Greater Brighton is ready to take the next step in bringing national and global investment into the area after Crawley Borough Council and Gatwick Airport were officially welcomed into the City Region.
As both were voted on to the Greater Brighton Economic Board (GBEB), City Region leaders said the move was significant in increasing the scale and profile of its work.
The addition of Crawley, one of the south east’s powerhouse economies, means the City Region’s economy is now worth more than £21 billion and represents nearly 900,000 residents.
With one of Europe’s leading international airports also on board, it brings Greater Brighton’s profile in line with other City Region’s that are high on Government’s radar – Manchester, Birmingham and Newcastle.
More importantly it incorporates fully the A23 corridor into the region, meaning there is now a united voice for the body to clearly articulate the case for investment into the area.
Board members pledged to use the move to step up the campaign for better transport infrastructure, especially much-needed improvements in the Brighton Main Line; as well as developing a proactive Inward Investment and Trade strategy which will drive further growth.
Councillor Andy Smith, GBEB Chairman, said: “Greater Brighton has made great strides since being formed in 2011 – attracting £150 million of direct investment which has unlocked tens of thousands of homes and seen many more jobs created.
“The addition of Crawley Borough Council and Gatwick means we can step up this work, elevating our city region further into the minds of decision makers on a national and international stage.
“The London-Gatwick-Brighton Growth Corridor has been recognised as one of nine corridors in England that have been at the heart of growth over the last decade. Our region is almost certain to maintain that pivotal role in the future so it’s crucial we do everything we can to maximise our potential.
“Our work, bringing together local authorities, businesses and academia, is vital to that.”
Members of the board heard how Crawley was a real economic powerhouse – representing just two per cent of the land mass in West Sussex and only 110,000 residents, yet generating 25 per cent of the county’s wealth and 40 per cent of the business rates.
With more jobs than residents, thousands of people travel into the area to work every day – which makes investment in transport, particularly the rail network, a crucial aim.
Crawley leaders said they were looking forward to working with GBEB to drive forward investment in jobs along the A23 corridor; as well as developing a strategic approach to workforce skills.
They also wanted to use Greater Brighton to build business relationships between its globally-recognised STEM workforce and Greater Brighton’s digital and creative sector.
Councillor Peter Lamb, leader of Crawley Borough Council, said: “The challenges we face on the ground as councils increasingly require us to look beyond our own borders. By joining with the other members of Greater Brighton, we seek to resolve the combined challenges faced by residents across all our communities.”
Gatwick is one of the South East’s most high profile and important anchor businesses with 24,000 direct employees, as well as 13,000 indirect employees, from across the region.
Board members heard how the airport is a major investor in growth, having invested £1.7 billion since 2009 with plans to invest a further £1 billion before 2021. It is also an attractor for inward investment, providing access to markets for business as well as supporting the ongoing growth of tourism.
Gatwick representatives said being part of the board meant they were looking forward to work together with local authorities and business partnerships to tackle the challenges faced by the region.
Tim Norwood, Gatwick Airport’s Director of Corporate Affairs, Planning and Sustainability, said: “Gatwick is delighted to have been invited to join the Greater Brighton Economic Board and we look forward to working with representatives from the region to ensure continued prosperity and economic growth.
“Gatwick plays a key role in the local economy and, in addition to the 24,000 jobs sustained on the airport campus, provides a global gateway for thriving local business sectors.”