PLANS for a local business development partnership to replace the East of England Development Agency next now include areas around Cambridgeshire to make up a £30billion-a-year cluster with a population of around 1.3million people.

PLANS for a local business development partnership to replace the East of England Development Agency next now include areas around Cambridgeshire to make up a £30billion-a-year cluster with a population of around 1.3million people.

Public sector and business leaders in Cambridgeshire and Peterborough have been in discussions for some months about how to compensate for the imminent demise of EEDA, one of the more successful regional development agencies.

They have concluded that the geographical boundaries of business communities do not coincide with those of local authorities, and are proposing to add parts of north Hertfordshire, Suffolk, Norfolk, Leicestershire, Lincolnshire and Essex to the Cambridgeshire nucleus in a proposal to Whitehall for the new body.

John Bridge, chairman of Opportunity Peterborough and chief executive of Cambridgeshire Chambers of Commerce, who has chaired a project group drawn from businesses, local authorities, universities and social enterprise to develop the proposal, said: "As the deadline for the submission of Local Enterprise Partnership proposals has drawn closer, there has been a perilous tendency across the UK to allow discussions to be constrained by county boundaries.

"Businesses and local authorities across the local area have recognised that the most positive economic benefits will result from a partnership that looks beyond administrative boundaries and focuses on our significant and distinctive economic geography that makes such a positive net contribution to the UK economy.

"The proposed local enterprise partnership area boasts some of the country's most globally competitive clusters which, if fostered, can help to lead the UK's economic recovery over the coming years."

The area identified currently includes around 60,000 businesses generating 700,000 jobs. The proposal envisages doubling the local GDP to £60billion annually, creating 40,000 more businesses by 2025, providing 160,000 more jobs in an internationally renowned low carbon, knowledge-based economy, and building 100,000 new homes over the next 20 years.

To achieve this mission, the proposed Local Enterprise Partnership will provide economic leadership across the area and work with partners to support much needed investment in skills, business growth, transport, broadband and homes, a spokesman said.

"Meeting the needs and ambitions of this growing area will require a step change in business success, unlocking the ability of the private sector to create jobs and wealth and to offset the impact of public sector job losses."

Mr Bridge said the partnership would "bring together the strengths and functionalities not just of the typical administrative areas but also the real economic geography that contributes to the economic success of our local area - including Rutland, North Hertfordshire, Uttlesford plus many more market towns and surrounding areas.

"To herald economic success, it is essential that all economic partnerships understand that their real economic geography must reach beyond existing administrative boundaries. Without that understanding, real opportunities for economic development will be missed."