To consider a report of the Head of Planning, Economy and Regeneration updating members on progress with key Economic Development Service Priorities.
The Economic Development officers will also provide the meeting with a presentation.
The Group had before it, and NOTED, a report * of the Head of Planning, Economy and Regeneration updating Members on progress with key Economic Development Service Priorities.
The Group Manager for Growth, Economy and Delivery informed the Group about the make-up of his team and explained that an informal meeting would be arranged so that Members could meet them and discuss the work programme for the Group for the coming year. He also provided a brief context to the report by reference to the key components of the Mid Devon economy and its challenges.
The objectives and key sectors within the Economic Strategy were outlined by way of presentation and reference made to projects under each area. Discussion took place with regard to:
Employment and Skills
· The demand for employment sites was high but there were not many sites coming forward.
· There had been interest from an international company wanting to work in Mid Devon and making use of the M5 corridor.
· It was the role of the team to support these initiatives and to help businesses fulfil their aspirations.
· It was vitally important to strengthen the relationship with education providers.
The Masterplanning process for Crediton would take place next year. Crediton was experiencing strong economic and business growth and enquiries were received on a regular basis. However, parts of the High Street did need regeneration as did the infrastructure around the town.
Money was being secured through a Section 106 contribution from Lidl to facilitate the installation of high quality wireless internet services to Tiverton town centre as a pilot scheme with the intention to roll-out across Cullompton and Crediton when suitable funding becomes available. The question was asked as to whether significant investment needed to be made in relation to WiFi within the towns when 4G or 5G might suffice. It was explained that having WiFi within the towns presented other opportunities such as encouraging and supporting local businesses. Not all the funding from the Lidl S106 had been allocated to the installation of WiFi as it contained other measures to support the town centre.
Hi Tech, Innovation and Green Energy
The possible use of the river behind the Town Hall as a source of useable power was briefly discussed. It was explained that whilst this was a viable site the cost implications would need to be examined, however, the amount of power that could potentially be generated could be used to great effect within the town. Early estimates show that such a project could generate all of Phoenix House’s power needs when combined with the solar energy already captured by the solar roof panels, potentially enabling the council to utilise a fully carbon-free energy supply. It was further explained that a group of master’s students had investigated ecological improvements as well as hydro engineering.
Agriculture, Food and Drink
More information would be provided to a future meeting regarding the destination website.
A number of questions were asked in relation to initiatives designed to increase footfall within the towns, particularly Tiverton. It was explained that initiatives were being generated through the Town Centre Partnership such as evening entertainment, craft and farmers markets. More needed to be done and the informal meeting of the Group would provide Members with an opportunity to discuss the year one actions within the Economic Strategy and consider a work programme for the Group to push forward over the coming year.
The Group considered that it was important for it to be proactive in its work, to take issues forward and to achieve successful outcomes where it could.
Note: * Report previously circulated; copy attached to the signed minutes.