Councillors back plans for 'Midlands Engine' development corporation

A proposed new development corporation in the Midlands seeking to maximising opportunities from a planned High Speed Two (HS2) station could deliver 4,500 homes and 84,000 new jobs, according to a report backed by councillors this week.

Ratcliffe on Soar power station. (Pic: It's No Game, Flickr)
Ratcliffe on Soar power station. (Pic: It's No Game, Flickr)

Plans for a new delivery vehicle to control development around Toton, earmarked for an HS2 station, were announced by former chancellor Philip Hammond in his Spring Statement last year.

The development corporation proposal is being supported by the government-backed 'Midlands Engine' initiative, a group of local authorities and businesses that aim to boost growth opportunities in the East and West Midlands.

Yesterday, councillors at North West Leicestershire District Council, one of the councils involved in drawing up the proposals, backed a statement of intent for the body, which said it could take on planning powers.

An officer’s report on the proposals said: "If established and supported with the required resources and expertise, the development corporation would attract nationally and internationally significant investment and development into the East Midlands."

Initial proposals, set to be submitted to government in the spring, would see a development corporation covering three sites, each more than 200 hectares in size, according to the report.

The first proposal involves an employment-led development on the site of a coal-fired power station at Ratcliffe on Soar.

The second proposes about 4,500 homes and new employment land at Toton and at Chetwynd Barracks on the edge of Nottingham.

A final site would create employment space at East Midlands Airport, to which consideration is being given for "freeport" status.

The report said an initial assessment by consultants had dound that development enabled by the new vehicle could create 84,000 net new jobs and help up to one million tonnes of freight to be handled at the airport.

However, it said there "are still a number of uncertainties around the exact implications on things such as planning powers and business rates".

Promoters of the project are aiming to create a bespoke statutory locally-led development corporation, which the report said is not possible under existing legislation.

The report said: "Therefore, in order to create the development corporation, changes in legislation will be required and it is envisaged that the timescale for this is around two years."

During the next phase of the body's delivery, which will see the creation of an interim non-statutory vehicle, councils would retain planning powers, it added.

"Beyond this planning powers would be subject to further consideration as part of the establishment of the legal entity," the document states.

At the end of last year, the Ministry of Housing, Communities and Local Government consulted on proposals to reform the powers of development corporations so that all such bodies would receive plan-making and development control powers. Currently, different types of development corporations enjoy different powers.

Earlier this month, prime Minister Boris Johnson gave his backing to the High Speed Two (HS2) rail project, saying that services could be in operation by the end of the decade.

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