West Berkshire Council refreshes its Economic Development Strategy 2020-2023
We want more local people to be able to take advantage of the economic opportunities West Berkshire has to offer, especially now that the economy is opening up again after the COVID-19 lockdown.
Issued on: 28 June 2021.
This is why we have reviewed and refreshed our Economic Development Strategy 2020-2023 (EDS) to take account of the challenges posed to local economic recovery and renewal by the COVID-19 pandemic. This refresh document has now been adopted along with a high level delivery plan setting out short, medium, long-term and ongoing actions.
Prior to the pandemic, West Berkshire's local economy was strong and resilient with a high number of businesses representing a diverse range of industries, a well-qualified workforce and an excellent natural environment.
Our local Economic Development Strategy, which was drafted in 2019 and adopted in early 2020, reflected on this position of strength, and we have progressed with a number of actions, such as:
- Town centre master planning - over 4,000 Newbury residents responded to an initial survey earlier this year by consultants Hemingway Design with consultation on a draft vision for Newbury Town Centre due to take place very soon. Master planning for other areas such as Thatcham and Hungerford is also in the pipeline.
- The Welcome Back Business Grants - grant applications are now closed and around 40 businesses from across the district have applied for grants from the £140,000 funding pot we made available. This is to implement temporary changes to welcome additional visitors and encourage more footfall. Keep an eye out over the summer to see how these businesses have creatively used this grant!
- Support for our young people who have been disproportionately affected by COVID-19 to help them find work via programmes such as Kickstart, Apprenticeships, and T Levels. Leading by example, at the Council we have employed a number of apprentices and Kickstarters across a range of departments who have found work during the pandemic in what has been a challenging time in the job market. We are also supporting Newbury College with their delivery of T-Levels from September.
- MP Laura Farris is supporting our bid submission to the Government's Levelling-Up Fund for £4m investment for Newbury Lido. This includes structural work to the pool to make it more accessible, to extend the opening season, and exciting ideas for additional activities for young people. We'll know whether or not our funding bid has been successful in the autumn and if it is, in the meantime, we will seek to engage local communities and stakeholders in securing the Lido's long term future.
Cllr Ross Mackinnon, Executive Member for Economic Development at West Berkshire Council, said:
"The pandemic was not a factor we, or indeed anyone, had predicted. That's why we felt it was necessary to look back at the previous strategy and consider whether the actions it contains are still relevant in the current climate.
"The effects of the pandemic has had a huge effect on certain groups and industries but our focus is to be better equipped to recover from the impact of COVID-19.
"Looking at what we have achieved so far against our action plan, we look to be getting our local economy back on track. By working with our local partners we intend to restore what we have lost, build on what we have gained and to galvanise West Berkshire's position as a great place to live, work and do business."
The refreshed Economic Development Strategy has a focus on recovery and we have developed actions in the four areas seen to have the most relevance locally. These are:
- People - good jobs and greater earning power for all in West Berkshire
- Places - creating prosperous communities across West Berkshire
- Infrastructure - future-proofing West Berkshire's infrastructure
- Business Environment - making West Berkshire the best place to start a grow a business
Our commitment to the district, is that we will do all in our power to mitigate any negative impact and to facilitate a sustainable, green and inclusive recovery through our actions, investment and policies.