Agenda item

Economic Development Strategy


The Committee were provided with a report on the activity undertaken to promote the draft Economic Growth Strategy and feedback received from businesses and residents.


The Committee were directed to appendix three to the report which held the draft Economic Growth Strategy for Gravesham 2019-23.


The Assistant Director (Communities) informed Members that the objective in consulting on the Economic Growth Strategy was to seek opinion from a broad range of community and business stakeholders; to receive their input to the finalised strategy document but also to engage their longer-term interest in action planning for the seven key themes. The response levels to the consultation were disappointing, despite use of a range of media to consult, and it was a challenge to get business users to engage them on the issue and the Assistant Director (Communities) was unsure as to why that is so.


However, the feedback that was received was helpful and was summarised on age 13 of the report. The Assistant Director (Communities) assured Members that the comments received would be taken on board and used to amend the Strategy.


The Committee would be brought regular updates on the actions laid out within the Strategy.


 In response to Members questions, the Assistant Director (Communities) and the Assistant Director (Planning) explained that:


  • The consultation took place between 21 September and 31 October 2021 and was now closed; 26 responses were received
  • The responses received weren’t expected to make any significant changes to the Strategy; a one-page document outlining the changes that were made to the Strategy would be agreed with the Chair and then made available to the Committee
  • The seven themes of the Strategy weren’t laid out in order of importance; one of the proposed changes to the Strategy was putting a greater emphasis on theme 7 supporting sustainable economic growth through delivering the Councils climate change commitments. In addition, there would be the Kent Gravesham Business Awards and greater emphasis would be put upon sourcing local produce and celebrating local skills
  • Land available for businesses to grow locally was a concern shared by the Economic Development Team; it was essential to have land so that local businesses could expand and encourage investment. A number of projects were being brought forward such as the Council working with the EDC to bring further development at Northfleet Embankment East
  • There was currently no planning development earmarked for the Tollgate site; originally a planning application was submitted by BP but it went to a judicial review after complaints from the petrol garage next to the site. After much back and forth, in the end the Council decided to refuse the planning application; following that decision BP appealed but then withdrew their appeal shortly after. The Assistant Director (Planning) agreed to undertake an exercise to find out the latest information to see if any development was planned for the site and report back to Members outside of the meeting
  • The Assistant Director (Communities) responded to Member’s concerns regarding survey question three and thought that the respondents may have felt that the strategy had not covered their concerns around town centre and heritage – both areas dealt with via other strategy work. The Assistant Director (Communities) advised that the low response may have distorted this response and this was not reflected in the other comments made during the consultation
  • A discussion was had around prioritisation, and it was agreed that promoting skills for the local workforce and climate changes actions should be further up the priority list. Further work needed to be undertaken to see what the Council needed to do to deliver the aims of the Strategy


With leave of the Chair, Cllr Burden addressed the Committee regarding planning issues in Gravesham, the need to build on industrial land and the need to make local skilled employment areas stronger instead of attracting external larger companies that would use the land for industrial work.


Members raised concern that even though the Strategy excelled at identifying the Borough’s strengths and weaknesses there was nothing in the plan that specified how the weaknesses would be addressed. Gravesham suffered from a lack of larger companies that offered high value jobs and there was very little to offer on higher education, but those areas were not addressed in the Strategy.


The Chair agreed with the concerns raised and highlighted the issues Gravesham faced such as lack of space for new companies and higher education buildings and lack of colleges that taught high level skills in the area. The Chair advised that the new Assistant Director (Strategic Regeneration) would be conducting brand exercises to encourage more businesses to locate to Gravesham and to help local businesses expand. The Chair implored Members to email any ideas they had to the Chair or senior officers regarding the issue.


Cllr Burden agreed with the points raised and advised that it was an issue that had been tried to be addressed for the last thirty years by different administrations; Gravesham did need more larger employers and more high levels jobs to be brought to the Borough. London Resort may help to ease the issue, but it brought its own issues with the Environmental impact and the highways impact.


Following a request from the Chair, the Assistant Director (Planning) agreed to ask the Assistant Director (Strategic Regeneration) to the next committee meeting to discuss his role and the work he was undertaking including the branding to encourage new businesses to the Borough.


Members noted the proposal to continue to engage with external stakeholders as action plans were developed.


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