|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
- 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.