New calls for road and rail investment to be key part of Norfolk and Suffolk’s growth blueprint

Businesses are welcomed to the first round-table discussion on the new Economic Strategy by Norfolk

Businesses are welcomed to the first round-table discussion on the new Economic Strategy by Norfolk Chamber president Jonathan Cage. - Credit: Archant

Renewed efforts to upgrade Norfolk and Suffolk's neglected infrastructure were demanded as businesses gathered to discuss the region's economic future.

Better rail and road links – such as a fully-dualled A47 – and faster broadband were named as priorities at a meeting in Great Yarmouth, alongside raising the aspirations of young people and forging better links between schools and employers.

More than 20 businesses explained the factors holding back their growth during the first in a series of discussions hosted by the Norfolk and Suffolk Chambers of Commerce for the New Anglia LEP, which is pulling together evidence ahead of publishing its new Economic Strategy.

The document, due in the autumn, will lay out the direction for the two counties' economies through to 2036, identifying what improvements are necessary and what strengths can be supported. It will then be delivered through a series of five-year plans.

MORE: Have your say as New Anglia LEP draws up economic blueprint for next 20 yearsLowestoft-based property consultant Richard Perkins said infrastructure remained a top priority, particularly in coastal areas.

'We have lost opportunities in both towns from investors who have arrived and said that it has taken them so long to get there that they have had second thoughts. These things are very important,' he said. 'Taking Great Yarmouth and Lowestoft together, there are nearly a quarter of a million people – the third largest population area in the New Anglia region – and it is the largest area in the UK not connected to the dual carriageway network and with no direct rail services to London.'

Norfolk Chamber president Jonathan Cage said that previous infrastructure campaigns, such as the dualling of the A11 in Norfolk, had been won by making clear the benefit to business.

'We are a competitive country, and if you want companies to come and set up, they need to know that they can get here and get away,' he said.

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'We can do a lot with joined-up marketing – that's in our power – but it's harder for us to say we are going to dual the A47. That's where we need businesses to explain the difference it would make to them.'

The LEP is compiling a report including data on population movement, demographics, housing growth and productivity, to allow businesses to spot opportunities.

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Sessions hosted by the Norfolk and Suffolk Chambers of Commerce and the New Anglia LEP will be held across both counties.

Following Monday's round-table meeting in Great Yarmouth, the remaining sessions are:

June 19 – College of West Anglia, King's Lynn, 4-6pm

June 28 – Trinity Park, Ipswich, 5-7pm

July 6 – OrbisEnergy Centre, Lowestoft, 5-7pm

July 11 – Park Farm Hotel, Hethersett, 3-5pm

July 13 – Newmarket (venue TBC), 3-5pm

Businesses are asked to book for the sessions at unable to attend can fill out a questionnaire with their responses. The new Economic Strategy will supersede the LEP's Strategic Economic Plan, published in 2014, which set targets for new homes, jobs and businesses up to 2026.

The new plan is needed, the LEP says, because political and economic conditions have changed significantly in the past three years.