Business leaders welcome City Deal for Plymouth
A GOVERNMENT deal to boost growth and claw back powers from Whitehall has been hailed as a chance for Plymouth to "control its own destiny".
Business leaders have welcomed the news that Plymouth has been chosen in the second wave of City Deals, which could see the city unlock developments, create local investment funds and take on more financial and planning powers.
Tim Jones, chairman of the Heart of the South West Local Enterprise Partnership, said the move promises a "transformational step change".
He said: "We are delighted that Plymouth is one of the preferred areas in this highly competitive second wave of bids.
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"Despite enormous growth potential, Plymouth has been performing well below its true capacity for many years, and many reasons.
"The City Deal has meant we've all had to take a long hard look at the reasons for Plymouth's decline, whilst assessing the opportunities for the area to exploit its strengths and take control of its own destiny.
"This deal is not just about Plymouth – it's about a much wider area that can radiate the benefits across the entire peninsula.
"Plymouth has unique and fantastic marine assets – from the knowledge and research at the university, to clusters of internationally renowned companies along with outstanding sites alongside the waterfront.
"We also have some very committed and able partners in industry and academia who will be a vital part of achieving a long-term legacy.
"By capitalising on these resources we can build a much stronger proposition to both industry and government; one that will be able to deliver real growth and cultivate real ambition to succeed. It's a great step forward for all of us in the South West."
Details of the deal are still to be revealed, but Plymouth's plan aims to unlock commercial opportunities in marine sciences, renewable energy and other technologies, as well as boosting exports.
That includes supporting start-up marine science businesses, earmarking surplus Ministry of Defence land – such as Devonport's South Yard – for use by marine industries, and working with UK Trade and Investment to link firms to export markets.
Professor Wendy Purcell, vice-chancellor of Plymouth University, said the move was "a significant step forward" for the region.
She said: "The deal places the university's world-class marine and maritime expertise – focused around our cutting edge marine building and new facilities – at the heart of a knowledge-rich, research-intensive economic cluster. The City Deal draws on our established marine institute and the university's Growth Acceleration and Investment Network (GAIN) that's driving enterprise across Cornwall and Devon."
Oliver Colvile, Conservative MP for Plymouth Sutton and Devonport, said it would boost efforts to attract inward investment and re-balance the city's economy.
"It's building on our strengths," he said.
Rhian Kelly, director for business environment at the Confederation of British Industry (CBI), said: "Giving cities the opportunity to bid for greater planning powers and autonomy over training and skills budgets should encourage investment in critical local infrastructure and help plug skills gaps.
"With three-quarters of the UK's business activity taking place in and around cities, they are hubs of economic activity. These deals will give cities real powers and resources which, if implemented well, will help to regenerate local economies, stimulating private investment and growth."