Agenda item


To adopt the Herefordshire economic vision as the county’s economic development strategy.


Council was asked to adopt the Herefordshire economic vision as the county’s economic development strategy.


Councillor Harlow, cabinet member for economy and corporate services presented the report.


Councillor Harlow noted that the idea for an economic vision for the county was not a new one.  Thanks were offered to Nick Webster (Economic Development Manager) and his team, for their hard work in bringing the report forward.  It was highlighted that economic visions often invited a lot of comment and challenge as had proven to be the case with the proposed strategy.  The vision was described as deliberately upbeat and aspirational.


The vision had sought to engage with the people of Herefordshire as well as outside investors.  Events had been held in Hereford and each of the market towns, with ward and parish councillors invited to attend as well as the Hereford business forum.  The general overview and scrutiny committee had offered their views in September. 


The paper was outlined in two sections:  the broad strategy and the specific investment picture. 


Herefordshire Council would continue to invest in infrastructure, on the principal calculation that where public investment was made, private sector investment would follow.  The livestock market, the old market shopping centre, the enterprise zone and Fastershire were examples of public money being followed up with private investment.  Based on that successful formula, continued investment would be made in areas such as the Hereford bypass and the city link road.


Looking to the future, accessing government funds would be important and reinforced the significance of working with the Local Enterprise Partnership (LEP).  The latest growth fund submission included the University, the Model Farm in Ross, and two sites on the enterprise zone.  The vision, which was described as having cross-party political support, was designed to give investors confidence that Herefordshire had the ambition and the appetite to deliver. 


The Chairman invited members to speak. The following principal points were raised:


·        The involvement of members in the development of the vision was welcomed.  Concern was noted that until Highways England and the Department for Transport invested in the motorway network, gaining economic traction in the county would be difficult.  It was asserted that the link between growth and better road and rail networks needed to be argued strongly. 


·        The cabinet member – infrastructure updated the meeting, noting that although full dualling of the A49 was unlikely, Highways England was looking into dualling significant sections between Ross on Wye and Warrington.  It was highlighted that this would improve safety and journey times.  The A49 was described therefore as an integral part of the strategy and vision


·        A perception had emerged that much focus had been placed on Hereford city and not enough on the county’s market towns.  It was explained that the city projects extended their benefit across the county.



·        Several councillors suggested that that logic should also be applied to projects coming forward in market town areas.  This was contextualised with examples including:


·        Leominster had just won the Great Britain high street medal and best run social media campaign 

·        The good infrastructure and connectivity around the market towns of Ross-on-Wye and Ledbury where road networks provided easy access to major road networks cities such as Cardiff and Birmingham.   

·        Ross-on-Wye, had a shortage of industrial units was noted which is felt to be preventing many businesses from being able to rent appropriate business premises. 

·        The importance of involving ward members in the relevant market towns

·        Communities and private sector partners were more likely to engage and invest if the vision was accompanied by implementation plans for each market town locality. 

·        A stronger rural context was advocated by including bodies such as the National Farmers Union (NFU), the County Land and Business Association (CLA), the rural hub and the sustainable food and tourism group. 


·        Some doubt was cast over how well the consultation events had been communicated.  Ensuring more was done to communicate engagement opportunities in the future would be important.


·        A number of councillors praised the case made for supporting microbusinesses.  Small businesses were noted as a main area for growth in the county.  The Muddy Boots software company was noted as an example of huge success employing over sixty well paid professionals. 


·        While tourism, food, drink and farming (including horticulture) were mentioned, concern was noted that they were not given as much prominence as they should be. 


·        Observations turned to the importance of having such documents to enthuse the private sector.  The Rotherwas access road was cited as an example.  It was asserted that this had helped sustain Hereford through the 2008 recession and facilitated the Enterprise Zone.


·        A number of councillors noted the wider context of transitional public funding. Notably, withdrawal from the European Union (BREXIT) would bring structural investment funds to an end and the local growth fund was in its final phases.  Ensuring that the vision and strategy could flex and adapt to new government growth strategies as they emerged would be important.  The vision should remain a living document.  It was advocated that recommendation b should make clearer mention of this.


·        Attention was drawn to the county’s low Gross Value Added (GVA).  A potentially contradictory message emerged when referring to successful projects such as the new retail quarter and livestock market, while simultaneously seeking to grow away from these economies.  


·        The new multi-storey car park, the bus station, and plans for the football ground were singled out as praiseworthy projects. 


·        Recognition of military personnel was lacking in the report, many went on to create new businesses and jobs.  More should be done to capitalise on this.


Councillor Harlow was invited to respond to these points, commenting as follows:


·        It was very positive to hear the supportive comments.  He thanked the various speakers and in particular the general overview and scrutiny committee.  As a number of councillors had noted, significant improvement to the strategy had resulted from suggestions put forward by that committee.  


·        Agriculture and tourism – the invitation was made for specific projects to come forward, they would be given due consideration. 


·        On engagement with the market towns, it was noted that efforts had been made to ensure people were aware of the events in each town and in the rural area of Withington. Lessons had been learned and strengthened engagement opportunities would be introduced as matters moved forward. 


·        Congratulations were offered to Leominster for their recent accolades. 

·        It was also reported that active discussions were underway with Ross-on-Wye Town Council. 

·        It was acknowledged that in Ledbury greater scope existed to involve local members and the offer from ward members to support that engagement was warmly welcomed.  Strengthened arrangements for regular dialogue between ward and town councillors would be put in place.

·        The importance placed on the strategy presenting a Herefordshire vision was acknowledged.  All town councils were encouraged to propose projects that appropriately represented the ambitions of their respective areas and the county.


·      In regard to the Enterprise Zone – figures indicated that 350 jobs had been directly created with a further 697 job opportunities in the pipeline.  It was recognised that although located in Rotherwas, not all businesses were from Hereford city. They were made up of county wide interests. 


·        The University it was suggested countered the view that the vision was too Hereford centric.  Although based in Hereford, it would provide county wide benefits, with potential to become a regionally and nationally recognised institution. 


·        The wording used in recommendation b was addressed.  It was noted it had been written to avoid wasting council time when projects were updated or changed.  Reassurances were offered that the strategy would remain a living document with a framework designed to flex with changing national and international economic policies and circumstances.




That      (a)  the Herefordshire economic vision attached at appendix 1 to the report be adopted as the county’s economic development strategy; and


              (b)  delegated authority be given to the cabinet member economy and corporate services to make technical amendments to the strategy during the period 2017 to 2021 on factual matters such as: updating of statistics, replacing images, and reflection of projects approved by cabinet within each aim of the strategy.

Supporting documents: