific sites
    • Workstream 3: Site assembly –  gaining control of sites, investing and influencing to bring sites forward
    • Workstream 4: Development briefs – creating briefs from a planning perspective
    • Workstream 5: Place management – for example, the town centre work delivered by the town and borough councils
  • Some of the projects currently being realised through the delivery of the masterplan include:
  • Camps Road Recreation Ground (an example of workstream 1) – Work started in February 2017 to upgrade the existing footpath network across the Recreation Ground.  This includes widening three existing footpaths to three metres wide to enable pedestrians and cyclists to jointly use it safely.
  • Jubilee Walk mixed development project (an example of workstream 4) – Within the town centre one of the key sites, Jubilee Walk, has been severely constrained by lease arrangements giving control over existing parking to a single retailer. Although the retailer had vacated the premises, which stood empty, the lease prevented the borough council from implementing any alternative development proposals. The council has since negotiated the surrender of that restrictive lease and has subsequently let the vacant retail unit on new terms. This achieves both an active retail frontage in a key location and unlocks the Jubilee Walk site for redevelopment in accordance with the masterplan.
  • Town Council handyman (an example of workstream 5) - The Town Council has employed a handyman on a permanent contract, working 22 hours a week. The handyman’s role is to address some of the ‘tidy up’ issues in and around the town that were original identified by The ONE Haverhill Partnership through the masterplan consultation.  Work to date has included weeding, washing traffic island bollards and reporting broken ones, cutting verges, cleaning bus stops, painting railings, fixing signs, litter picks and liaising with residents to trim overgrown hedges.
Newmarket Business Improvement District (BID)
  • At the time of writing last year, Newmarket businesses had just voted to set up a BID for the town.  The BID has now employed a manager and they are busy working to deliver events in 2017.
  • The BID is also setting up town centre Wi-Fi to provide free internet access to residents and visitors to the town centre and has employed two rangers who provide support to residents and visitors, sign-post to services and report any problems around the town
Bury St Edmunds Business Improvement District (BID)
  • Bury St Edmunds BID (ourburystedmunds) has continued to be the voice of businesses in Bury St Edmunds town centre with St Edmundsbury Borough Council a member of its Board. In 2016/17 the BID organised a number of events including the Whitsun Fayre, Independents Week (as mentioned in the markets case study), the Food and Drink Festival, the Festival of Sport and the Christmas Lights Switch On. These events were highly successful and served to raise the profile of the town and increase footfall to the area and local businesses.
  • More information about the BID is available at: http://www.ourburystedmunds.com/index.php
Street scene
  • We take pride in our local area and know that living, working and visiting an attractive place can enhance wellbeing and improve the overall impression of an area.  Alongside our local communities, and invaluable support from volunteers, we work hard to ensure that our localities remain vibrant, clean and safe.  Some highlights include:
  • Continuing to promote the highly successful Love Where You Live campaign and the webpage:  www.westsuffolk.gov.uk/lwyl, which provides a wealth of information for people who want to set up groups or individual litter picks.  Information is provided on equipment that’s available, how to ensure litter is collected at the end of the pick, risk assessment information and tips for ensuring the litter pick is carried out safely.
  • In 2016/17, approximately 600 people have taken part in litter picks across West Suffolk, collecting 460 bags between them. A further 124 people undertake litter picks on an ‘ad-hoc’ basis.
  • We supported national events such as Keep Britain Tidy, Keep Clean for the Queen in summer 2016 and the Great British Spring Clean in March 2017.
  • Through the Suffolk Waste Partnership we are part of the Suffolk Fly-Tipping Action Group (STAG). We contribute to enforcement events, work with Vehicle and Operator Services Agency, the Environment Agency and police.
  • We successfully investigated and prosecuted an incident of fly-tipping on Forestry Commission land, successfully claiming back our full costs. We continue to raise awareness of the issue and the possibility of prosecution to discourage others from fly-tipping.
