Jobs boom in Essex ... but Uttlesford left out in the cold

Essex County Council

Essex County Council - Credit: Archant

Fewer than one per cent of the 117,000 jobs expected to be created in Essex over the next seven years are likely to be in Uttlesford.

It is estimated that by 2021, about 450 jobs will be generated in the district with the help of a multi-million pound investment strategy designed to grow the local economy.

But that pales into insignificance when compared to the jobs expected in the rest of the county.

An Essex County Council spokesman refuted the implication Uttlesford had been ignored in the authority’s Economic Plan. But he was unable to confirm how many jobs could be created in the district – the only clear-cut estimate in the plan is 450 – saying the strategy had been broken down into “corridors” of growth.

The London-Stansted-Cambridge Corridor (LSCC), which incorporates Uttlesford, can accommodate 20,297 homes and 18,292 jobs by 2021, ­according to the plan.

County-wide, the strategy hopes to provide more than 117,745 extra jobs and 81,310 homes by 2021, a ratio of almost 1.5 jobs per house.

In Uttlesford, combined ­investment from local authorities, private sector partners and the Government will lead to about 3,600 homes and 450 jobs – equivalent to 0.4 per cent of the employment boost across Essex and a ratio of just over 0.1 jobs per home.

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It appears the county council is looking to the expansion of Stansted Airport within its existing capacity as the primary source of Uttlesford jobs growth.

Harlow stands to be one of the major beneficiaries of the plan, with an Enterprise Zone under way that has capacity for more than 5,000 jobs, while other projects include the ­creation 1,122 jobs in west Braintree and a £500,000 scheme to deliver superfast broadband to business parks in Colchester.

Liberal Democrat parliamentary candidate for Saffron Walden, Mike Hibbs, who has lobbied for a revamp of Shire Hill Industrial Estate, blamed the perceived snub on the lack of engagement from Uttlesford District Council (UDC).

He said: “If we are seriously ­thinking about the future we need to seriously think about jobs.

“The fact we’re not figuring in any of these things is because we’ve not been ­talking about it or promoting any ideas.

“There is no plan.”

Mr Hibbs also criticised the lack of progress on his proposal, put forward in December 2012, to rebrand Shire Hill as a technology park in an attempt to attract hi-tech industry.

No money has been set aside for the estate’s regeneration.

UDC’s economic development officer Simon Jackson said ­discussions were continuing with Shire Hill businesses to revamp plans.

He also said the district would still benefit from Essex’s economic plan despite the lack of Uttlesford-targeted investment.

“In terms of financial investment there isn’t much [for Uttlesford specifically] but there is support for businesses. There is quite an extensive programme of support available Essex-wide,” Mr Jackson said.

“Superfast broadband is another big thing we’re working on. That is the most important piece of infrastructure for businesses in Uttlesford.”

Mr Jackson said UDC’s Local Plan, which includes a forecast of what the employment landscape will look like in 2031, had targeted the creation of 9,200 new jobs between 2011-2031. But he cautioned that this was not a “hard and fast” calculation.

Unemployment in Uttlesford is low, with the latest figures estimating it to be about 1.1 per cent.

However, generating economic growth is now one of UDC’s top priorities as the authority looks to counteract a reduction in core Government funding.

To balance the books, the council will have to rely on its share of the business rates pool.

Essex’s economic plan is asking the Treasury for £89.7million from the Single Local Growth Fund for the LSCC to boost £26m from county, district and borough councils and £18.2m in external funding. The money would then be expected to leverage a further £36m of private sector investment.

A county council spokesman said: “Uttlesford has one of the highest employment rates in the country and is a testament to a growing Essex economy, bringing in more jobs to the county.

“The economic benefits of the economic plan for Essex to people in Uttlesford will include bids to alleviate congestion on the M11 at Junction 8 and transport improvements for Saffron Walden, investment for skills and productivity for the cluster of life sciences businesses in the district, and support for the growing logistics sectors based around Stansted Airport.”