(Director of Neighbourhoods) To consider the attached report AMED-006-2017/18.
The Economic Development Officer (EDO) presented a report to the Cabinet Committee and updated them on a number of projects and issues being explored by the Economic Development Team.
1. Visitor Economy
The Tourism and Visitor Strategy had been finalised and agreed by the Tourism and Visitor Board. It was planned to launch the Strategy during the summer.
The Strategy was an example of the collaborative approach that the Economic Development team (EDT) had been working towards in conjunction with partners such as Epping/Ongar Railway, Waltham Abbey Town Council, Epping Forest College, The Royal Gunpowder Mills and others.
The Visit Epping Forest website had continued to grow in content and audience. This was the first year that detailed analytics for the website were available. From the first quarter of this calendar year there were over 20,000 users viewing over 45,000 pages and the EDT had seen in excess of 80% of which were new users.
2. Economic Development Strategy
Following significant input into the employment aspects of the Local Plan, the EDT were now focussing on the delivery of a new long term Economic Development Strategy. It was currently anticipated that a draft strategy would be put forward for approval by the end of the calendar year. The Strategy will not be EFDC’s alone but a partner document looking at the district as a ‘place’ and recognising the involvement, influence and role of many stakeholders in the local economy.
3. Town Centres
Waltham Abbey Wayfinding Project
As reported at the last meeting of the Cabinet Committee this project had been completed. There had been a Survey of local stakeholders to ascertain their views on the strategy and overall their responses were very agreeable. They welcomed the new signs around Waltham Abbey and thought that they were informative and an improvement of the town’s appearance.
4. Business Support
The EDT had produced a mini version of it’s One Business Briefing which was issued and distributed alongside the Business Rate bills to just under 4,000 contacts with the District in March 2018.
The EDT continued to work to attract external grant funding for businesses within the District. A few examples of this work are highlighted below:
South East Business Boost (SEBB) - A capital grants scheme for business growth was offering grants of £1,000 to £10,000 for up to 30% of total project costs. SEBB informed the EDT that to date this was the best response they have had to their workshop schemes across Essex. The very first funding grant has come out of the workshops and been given to a local business in Ongar.
6. Digital Innovation Programme
ARUP consultants, one of the leading consultancies on digital innovation have been selected to work with the DIZ to develop a long term strategy for digital development in the area. The aim of the strategy, which will be completed by July, is to give a clear picture of what digital infrastructure and approaches already exist across the geographies and sectors that make up the DIZ and to set out the key challenges facing an area like this to become a Beacon for digitally enabled service delivery and economic development. The project is jointly funded by 11 organisations including private sector, health sector, local authorities and economic development organisations.
At the request of the Chairman the EDO would give a presentation at the next Cabinet Committee regarding the background and the work programme of the Digital Innovation Programme.
(1) That the current progress and work programme of the Council’s Economic Development Section were noted; and
(2) That the EDO would give a presentation at the next meeting of the Cabinet Committee regarding the background of the Digital Innovation Programme.
Reasons for Decision:
To appraise the Committee on the progress made with regard to Economic Development issues.
Other Options Considered and Rejected:
None, as this was a monitoring report for information, not action.