Gatwick stakeholders call for council collaboration

Mon 24 June 2019, 12:07 pm

Developers and businesses have called for closer collaboration between local authorities in the Gatwick area to ensure growth objectives are met.

“Our job is to get the people around us working together to sell our region,” said Gatwick airport head of corporate affairs, Mark Lever. “Look at Manchester and the way they all work closely to drive growth and market themselves to China.”

Lever was addressing the 10th annual Gatwick Diamond Economic Summit, at the Arora Hotel, Crawley, last week (June 20). The summit gathered together developers, investors, business leaders and local authorities to discuss growth opportunities in the region.

The theme was echoed by other speakers including John Atkins, managing director of Atkins Property and proponent of the Gatwick Airport City development scheme. He said he was operating in a “complex policy environment” liaising with Banstead and Reigate and Crawley councils, the Coast to Capital local economic partnership and other organisations.

It would be good to create a group of councils that could deal with strategic issues, he said. “You need to look at what are the strategic items and what resources are required to deliver them. You can only do that by the organisations that exist today coming together.”

There were calls for collaboration on development strategy. Gatwick Diamond Initiative executive director Rosemary French OBE said councils should not compete to bring forward “the sexiest new science park” when a university is not likely to locate in the region. 

Science parks require co-location with universities, she said, but “there is going to be a contraction in university numbers due to funding.” Instead, councils should focus on helping FE colleges develop high-tech focused curricula, and take a strategic approach to bringing forward appropriate commercial space.

“Too much B1 space is being planned,” she added. “In the planning process, councillors need to be less alarmed by warehouses.” Residents want last-mile delivery, she observed, and warehouses were far more high-tech and sustainable buildings than previously.

Describing how a hypothetical inward investor seeking 300,000 sq ft of commercial space would have to look outside the region, property consultants Vail Williams partner Andrew Osborne said: “I don’t think we’ve seen a joined up approach to deliver large strategic sites.

“There’s a real need for some large strategic sites to ensure we can compete with other regions biting at our heels.”

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