CHAMBER MATTERS - w/c 26th March 2018
It is not helpful when Plymouth and Devon describe itself as peripheral and remote.
Peripherality is often cited as the area’s greatest weakness. The question is how much of this is perception and how much is a reality. In global terms, a three hour journey time is a modest journey. Some Americans would regard Plymouth as being part of London and Heathrow as the local airport. It is wrong then for individuals or companies to use peripherality as an excuse for underperformance. We are only peripheral if we say that we are.
Plymouth is a large commercial city in the fifth largest county in the country. A county that includes other significant commercial centres. When the whole of the Devon economy is aggregated together it is large and of national significance. The size, quality and diversity of the Devon economy is something to be proud about and the Chamber is anxious to highlight this.
Unfortunately many from elsewhere in the UK have travelled to Plymouth and Devon on summer Saturdays when the M5/A38 and the A30/A303 have struggled to cope with the volume of traffic. Others have travelled by train and found the rail experience to be weather affected or due to a lack of investment very slow west of Exeter. These experiences have reinforced those perceptions of peripherality.
It is therefore essential for the future for Plymouth and Devon to be confident about its economic status and to campaign hard to secure the transport infrastructure the area deserves. The Transport Secretary recently said that improving the reliance of the south-west rail system was his highest priority and then failed to allocate any resource to improve it. The endless debate about improving the A30/A303 corridor grinds on but there is no sense of urgency. The debate about getting a blue motorway line to Plymouth has only recently become reactivated. It is now time for all parties to come together and speak with one voice on the need for investment in road and rail to the south-west to ensure that the area is properly connected to the rest of the country.
At a recent Plymouth Area Business Council meeting there were calls for a meeting with MP’s to emphasise the need for action. For this to have an effect all business leaders would need to be in attendance.