Why now is the time for the Humber to shine
As a girl who was born and bred in “Scunny” I’m often derided for my Humberside roots.
The region has long battled to shake off its tarnished image and change perceptions as a failing region. In 2005 Channel 4 declared Hull the “worst place to live”, and was cited as one of “Britain’s decaying towns” by the Economist in October. And there are so many jokes about Scunthorpe and Grimsby I’m not too sure where to start.
But times are changing and something exciting is happening on the East Coast. And while those based in the region can see and feel this change, it would be good to see Humberside being recognised on the national stage as well.
Without most people realising it, there’s been a seismic shift in the positioning for the region. The past year has seen a steady drip feed of success stories, major investments in the region and the local authorities and development agency have secured some notable coups, not least Hull being named 2017 Capital of Culture.
As well as developing a strategy to maximise the potential offered by the Humber Estuary, there is a clear plan for the Humber to become a renowned national and international centre for renewable energy and ultimately an area whose economy is resilient and competitive.
The Humber LEP has positioned the region as the place in the UK to invest for energy-related industries. It’s putting the groundwork in to become a successful region of the future, rather than a recovering or ‘failing’ area for today.
Alongside this, what the region has done really well is create a united front between the public and private sector. The LEP, the local authorities, colleges and university, chambers of commerce and businesses are working together to establish a clear direction for growth. There’s also a clear route for funding and support.
The Humber LEP is currently negotiating with the Government to secure a £62m share of the £2bn Local Growth Fund (LGF) for 2015/16.
Supporting this, local public and private sector partners have already pledged £192m for projects to develop strengths in ports and logistics, chemicals, engineering, food, the visitor economy and digital.
The Strategic Economic Plan and the Local Growth Deal Implementation Plan that the LEP submitted have laid out its ambitions and investment priorities for the next five years, including the creation of 20,000 jobs; delivery of £3bn growth; connection of every student to business; and the doubling of house building across the region.
The LEP has shortlisted £1.1bn of projects that would make a real difference to the Humber over the next six years, but only want 15% funding from central Government, with local partners committing to provide more than 85% of the funding.
The Humber is now starting to use its attributes to demonstrate its worth. The renewed focus on green energy and sustainability, along with transport and logistics being topics and drivers for the UK economy over the next ten years, are playing to the strengths of the Humber.
Already Siemens is investing £160m in two of the enterprise zone sites in the Humber. Combined with the £150m being invested by Associated British Ports (ABP) in Green Port Hull a total of £310m will be invested in the north bank, creating up to 1,000 direct jobs, with many extra jobs being created during construction and indirectly in the supply chain.
On the south bank the Able Marine Energy Park (AMEP) forms the UK’s largest developable land bank with a deep-water frontage (320 hectares) to meet the needs of the offshore marine renewables sector – particularly offshore wind. To date £50m has been invested in preparing AMEP for the speedy construction of industrial facilities for its tenants.
The public and private sector have worked hard together to secure these investments. It is a great example of what can be achieved when the regional business leaders pull together and that co-operation is supported by strong backing from Government.
Hull and the Humber region are in the spotlight for all the right reasons in the run up to 2017 and now they need to make the most of this opportunity and ensure that they continue to deliver.
Winning the UK city of culture bid will further boost the economy of Hull, which is in the top two per cent of all UK constituencies for unemployment.
Derry-Londonderry has already seen the economic and social benefits of being the city of culture, doubling its visitor numbers in a year to more than 600,000 and generating £5 for every £1 invested. It has around £120 million of capital investment pumped into the city since the title was won in 2009.
Phil Redmond, TV producer and chair of the City of Culture judging panel, said they were “particularly impressed with Hull’s evidence of community and creative engagement, their links to the private sector and their focus on legacy, including a commitment to enhance funding beyond 2017.”
Hull’s campaign video emphasised the city’s ‘Golden Rules’: Don’t go thinking you’re something you’re not; don’t go thinking that you’re better than anybody else, or that anybody else is better than you, and don’t shout about it, get on with it.
And that is what the Humber has been doing for the past few years; quietly getting on with it.
The Humber is a hugely important asset for the UK and has powered our economy for decades by bringing everything from food to freight, coal to cars, passengers to petrol into the country.
Businesses are continuing to invest and thrive in the area because of the location and the global connectivity it offers. Believe it or not Humberside Airport is the second busiest heliport in the country.
The next few years are going to be good for the Humber. As marine engineering and logistics companies, chemicals and food manufacturers are showing there’s a big opportunity here for growth, the biggest through renewable energy.
What’s even better is that the region has done the hard bit. They’ve created the narrative for success – identified how to work as a team, developed a sensible forward-looking strategy, secured the deals, and are starting to deliver the result.
Now I would urge them to take another look at their golden rules and back track a bit. Now is the time to shout about it – you’ve done the work and created the story so go out and tell it – and make sure you don’t do it quietly.