Back our bid! City Region Deal

The team behind ambitious plans to secure a better economic and social environment for the north east reached a major milestone by handing in a 'Statement of Intent' to UK and Scottish Governments on Friday (September 4).

Aberdeen City and Aberdeenshire councils have been working on detailed proposals for an Aberdeen City Region Deal, a unique opportunity for a brighter future.

It is a chance to ensure the local economy and communities continue to grow and prosper, while benefitting the whole nation.

A range of engagement has been undertaken to inform the plans following an announcement from Chancellor George Osborne in the Budget that formal negotiations with the UK Government would start.

While work continues on a fully detailed bid, a "Statement of Intent" has been prepared outlining what success would mean for the area and the whole of the UK.

The research done so far sets the ground for negotiation with both the UK and Scottish Governments, which it is hoped will pave the way towards development and implementation of detailed projects.

The Statement of Intent was handed to the Department for Communities and Local Government on Friday 4th September for its consideration to allow progress to the negotiation phase.

It has been produced on the basis that if the region is to continue to be a powerhouse of the UK economy it needs investment.

The Aberdeen City Region Deal would improve transport links, infrastructure and housing to meet the demands of a growing population, while investing in innovation, research and development and internationalisation to ensure that the area continues to contribute substantially to UK Plc for decades to come.

It is a chance to anchor the oil and gas industry in the north-east, but also to expand upon the expertise and innovation that already exists here, to the benefit of the wider energy sector and related industries.

The Statement of Intent looks at four key policy areas – Housing, Connectivity, Innovation and Internationalisation.

Although it is not intended to be a comprehensive bid submission, it does seek to identify the key proposals for which commitments are being sought from government, prior to submission of a fully detailed formal bid.

The broad proposals in the Statement of Intent include:

Housing – a request for support to unlock constrained sites to supply housing land, affordable housing funding and measures to help solve housing cost issues.

Connectivity – rail service improvements, including acceleration of planned upgrades to infrastructure and more local services; plans to deal with congestion issues; and improved harbour and airport connections.

Innovation – development of both an Oil and Gas Technology Institute and a Scottish Centre for bio pharmaceuticals; promotion of the region as a global centre of excellence in the field of renewable and hydrogen technologies research; and the creation of a Digital Offshore Data and Systems Centre.

Internationalisation – projects supporting international trade, the renewables industry, tourism, trade and investment, inward investment and export support.

"We believe that the commitments this Statement of Intent identifies can form the basis for a City Region Deal that will benefit not only the economy of the north east, but the rest of Scotland and the rest of the UK," said Leader of Aberdeen City Council, Jenny Laing.

"The challenge is to work towards a deal that will maximise the benefits of co-ordinated new and accelerated investment in the Aberdeen City Region.

"We believe this statement articulates the progress that has been made so far and that a deal between the two Governments can be made."

Co-leader of Aberdeenshire Council, Martin Kitts-Hayes, added: "We will continue to engage and collaborate with the two governments to deliver a City Region Deal that will ultimately contribute to the economic vision for the north east of Scotland.

"This is a successful region which plays a significant role in contributing to the financial well-being of Scotland, the UK and globally.

"By even greater collaboration across industry and all layers of government, we can protect the competitiveness of the oil and gas industry already firmly established here and help to power tomorrow's world."

The Statement of Intent highlights that the pace of economic growth in the area has outstripped the capacity of its infrastructure, making doing business more difficult, more expensive and ultimately less attractive than it should be.

The need for investment is not simply to increase business capacity, it is also necessary to improve quality of life, integral to attracting and retaining the talent needed to maintain economic growth.

Further work is required to develop sound business cases for all of the projects outlined in the Statement of Intent, in line with UK and Scottish Government timescales for the submission of an Aberdeen City Region Deal bid by the end of 2015.

The Aberdeen City Region Deal draws together the challenges, the solutions and the asks being made - a combination of finance, enabling regulation and empowerment - and identifies the considerable benefits arising.

It will have far reaching impacts, not just on the economy, but on regional competitiveness, connectivity, infrastructure, housing, employment and lifestyle.