A BODY proposed to fill the gap expected to be left by the demise of regional development agencies would have saving the A14 improvement scheme “in some form” as one of its priorities, Huntingdonshire District Council believes.

A BODY proposed to fill the gap expected to be left by the demise of regional development agencies would have saving the A14 improvement scheme “in some form” as one of its priorities, Huntingdonshire District Council believes.

That might mean building the ‘greenfield’ section in Huntingdonshire, including a new southern bypass of Huntingdon and Godmanchester, before widening the section north of Cambridge, which is currently opposed by some politicians in Cambridge city.

Business Secretary Vince Cable and Eric Pickles, the Communities and Local Government Secretary, have asked for proposals for local economic or enterprise partnership by early next month.

Localism is fine for the new coalition Government, but anything with ‘regional’ in the title is anathema. So the East of England Development Agency – which, ironically, was been well regarded by the regional business community – will go on the bonfire with the rest.

Now local authorities, business leaders, academic institutions and others are scratching their heads over how to replace some rather effective quangos – without creating additional non-governmental bodies.

Cambridgeshire has been well served by the organisations set up to help manage the ‘growth agenda’, the projected expansion of jobs, homes and enterprise within (roughly) a 25-mile radius of Cambridge, which is seen as the driver for the sub-region.

In particular, apart from EEDA, there are the Greater Cambridge Partnership – which includes local and central government, business leaders and ‘the third sector’ of mainly voluntary organisations and influences policy on economic development – and Cambridgeshire Horizons, the influential and effective delivery vehicle for the £4-6billion of infrastructure needed to support tens of thousands of extra homes and jobs.

Discussions about the best way forward continue, with both Cambridgeshire County Council and Cambridge City Council developing ideas to meet the Secretaries of States’ September 6 deadline for ideas.

“There’s an issue about function. There’s an issue about geography. And there’s an issue about governance,” HDC’s director of environmental and community services told The Hunts Post.

The trouble for a rather amorphous area such as Cambridgeshire is that the Government might wish to avoid geographical overlap – such as between Cambridge and Peterborough – when areas such as parts of Huntingdonshire and Fenland could sit comfortably in both. There is far less homogeneity here than in, say, Greater Manchester or the West Midlands, even though Cambridgeshire is miles ahead as an economic power-house.

Theoretically, the new partnership could advise on strategic planning, housing, tourism, infrastructure and other matters, but there must be a way of managing delivery of what is needed, Mr Sharp said.

“The future economic health of the area is hugely related to infrastructure.”

The new LEP, on which representation is expected to be around 50 per cent from each of the private and public sectors, should be able to bid strongly for whatever resources remain available, something Cambridgeshire has been particularly effective at so far. It would also have a crucial lobbying role.

“If all it achieved was to deliver the A14 in some form, it would be worth doing,” Mr Sharp insisted. “Doing something with that is absolutely key to the economic prosperity of the whole area. And we won’t advance the economy in Cambridgeshire – and the GDP growth needed by UK plc – unless we also provide the houses.”

The Government insists recovery will be delivered primarily by the private sector, which gives Mr Sharp no difficulty.

“We are very happy to continue to help the private sector to grow. We have been quite successful at that but, unless we continue to invest, it’s at risk.”