England’s Economic Heartland set to expand as it reaches first birthday

England’s Economic Heartland – a pioneering alliance which aims to boost prosperity through co-ordinating investment in infrastructure and service delivery – is set to expand.

It is 12 months since the forming of the original Strategic Alliance between Buckinghamshire, Northamptonshire and Oxfordshire was celebrated on the winner’s podium at Silverstone.

One year on, the founding partners were back at the world-renowned circuit to welcome Cambridgeshire, Milton Keynes, Luton, Bedford and Central Bedfordshire.

England’s Economic Heartland has already set out its transport proposition to government to demonstrate how working together on transport and infrastructure projects could bring accelerated economic growth.

The Alliance has announced that its Strategic Transport Forum – which will also include representatives from four Local Enterprise Partnerships – will meet for the first time on February 12 next year, to provide the leadership for the Alliance’s work to develop and deliver a transport strategy for the area.

The news of the expansion comes as government plans to enable more devolved powers for transport and infrastructure to sub-national transport bodies move forward: an option that the Local Transport Authorities are looking to explore.

Martin Tett, Leader of Buckinghamshire County Council, said that the strengthening of the Alliance should bring greater benefits for Buckinghamshire in the future.

“No authority is an island in transport terms. The reality is that travel requirements go way beyond any individual council boundaries so joining up allows us to think bigger and plan big to deliver the transport solutions that are needed in the future.

“Being part of an expanded organisation, which now not only includes Oxfordshire and Northamptonshire but also Milton Keynes and Central Bedfordshire is an exciting development. It should ensure that the transport needs of our residents and businesses from Marlow in the south to Buckingham in the north can benefit from the planning of new transport and infrastructure.”

Cllr Jim Harker, chairman of the Strategic Transport Forum and leader of Northamptonshire County Council, said: “This is a significant step for the Strategic Alliance. All of the partners recognise that strategic transport planning gives us the opportunity to plan more efficiently and to work with the private sector to secure the investment we need to continue to realise our economic potential.

“The transport networks across England’s Economic Heartland are critical to the continued economic success of an area that generates a return to the Exchequer; they are also are the arteries along which the lifeblood of much of the UK economy flows.

“Our economic success brings with it many challenges – increased congestion affects both businesses and residents alike.

“It is absolutely essential that we continue to make the case for investment in our transport networks and our services. The Strategic Transport Forum gives us the ability to have a new dialogue with Government: I am determined to ensure that our voice is heard alongside the rest of the UK.”

Creating an efficient transport network is seen as the cornerstone of boosting economic growth in the England’s Economic Heartland area; an economy worth £87bn but with the potential to grow another 20 per cent.

Already home to over 173,000 businesses, investment in England’s Economic Heartland generates 40% higher return than anywhere else outside of London.

Continued investment in England’s Economic Heartland is needed to help close the productivity gap with the UK’s global competitors and to ensure the area remains economically competitive.