LEP celebrates legacy at final board meeting

The Marches Local Enterprise Partnership celebrated its near £200million legacy at its final board meeting – and welcomed back some familiar faces from its past to mark the occasion.

The LEP – which for more than ten years has been the body responsible for driving economic growth across Herefordshire, Shropshire and Telford & Wrekin – held its last ever board meeting on March 12.

It marked the occasion with a farewell celebration at the Feathers Hotel in Ludlow, which saw former board members, working partners from local authorities, education providers and the third sector, and members of staff get together with the current board.

The LEP’s functions are being transferred to the three principal councils covering the area from April 1.

Sonia Roberts (pictured) , the LEP chair, said: “There is not a corner of the three counties we cover which has not benefitted from the work of the LEP since we were established in 2011.

“The LEP has been responsible for investing nearly £200million in the Marches, with close to 4,000 jobs created or in the pipeline. We’ve supported thousands of businesses through the Marches Growth Hub and helped hundreds of people realise their dream of starting their own firm.

“Our work with our partners in education has helped create a new generation of apprenticeships and developed the skills our workforce needs to succeed, whilst the Marches Careers Hub has reached thousands of students and hundreds of teachers in its mission to transform careers education by linking education and training providers with the business community.

“We can reflect with great pride on our work in supporting a range of transformative projects such as the redevelopment of the Shell Store and creation of the Cyber Quarter – Midlands Centre for Cyber Security in Hereford, the Oswestry Innovation Park, Shrewsbury town centre improvements and redevelopment of the Flaxmill in Shropshire, and regeneration projects across Telford as well as the development of Ni.Park at Newport and Marches Centre of Excellence in Health and Social Care.

“We’ve also helped bring much-improved broadband to all areas of our region, worked to improve transport links and driven the progress to achieving Net Zero and a sustainable economy which is fit for the future and safeguards our planet.

“I am hugely grateful to everyone who has played a part in the LEP’s success, including our board members who have given up their time for free, our brilliant staff who have worked so hard for more than a decade, and all our colleagues and partners in our local authorities and education providers.

“Naturally I am sad to see the LEP’s work come to a close, but I could not be prouder of what we have achieved and the difference we have made to the lives of so many people across the Marches.”

Chief executive Rachel Laver said the LEP had played a crucial role in championing the Marches with national and regional government and had achieved huge success in ensuring the region was not overlooked when funding was allocated.

“It is vital that a predominantly rural area such as ours does not have its voice drowned out by bigger metropolitan regions, and our success in attracting so much investment to the region is a testament to the role we have played in building strong partnerships with local, regional and national stakeholders.

“Most importantly, we have given the business community a real voice in developing the area’s economy and shaping policy in a way which had not been seen before. If we are to continue to develop a thriving, sustainable economy and deliver the sort of highly-skilled jobs our communities deserve, this must continue.”

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