To consider the attached report AMED-002-2019/20.
The Economic Development Officer (EDO) presented a report to the Cabinet Committee and updated them on a number of projects and issues being explored by the Economic Development Team.
The Economic Development Officer reported that more than 30 responses had been received for the Economic Strategy Consultation, entitled ‘Nurturing Growth’. However, a number of these responses had highlighted the relatively short nature of the consultation period, and it was intended to extend the consultation period for a further two months. This would enable greater engagement and the reviewing of the responses at a key stakeholder conference planned for September, which in turn would inform the production of a delivery plan.
The Economic Development Officer stated that the most recent Smart Place seminar had been held at Fletcher’s Lea in Ware on 26 April 2019, and had attracted a wide range of speakers and delegates. An executive report from the seminar had been produced and was available from the Digital Innovation Zone (DIZ) website (www.diz.org.uk). The DIZ Digital Innovation Strategy was continuing to be endorsed by the various partner organisations. This Council had endorsed the Strategy at its meeting of the Cabinet on 13 June 2019. Presentations on the Strategy had been delivered to the Hertfordshire Infrastructure Planning Partnership and the Six Authorities Leaders Group. The Rural Connected Communities Programme had recently held an exploratory workshop with partners from across the Digital Innovation Zone, which considered whether to bid to establish a 5G testbed within the DIZ. A second event was planned once the programme had been formally launched to develop the potential bid further.
The Economic Development Officer informed the Cabinet Committee that the Visit Epping Forest website continued to grow in both content and number of visitors. Analysis of the website over the recent bank holidays had shown a 40% increase in visitors and a 60% increase in the number of pages visited when comparing 2019 to 2018. Officers from the Council had continued to lead in the development of cross-border working on tourism across the five Districts of Epping Forest, Broxbourne, Harlow, East Herts and Uttlesford, including a workshop held at Stansted Airport looking at infrastructure investment and joint promotion. The outcomes from this workshop would be reported at the next meeting of the Cabinet Committee.
The Economic Development Officer reminded the Cabinet Committee that the aim of the Green Arc project was to focus on the area where the metropolis of London met the countryside, considering initiatives to increase and protect the canopy, explore new ways of allowing residents and visitors to enjoy the green and unique areas within the quadrant, as well as increasing the community involvement in programmes. The One Partnership had recently taken over the project, and the first Steering Board meeting was scheduled for 12 July 2019. It was expected that representatives from not only the District Council would attend, but also representatives from the Greater London Authority, Essex County Council, the Corporation of London, the Friends of Epping Forest and the Woodland Trust.
The Cabinet Committee advised the Officers present that the Portfolio Title should have been Community & Partnerships, not Commercial & Regulatory Services.
Cllr Plumber stated that it was imperative to limit CO2 emissions but there was no mention of climate change in the report, which seemed strange considering it was the most important issue we were currently facing.
The Strategic Partnerships Specialist responded that the Council was trying to move these issues to the mainstream, and was looking at smart approaches for economic growth which included cleaner approaches. For example, we needed to get clever about how we moved people around the District, particularly in the rural areas, with an Integrated Transport Strategy which would enable residents to make good choices. The Council understood its obligations in respect of green issues and acknowledged that they were not mentioned explicitly in the report, although they could be in the future. The aim in developing the Economic Strategy for the District was to bring everyone together and have a Strategy that everyone worked towards.
Cllr H Whitbread enquired whether any tourism public relations campaigns had been undertaken, was the Council working with Local Schools, and could the Youth Council get involved.
The Strategic Partnerships Specialist replied that the Visit Epping Forest website attempted to bring different tourism aspects together in one place. It was extremely expensive to advertise on London Underground, and the Council was trying to share the possible costs of this with others. Tourism within the District had increased by 7% over the last twelve months, but more could be achieved with a coalition of the willing. The Council was interested in reaching out to local schools and the Youth Council, and working with younger people. Progress would be reported back to the next meeting of the Cabinet Committee. Cllr Lion added that there was a project considering what digital meant to schools and the Youth Council, and further such projects would be considered in the future.
Cllr Plumber opined that any expansion at Stansted Airport was short-sighted and selfish.
(1) That the progress made by the Economic Development Team with their current initiatives be noted.
Reasons for Decision:
To appraise the Cabinet Committee on the progress made with Economic Development issues.
Other Options Considered and Rejected:
None, as the report is for information only.