Gary's News and views

Gary Streeter MP for South West Devon

Gary writes a weekly article which appears in the Plympton Plymstock and Ivybridge News in South West Devon. The articles are published here.


Thursday, 28 April 2011

Peripherality is a strange word, but it lies at the heart of the strength and weakness of this region. We are a long way from other centres of population. Plymouth is the only city apart from London in England that does not have a larger city within 100 miles of it, Bristol being 110 miles away.
It is our remoteness that helps preserve our fabulous rural character. It means we are not likely to become another Birmingham-by-the-sea. But in these stringent financial times our seclusion could be the most challenging obstacle to economic growth.
If you were starting a business that relies on sending goods to the rest of the country or overseas, most people would set out their stall in places that are better plugged into the transport infrastructure.  If you were thinking of investing in the UK from overseas, you would look first at locations that feature on the motorway map, with a thriving local airport or served by a flourishing rail network.
In truth, our transport connectivity is not all that it might be. The motorway system stops at Exeter and this is unlikely to change. The cost of upgrading the A38 to motorway standard is not currently in anybody's budget.
And Plymouth airport seems doomed after owner Sutton Holdings announced yesterday it would close in December.The council and chamber of commerce have wisely commissioned some in depth research to examine the true economic value that the airport brings, so that decisions about its future can be better informed. There is no public sector money available right now for any substantial support.
But there is room for cheer. The train service seems to me (as a regular user) to be gradually improving, although we need to press FGW for more three hour journey times between London and Plymouth to speed up this vital connection.
But our future does not rest solely on traditional infrastructure. The roll-out of superfast broadband will be the key to unlock the economic potential of this region. We have talked for years about people working from home, or running their business from any part of the country, serving the rest of the world. High speed internet links make this a real possibility, which is why all local MPs are backing this vital work.
We can still be peripheral and prosperous. Technology may enable us to have our cake and eat it.

posted by Gary @ 15:35