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West Northamptonshire Council

New infrastructure on Northampton’s horizon

Posted: 22/12/16 by West Northamptonshire Council

Northampton could form part of the Government’s plans for East-West Rail thanks to a new report from the National Infrastructure Commission (NIC) on improving the region’s vitality.

Earlier this month transport secretary, Chris Grayling, announced his plans for the next stage of the rail link between Oxford and Cambridge, which will help create an intellectual powerhouse in the region.

And the commission has identified Northampton as an integral part of the Oxford-Milton Keynes-Cambridge growth corridor which could lead to the town being included in plans for the western section of East-West Rail.

The report could also help secure support for a north-west Northampton relief road as part of a series of developments which the commission believes will improve connectivity and unlock potential for more than 20,000 new homes across the.

The NIC interim report into the growth corridor reinforces the view that Northampton is an integral part of regional picture, echoing a report from Oxford Economics published in September.

Cllr Tim Hadland, Northampton Borough Council Cabinet member for regeneration, enterprise and planning, said: “Representatives from the National Infrastructure Commission visited Northampton in October to see some of the excellent work that’s already been done, and to find out what more support we need.

“The Oxford Economics report identified east-west connectivity as one of Northampton’s main weaknesses, so this is something we’d clearly be keen to address.

“Our geographical position – just an hour from London, Oxford, Cambridge and Birmingham – places us in a unique position to add huge value to the region’s economy.

“And it seems the commission has taken note of our points and agrees that including Northampton in its wider growth corridor plans would be beneficial.”

Last month Chancellor of the Exchequer, Phillip Hammond, announced in his autumn statement that he was backing the NIC’s recommendations.

He said: “This project can be more than just a transport link. It can become a transformational tech-corridor, drawing on the world-class research strengths of our two best-known universities.”

Two stretches of East-West Rail’s western section could run from Northampton to Oxford or Reading, and from Northampton to Aylesbury or London Marylebone.

The commission’s plans would help double the number of East-West Rail stations and mean that 41 of the UK’s 65 cities will be just one change away from each other.

Cosworth was picked out as a particular example of regional success, with sites in both Northampton and Cambridge.

A major research project by MEPC published in May this year found several instances of collaborative relationships stretching east to west across the corridor, Northampton-based Cosworth was picked out as a good example.

The report identifies the company as “one of the most iconic businesses known internationally for its engines – in the cluster based in Northampton for over fifty years”.

It goes on to point out that Cosworth has two major UK sites – it’s main engineering centre in Northampton and one in Cambridge which focuses on the importance of software systems and data – and that these tap into different labour markets toward a common end.

Finally, it concludes, these synergies “point to the latent potential that could exist across this geography”.

Sections of the report highlighted other Northampton strengths, including sustained growth in the number of degree-educated residents and employment growth at double the national average.

It also recognised that the town has a strong entrepreneurial base, with the second highest number outside London of start-ups per 10,000 residents, and is competitive for home ownership, with latest figures showing that average house price to earnings is lower than much of the rest of the corridor.

The NIC is now starting work on its final report which will be published in autumn 2017, and an early discussion with the NIC has taken place to ensure that Northampton will continue to have a significant role in its further considerations.

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