City bid to secure government funds

Aerial pic of the Norwich Research Park Innovation Centre.
CREDIT: Mike Page
For: Jon Welch

Aerial pic of the Norwich Research Park Innovation Centre. CREDIT: Mike Page For: Jon Welch - Credit: Archant

Norwich could be just two weeks away from learning if ambitious plans to boost the economy in and around the city will get the seal of approval from the government.

Ministers are being urged to 'seal the deal' to secure millions of pounds of investment to boost jobs and skills in the greater Norwich area in the wake of backing similar plans to kickstart growth in Ipswich.

Cities minister Greg Clark yesterday signed off a City Deals bid for Ipswich which will grant new powers to councils and businesses to promote skills and apprenticeships.

Now all eyes are turning to the Norfolk bid, which is backed by councils in around the greater Norwich area, the New Anglia Local Enterprise Partnership and the Norwich Research Park among others.

The bid is thought to dwarf its Ipswich counterpart in terms of its ambitions linked around securing access to funds to boost key infrastructure projects, which could centre on projects such as upgrading the Thickthorn and Longwater interchanges as well as boosting housebuilding, hi-tech jobs, and digital creative industries.

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But key to its success will be Treasury approval for meeting some of its financial ambitions, which has yet to be agreed.

A Norfolk delegation, including Sally Ann Forsyth, the new chief executive of the Norwich Research Park, has already presented the deal to Mr Clark, and the proposals are now expected to come before the government's local growth committee next month.

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Norwich South MP Simon Wright said backers were not taking anything for granted, and were continuing to press the case to ministers.

'The process of negotiating is ongoing,' he said. 'I am lobbying all the time on it and am aware that Greg Clark met with city council officials two weeks ago.

'Norwich has got a great opportunity through this process to get the powers and the funds we need to really make the most of our enormous potential for economic growth.'

Andy Wood, New Anglia chairman, said: 'We are pleased to have the Ipswich City Deal completed and are working hard on the Norwich proposition. Together the two deals will bring significant benefits across both Norfolk and Suffolk. Our efforts are now focussed on the Norwich offer, which we hope to have completed in the next couple of weeks.

Brenda Arthur, leader of Norwich City Council, said the signing of the Ipswich deal also marks success for one part of the Greater Norwich bid linked to the provision of skills and apprenticeship opportunities across the two counties.

'We're delighted for our colleagues in Suffolk on their successful City Deal,' she said. 'It's also an important moment for Greater Norwich as this is the first piece of the jigsaw for our bid.'

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