HJA was appointed to undertake a study of 33 of the largest towns in the Enterprise M3 LEP (Local Economic Partnership) area. The study was commissioned to help inform the Local industrial Strategy being prepared at the time. The key objectives were to develop a typology of the towns and networks that link them together, and to set out a longitudinal analysis of each towns performance to understand how they have grown in the past. With a relatively high GVA and productivity levels, the LEP were seeking to promote ‘good growth’ in the future and nurture an economic growth target of 4% per year. To achieve this, the LEP needed to understand the health of the towns, consider the inter relationships between the towns, the viability of each individual settlement and understand the contribution that the towns can make to the ambitious growth target. It was important for the LEP to identify the sectors driving high productivity rates in Enterprise M3 towns and enhance these strengths. This understanding was key to help shape future plans for growth and determine how best to support this through fostering higher economic growth.
The initial phase of our work involved data gathering and desk-based analysis of the economy of the Enterprise M3 area. We identified the functional economic market areas (FEMAs) in the area using GIS (Geographical Information Systems) mapping and collected data on 33 towns which was gathered from a variety of freely available and secure access sources. The characteristics of a town were identified through socio economic indicators including population size, the role of the town, employment, productivity, Job Seekers Allowance claimants, commuting flows, earnings, and housing affordability. We consulted with each of the local authorities in the Enterprise M3 area to validate this information and gather additional information on each town. Following the consultations, we developed a typology of towns and analysed their performance, subsequently examining how characteristics of the Enterprise M3 towns have changed over time.
The final section of the report considered information about the future growth opportunities for each town and outlined conclusions from both parts of the study. A previously published Strategic Economic Plan had defined a number of large towns as growth towns and a number of towns which are considered to have as yet untapped growth potential as ‘Step-up towns’. Our study identified eight distinctive towns in addition to the Strategic Economic Plan definitions, characterised by being employment or population centres and which are emerging as economically vibrant places experiencing growth. The final phase of work also outlined the potential contribution of each town to the Strategic Economic Plan and Local Industrial Strategy.
The Enterprise M3 study allowed the client to understand past economic performance of towns in the LEP area, the nature of interaction between various towns and identify how they could contribute to emerging growth plans. Our study provided new evidence on the characteristics and performance of towns in the Enterprise M3 area, upon which the LEP could use to inform the preparation of the Local Industrial Strategy.