  • We proactively supported Bury in Bloom after the organisers of the competition gave feedback that they wanted to see more community engagement. As a result we sponsored a leaflet to 20,000 homes to encourage people to get involved with Bury in Bloom and to take more ownership and pride in their local area. Bury St Edmunds was successful in its category, more of which can be found in this report later.
  • In April 2016 we successfully moved to a new garden waste subscription scheme which achieved sign-up of just under 40% by residents across West Suffolk. Due to changes in funding at the county level we needed to make the service self-financing. The result was to run a new scheme where residents are charged £40 for collection of their garden waste throughout the year, with residents who do not wish to sign up encouraged instead to either home compost, take their garden waste to the Household Waste Recycling Centre or to share a bin with neighbours. Indications are that the vast majority of residents are disposing of their garden waste by these methods.
  • In February 2017 we introduced another payment method making it easier for customers to sign-up. Customers can now order and pay for their garden waste collection by Direct Debit on line. Early indications show that customers are eager to use this option with over 6,860 customers signed up since going live.
  • With Suffolk Waste Partnership Recycling we took part in a campaign in November 2016 aimed at reducing contamination in blue bins such as food waste, glass, nappies, textiles and electricals. A leaflet was sent to all households across Suffolk and backed up by a social media campaign. The ‘Get your recycling right’ Youtube video had 52,000 views across Suffolk.
Public Spaces Protection Orders (PSPOs)
  • The Anti-Social Behaviour, Crime and Policing Act 2014 introduced a number of changes to the ways that councils and the police can deal with local anti-social behaviour issues. Among the changes is the replacement of the Designated Public Place Orders, Gating Orders, and Dog Control Orders with Public Spaces Protection Orders (PSPOs).
  • A PSPO can be used to regulate activities in public places that have a detrimental effect on the local community. They can help by giving local councils and police additional powers to tackle anti-social behaviour in specific locations.
  • West Suffolk councils have consulted on new offences under the PSPO in relation to dog walkers/ owners.  This would mean introducing a heavier fixed penalty for those who fail to pick up after their dog and excluding dogs from certain areas, such as children’s play areas and fenced off football pitches.
  • The aim remains to work with communities to reduce incidents of dog fouling and to target specific problem areas.
Bury St Edmunds Destination Management Organisation
  • St Edmundsbury Borough Council is supporting the establishment and operation of a Destination Management Organisation (DMO) in a number of ways including funding. This year the DMO was set-up as a company with board members meeting with local stakeholders who have all expressed an interest in this initiative. It is envisaged that the DMO will become a more active presence in Bury St Edmunds and the surrounding area in the year to come. The DMO will provide long-term strategic direction for tourism in Bury St Edmunds and the surrounding area.
  • Outcomes from the DMO include creating economic growth across the tourism sector, ensuring a co-ordinated approach to marketing the tourism assets, retaining tourism business and creating a catalyst for other initiatives and events. The main focus will be to increase the value of tourism to the area by encouraging overnight stays and longer visits.

Modernising our approach to regulation

The environmental health service has adopted new ways of working with local businesses and communities that aim to modernise our approach to regulation. Highlights from this year include:
  • Suffolk Eat Out Eat Well Awards: This scheme recognises the efforts of eligible food businesses to actively promote healthier food choices to their customers as part of their business and menus. West Suffolk has been at the forefront of the scheme which you can learn more about in the attached case study.
  • Participation in Crucial Crew: Environmental Health took part to promote good food hygiene to year six pupils, including focus on handwashing practices. Throughout 2016/17 we reached nearly 1500 pupils from local schools across West Suffolk.
  • Simple Cautions: Three Simple Cautions were issued to businesses during the year, two for food hygiene matters and one for health and safety matters.  A simple caution is where a person admits to the alleged offence but is not formally prosecuted for the offences.
  • Use of new technology: Towards the end of 2016, inspectors began using mobile tablet technology during routine food hygiene inspections. In the future this will lead to an improved quality of reports, improved database information and administrative efficiencies.
  • Bury St Edmunds Christmas Fayre: Our team carried out food hygiene enforcement activities at the fayre and provided advice to businesses. No significant food hygiene issues occurred during the event.