Councils reach Atlantic Gateway agreement

Michael Hunt

Politicians met with business leaders from across the North West at the Daresbury Science and Innovation Centre to launch the Atlantic Gateway strategy.

The regeneration blueprint could transform the region and create 250,000 jobs and 400,000 new homes over the next 20 years.

Steven Broomhead, chief executive of the North West Development Agency, which hosted the launch, said: "Atlantic Gateway is a bold and innovative collaboration across and between city regions to create a growth area which will rank among Europe's strongest urban economies.

"Through the framework agreed today the Atlantic Gateway partners can make it simpler and more enticing for businesses to invest in the area as a whole, by enhancing the offer of the cities in partnership with other key places.

"We all know the public purse is going to be constrained – it will be private investment which will characterise the next decade. Businesses need the right conditions for growth – this means an environment which is not constrained by infrastructure, connectivity and municipal competition. Our desire is simply to improve the environment for all businesses to invest in order to create stronger city regions and North West as a whole."

Cllr John Merry, leader of Salford City Council, added: "This framework of collaborative working between the city regions offers us a unique opportunity and reflects the changing role of the public sector. The Atlantic Gateway framework has the potential for finding more innovative solutions by working outside the traditional administrative boundaries of the individual local authorities."

The Atlantic Gateway strategy aims for a sustainable economic zone including Merseyside through to north Cheshire, Chester, Halton and Warrington into Greater Manchester which hopes to establish an area of economic growth that will be second only to London within the UK.

The NWDA said the Government's active support is crucial to fostering collaboration across the gateway and Atlantic Gateway has two specific requests of Government.

These are for a lead department to work with the Government Office Northwest, NWDA and stakeholders to develop an Atlantic Gateway Engagement Group across Whitehall.

NWDA also said the Government would need to support a small group of civil service experts to work for a Sustainable Infrastructure Commission, which would be set up by the Atlantic Gateway group. It said the commission will develop new solutions to the single most challenging issues facing the economy.

Peel has been the main player on the strategy having first put the idea forward after launching it as a concept in 2008. It crosses several local authority boundaries and includes 12 large projects: Liverpool and Wirral Waters, Royal Seaforth Post-Panamax Container Terminal, Liverpool International Business Park (Speke Garston), Liverpool John Lennon Airport, Port Salford, Salford Forest Park, Media City UK, Ellesmere Quays and Runcorn Waterfront, Port Wirral and Port Warrington, Trafford Quays, Trafford Wharfside and Salford Quays.

Walter Menzies, chief executive of the Mersey Basin Campaign, said: "Linked by the world famous River Mersey and the Ship Canal, the two great cities of Liverpool and Manchester span an area with a £50bn economy and a population of six million people. They are linked, too, with a landscape damaged by industrialisation but with huge potential. Our work on "Adapting the Landscape" shows how it could become an outstanding asset for the 21st century – a better environment for business, living, recreation and local food production. Some of the very big challenges ahead – climate change, flooding and the security of renewable energy can only be tackled on this scale."

Cllr Flo Clucas, deputy leader of Liverpool City Council, said: "The Atlantic Gateway shows the way forward for the Liverpool and Manchester City regions. Rather than being seen as rivals this framework brings together these city regions with the potential for unrivalled and sustainable economic growth. Together we can become not only one of Europe's leading economic regions but a global force."

Cllr Tony McDermott, leader of Halton Council, added: "This is an exciting project which involves commitment by the area's leaders to collaborate to secure economic growth and prosperity for our two city regions and the shared hinterland, which includes Halton."

Cllr Ian Marks, leader of Warrington Borough Council, said: "The Atlantic Gateway is an enormously exciting project . It will deliver substantial economic benefits locally and along the length of the canal corridor whilst putting the North West firmly on the international business map. This project really is an example of joined up working at its best and has the backing and complete support of Warrington Borough Council."

Representatives from the Manchester and Liverpool city regions met this morning and agreed to work together with partners including the North West Development Agency to turn the strategy into a reality.

Leaders have agreed to take action together to:

  • Make the case nationally for increased investment in the area
  • Collaborate and coordinate activity around vital infrastructure
  • Identify new policy and a focus within RS2010 that will help optimize growth
  • Support and prioritise projects within the area that will both enable and contribute to the growth of the city regions
  • Develop new actions and priorities as it becomes clearer where collaboration can make the most impact

Partners have identified four areas to tackle jointly including key sectors such as waste and energy infrastructure, freight transport infrastructure, and attracting and retaining talent.

The strategy and its concept has come under criticism from Sir Howard Bernstein, chief executive of Manchester City Council.

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