Comment

21.08.17

It’s all part of the master plan

Source: PSE Aug/Sept 2017

Dawn Baxendale, chief executive of Southampton City Council, talks about the city’s ambitions and the importance of its Master Plan, which has given investors greater confidence to commit their money to the area.

We have ambitious plans for our city. Along with our partners we have delivered almost £2bn worth of development over the last five years, and we have our eyes on at least £1bn more.

Southampton’s reputation for delivering large-scale investment projects continues to grow, and the council continues to look to work with like-minded investors, developers and occupiers who want to join our success.

Back in 2012, when Southampton launched its Master Plan, it’s true to say there was a real desire to turn the theory into reality. Hundreds of potential investors and developers from across the UK gathered at Southampton Football Club to find out more about our ambitious plans for the city that forecast up to 24,000 new jobs and £3bn investment over the next 20 years.

The aim of the Master Plan is to create a city centre that enhances Southampton’s appeal as a great place to do business, visit and live. It was designed to give businesses and investors the confidence that Southampton’s ambition was matched by a clear vision and ability to deliver.

Walking around the city today, just five years on, evidence of that clear vision is there for all to see. 

Westquay, Studio 144, Southampton Solent University’s new Spark building, Bow Square – the city already looks a different place. More major schemes than any time since the post-war years are underway or have been completed.

The ‘Very Important Projects’ (VIPs) identified for redevelopment are now becoming part of Southampton’s new landscape and contributing to the creation of a vibrant and energetic city centre.

If you look at the VIP projects that we set out in the Master Plan all of them are either completed, under construction or in the development pipeline. Having the Master Plan in place has given investors the confidence to commit their money into the future of the city. 

Investors are now attracted to Southampton – they know if they come to speak to us things are going to happen.

Improving the public realm has undoubtedly changed how people feel about walking around the city. There have been major improvements to the built environment running from north to south and east to west of the city centre.

We have invested in infrastructure and the QE2 mile, Guildhall Square, Station Quarter North and Kingsbridge Lane are great examples of this. 

But this isn’t all about new buildings and development – it is about the jobs they bring, and the people who want to work, live and enjoy their lives.

We have just 1.5% unemployment in the city – our groundbreaking approach to supporting our residents into work and new careers ensures businesses are gaining great employees.

I feel immensely proud of what we have achieved in Southampton and it’s been a real team effort, with the council, its partners and the community we serve all working together.

Very clearly the city has been regarded as somewhere that has fundamentally changed the way it is operating. We have interest from both across the UK and internationally about how we have changed the economic development opportunities in Southampton.

Specifically, people want to know how we have promoted the city, how we have used our regulatory functions and communicated the success, but particularly how we have worked with the private sector to change the face of the city.

The British Property Federation has been to Southampton with a raft of people to find out what we have done and is using us a case study to inform government policy.

There is a whole range of ingredients that make Southampton great. We are in a great location, next to the famous waters of the Solent and close to the New Forest National Park. We have fantastic heritage and have invested heavily in our cultural offer over the last few years.

There is a fantastic leisure and entertainment offer that both the council and the private sector have invested in.

We are committed to being a city that delivers a rich quality of life for the people who live and work here.

To investors, developers and business coming to Southampton, the message is very simple: this is a city where you can do business. We have the workforce, we have the facilities, the cultural background and accommodation. You can make your business grow here.

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