Determined not to be squeezed out by the economic initiatives surrounding them, several UK localities have banded together to create the Northern Gateway Development Zone (NGDZ), intended to deliver economic growth in the area of the UK that lies between Manchester in the north and Birmingham in the Midlands.
Two local enterprise partnerships (LEPs) and seven councils have produced a strategic plan that was presented to international investors at international property fair Mipim in Cannes.
Cheshire East Council, Cheshire West and Chester Council, Staffordshire County Council, Stoke-on-Trent City Council, Newcastle-under-Lyme Borough Council, Stafford Borough Council and Staffordshire Moorlands District Council and the Cheshire and Warrington and Stoke-on-Trent and Staffordshire LEPs formed the NGDZ to capitalise on UK government investment in HS2, the new high-speed rail link connecting the cities of London, Birmingham, Manchester and Leeds.
“We are channelling investment into development sites over a 25-year timeframe with a focus on high-value greenfield sites, high-potential brownfield land and transport hub-based opportunities,” says Stoke-on-Trent City Council deputy leader Abi Brown. “The NGDZ will create a breadth and depth of investment opportunities that cannot be replicated in the confines of one city region.”
The partnership is also developing the region’s natural energy. Both the city of Stoke-on-Trent and the town of Crewe are working on deep geothermal power projects, two of only six in the UK. Stoke-on-Trent has also been granted 'Housing Zone' status by the UK government: the city’s self-build housing programme is held up as flagship scheme by housing minister Brandon Lewis, who was in Stoke for the launch of 70 units, as well as in Cannes to support the NGDZ pitch to foreign investors.
“The HS2 hub interchange at the heart of the Northern Gateway proposition makes it the perfect place to break down the north/south divide,” he said at Mipim. “The NGDZ team offers a set of solid, deliverable investment propositions for international investors and aims to deliver 100,000 homes and 120,000 new jobs by 2040.”
UK secretary of state for business Sajid Javid also attended Mipim to launch the £2.5bn ($3.6bn) Ceramic Valley Enterprise Zone along Stoke’s A500 corridor, comprising six key sites totalling 140 hectares.
“The Ceramic Valley Enterprise Zone demonstrates government confidence in Stoke-on-Trent and Staffordshire LEP to transform the region and capitalise on the area’s reputation for sector strengths in advanced materials, energy and power generation, automotive and business and professional services, and the region’s enduring reputation as the world capital of ceramics,” he said.
The city is resurgent, adds Ms Brown. “Stoke-on-Trent is experiencing a revitalised sense of energy, direction and purpose,” she says. “The city is a hotspot for geothermal energy in the UK and a burgeoning centre for advanced materials technology. We have our Ceramic Valley Enterprise Zone, Housing Zone status and a growing manufacturing sector. The Northern Gateway is opening up even further opportunities for investment, placing the city at the heart of a new growth point for UK Plc.”
Stoke-on-Trent and Staffordshire LEP chairman David Frost agrees, saying: “Ministerial backing for our Mipim launch helped make an impact in the global marketplace.”
Duncan Sutherland, a Manchester-based regeneration director at residential property specialist Sigma Capital Group, says: "The Northern Gateway Development Zone provides a broad platform for enterprise, combining a pedigree of well-established world-beating brands, innovative, cutting-edge new materials, R&D and a distribution hub second to none."