James Hunter - Reasons to be cheerful
What exactly do we have to look forward to in 2012? The Chancellor's autumn statement gave priority to investment in infrastructure as a way of 'building a stronger economy for the future' and I think these include many key points for Norwich, Norfolk and beyond.
The welcome commence-ment of work to dual the final stretch of the A11 will see the last remaining single carriageway section on the strategic M11/A11 route completed by 2015. The dualling of the road will aim to tackle major congestion problems, especially through Elveden. Research by the East of England Development Agency two years ago showed the scheme could save �690m in lost time when completed.
Campaigning continues for an improved rail service for the region, including connec-ting Norwich to London in less time, improving the Norwich to Cambridge route and a plan for maximising the unique economic opportunity of the Olympics.
Chloe Smith, MP for Norwich North, chaired a summit meeting in Westminster to discuss the pressing issues facing the rail network in Norwich and East Anglia in December and was joined by other MPs, local councillors, representatives from local enterprise partnerships, Network Rail, the train operating companies and the Department of Transport.
Supporters of the successful Great Yarmouth and Lowestoft Enterprise Zone believe the initiative could help create 10,000 new jobs over the next 20 years and see the creation of 200 new businesses. It also has the potential to draw in �200m of extra business rates, which could then be reinvested in the area to support economic growth.
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Investment in broadband was also one of the key themes of the autumn statement and is seen as a critical element of infrastructure provision. Closer to home the EDP, in conjunction with Norfolk County Council, has just launched the 'Say Yes! to better broadband in Norfolk' campaign, which aims to build huge public support for improved facilities and private sector funding to match the �30m already pledged by the government. Have you signed up?
The government and the Biotechnology and Biological Sciences Research Council's �26m investment in the Norwich Research Park which aims to deliver innovation from bioscience will transform the site into a world-class research centre. This vote of confidence will hopefully attract additional investment and generate new jobs in the months and years to come.
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And the government has announced that the New Anglia Local Enterprise Partnership, covering Norfolk and Suffolk, has been granted pathfinder status for the green economy.
This means that New Anglia will be national leader on promoting, showcasing and recommending to government and businesses how to be efficient with resources, reduce energy and waste in businesses and develop low carbon goods and services.
It is important to remember that amidst the uncertainty and difficulty of a recession and credit squeeze, there are reasons to be hopeful and some great opportunities on offer on our doorstep.
James Hunter, is corporate partner at Mills & Reeve