Harris Lamb Blog – 26th Jan



Andrew Groves

26th January, 2011.

What will a LEP deliver to North Staffordshire?

By Andrew Groves, Associate Director, Commercial Agency

The question begs a few more questions:

What is a LEP? Where are they found? What will they do?

The route provides 27 miles of privately funded and operated highway from Coleshill in North Warwickshire to Cannock in South Staffordshire.  The road carried an average 47,592 vehicles on weekdays in the summer of 2010  and from my experience of the Toll Road, private cars form the vast majority of the traffic.
The M6 Toll Road was identified as an “M6 Relief Road” to alleviate congestion on the M6, which is something many people feel has not been adequately addressed and, with one way car tolls at peak periods of £5, this is something to be debated elsewhere.
From a property perspective the benefits have probably been more tangible than the traffic improvements.  The southern end of the Toll Road and the ‘T1’ junction close to J4 M6 coincided with some of the latter stage build projects at the Hams Hall National Distribution Park, a 430 acre business park which ranks as one of the best such employment parks in the UK.
Junctions T2 and T3 appear to largely function as commuter gateways for those living to the south and east of Sutton Coldfield from where national motorway access has improved considerably and the effect on house prices has been positive in these areas.
The access to Junctions T4 and T5 at Weeford and Lichfield has given a stimulus to residential and commercial property markets alike with possibly the biggest winner being the 300 acre Fradley Park, where some of the largest distribution buildings in the area have been built with more to come.  We are marketing the new Fradley Prologis Scheme with 70 acres and units to 700,000 sq ft available to be built and which will be on site shortly.
T6 Burntwood, a forgotten part of the West Midlands conurbation 10 years ago for business and for new build residential perhaps, has not quite been “transformed” but certainly “considerably improved”.
T7 & T8 and the Cannock access points to the Toll Road provided the catalyst that has helped to promote the former coal mining town into a first rate employment location.  Significant development of a cross section of employment type accommodation from offices to manufacturing and warehouse operations has bought vitality to Cannock which I think is largely due to the Toll Road passing the town’s doorstep.
For those drivers who still regularly sit stationary on the M6 between junction 8 and 10 bemoaning the state of the traffic and whether the Toll Road has done the job it promised, the tangible benefits are probably in property as much as traffic counts.  The commercial new build and viability of new schemes along the entire length of the Toll Road has been transformed since the road was built.
For the positive effects of the Toll Road you may look little further than the development and opportunity is has created alongside it.

Firstly, what is a LEP?  It is a Local Enterprise Partnership.  Is a LEP exclusive to North Staffordshire?  No. They are being set up across England.  What will LEP’s do?  They will oversee applications to the ‘Regional Growth Fund’ for monies to help promote local economic development.

Essentially LEP’s are being established in the wake created by the abolition of the Regional Development Agencies (AWM, SWERDA, NWDA etc).  As part of the Coalition government’s agenda for localism the LEP’s are intended to give networks of local businesses and local governments a framework to help deliver strategic local projects.

LEP’s are relevant to us at Harris Lamb as we hope they will be providing the assistance that we sometimes need in helping clients bring forward redevelopment and new build projects when it is apparent third party assistance will ‘make things happen’.

The Stoke & Staffs LEP have ‘thrown their weight behind’ seven commercial projects with a total value of £30m.  The seven projects include the City Centre (Hanley) retail centerpiece of the “East West Centre Redevelopment” a major shopping and leisure development seen as key to lifting the retail destination experience of the City Centre.  There is also the 1st phase mixed use development in Stoke on Trent City Centre in the Central Business District.  Of the other five projects this includes the creation of a Centre of Refurbishment Excellence as a national facility and expanding the Innovation Centre at Keele University.

The Stoke on Trent and Staffs LEP Chairman Jim Richard is saying there are many more projects they will consider for support in the future but that for now, they must be focusing on projects that have the chance of funding.

Creating and safeguarding jobs in the local area is the key line that the LEP talk about.

The LEP has the potential to build on some of the successes already promoted and supported by AWM – notably the expansion of Keele’s Innovation Centre but also continuing the work done by the RDA in the City Centre as well.

The key to delivery on these projects is not least to secure the funding necessary in the first place but also to ensure there is the expertise to bring projects to fruition and deliver on their undoubted potential.

Harris Lamb hope to be working alongside not only the Stoke & Staffs LEP to give development and hopefully planning and agency advice but other LEP’s across the heart of the country.  As emerging local business supporters, LEP’s look likely to be part of the regeneration scene for some years to come.

Andrew can be reached on 01782 272 555 or via email: andrew.groves@harrislamb.com.   

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