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Economic update for Somerset breakfast meeting – Review of the 16 June event

Tuesday 21st June, 2016

The Economic update was given by David Hall.

David lives at Bawdrip and is a director of a local IT company. David is the County Council member for Bridgwater East and Bawdrip, Cabinet Member for Business, Inward Investment and Policy, and Deputy Leader of the Council.

Helping to answer Q&As and provide further information was Phill Adams, Economic Development Manager, from Sedgmoor District Council.

It was a really informative meeting that provided a great update to the audience.

David opened by explaining that services have been under ever increasing dinancial pressure over the past 5 years with Social Services and the provision for children costing ever more. However there is a return to business rates being retained in the local community, rather than going to central government and then being distributed around the country via the revenue support grant. Therefore the more prosperous the area becomes the more we all benefit.

David covered 3 main areas

  1. Schools and Education
  2. Infrastructure
  3. Inward Investment

The biggest challenge to growing the economy is skills. There is an aspiration for a University for Somerset and now is a good time to push this forward. Bridgwater and Taunton colleges have recently merged.

There are also plans for a new town in Somerset, to add to the vibrancy of the county and provide good housing for the workers needed for grow. This is in addition to town and village expansion plans however the location of the town is to be considered.

Having the Nuclear College located in our area makes us a natural leader in this very important field.

There are upgrades planned to the A303 and the A358 with plans well underway. The government are committed to the projects and the Highways Agency are fully engaged.

There is also the Penninsula rail task force which is committed to delivering quality rail services to the area.

Looking at the digital infrastructure, superfast broadband will be delivered to 90% of Somerset by the end of the year which is ahead of schedule. The current partner is BT and tenders are currently being sought for phase 2 of the project which will deliver superfast broadband to 95% of the county.

Hinkley Point C is going ahead with groundworks continuing. Additional heavy machinery has been moved in this week. It is important that the local area maximise their percentage of the supply chain.

The Huntspill Energy Park has been granted Enterprise Zone status and the expansion of the Highbridge business park is already oversubscribed. This is all good news for the local business community and growth of the local area.

Questions followed that covered issues with BT connectivity in the area and available expansion room at the Walrow business area. The meeting was told that is more land being made available and finance in place from Highways England to upgrade junction 23 of the M5 which has been approved.

Movement of vehicles around Bridgwater remains a challenge, however there are no plans for a bypass in the short to medium term. Planning continues for alternaive transport and the potential in the future of driverless cars. It is interseting to note that 17,000 people commute in and around Bridgwater with 5,400 of these travelling alone.

It was generally accepted that the improvements to the Taunton Road junction and the A38/39 junction known as Silver Fish are working well.


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