Local growth

James' absolute priority is the improvement of the A39/A361 at Ashcott, Walton and Glastonbury.

The recent announcement for improvement of J24 is a good starting point for that further work towards Mendip. Chris Grayling has caveated a line on the A303 and M5 with his line about Somerset being the rock in the stream and the need to ensure good access to Central Somerset, which is a welcome development. There is also traction to the point about the absence of any major road connecting one of the LEP’s identified secondary growth zones. Especially as plans for connecting North Devon – the other secondary growth zone – are well underway.

Bath & West/Shepton Mallet focussed Rural Enterprise Zone with HMG backed fiscal stimuli for Agri Tech and Food/Drink Manufacturing.

Expansion of Highbridge Enterprise Hub (especially the light industrial units, which are well over-subscribed). There is also something in Weston-Super-Mare which the WoE LEP are backing and which, apparently, is tempting a lot of small companies to Weston. Would be good to know a little more of what that is and how, if at all, we counter it to make sure that Walrow/Isleport continue to attract new businesses.

Improvement of A38 from J23 to Bristol Airport. Would need to be in partnership with WoE LEP but would have dual benefit of improving Cheddar Valley/Mendip commuter links with Bristol whilst making BRS more accessible to Somerset, Devon, Dorset and Cornwall.

James thinks he can persuade GWR and Network Rail to improve Highbridge Station (particularly the car parking) and run more/faster services to Temple Meads as part of the Great Western Franchise renegotiations in 2019, however it is still in the early stages of the discussion. By then there is likely to have been significant development in the immediate vicinity of the station so the commercial case will be strong. James thinks trying and do this with public funds any sooner would be a waste of LEP cash.

James is now focused to get one or more of these proposals ready for the next Growth Deal bids and/or whatever pots of gold the Government announces in the meantime. He would welcome the opportunity to sit down with the appropriate economic development officers and Chris Garcia to discuss how he takes that forward.