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Local Enterprise Partnerships in the South West

This research examines Local Economic Partnerships (LEPs) in the South West of England in relation to delivering economic growth and their engagement with strategic planning and sustainable development.

The research was conducted for the RTPI South West region by Chris Balch, Plymouth University, Mary Elkington, Figura Planning, and Gareth Jones, Hardisty Jones Associates.

The full report and summary briefing are now available from this project.

Key messages for policy and practice

  • In a relatively short time, LEPs have established themselves as significant players in the sub-national architecture put in place since the demise of regional governance. Inevitably, there is a considerable variation in the approaches taken by LEPs, reflecting administrative and economic differences across the region.
  • Across England, some areas are better placed to benefit from these new arrangements, which seem better suited to clearly defined functional market areas and matching local government structures.
  • Effective joint working and collaboration between local political and business interests around a shared vision will be key to the success of these arrangements. Planning has a key role to play in creating a framework for this joint working and collaboration.

Economic development

  • As key bodies responsible for bidding for public funds to support local economic growth, LEPs should be more transparent, for example by providing annual reports on their funding and activities, and spending against key objectives and targets.
  • LEPs are not resourced to be able to engage in all aspects of economic development. As a result, there is still a need to ensure the comprehensive and coordinated provision of economic development support activities.
  • LEPs need to keep their private sector representation under review, and strengthen their relationship with local business organisations and local authority economic development teams, to ensure that plans and priorities reflect local business and interests.

Strategic planning

  • Local planning authorities should use LEPs as a key source of information and guidance on the economic and business dimension of their plans and policies. LEPs should be treated as formal consultees in the plan and policy-making process, including providing them access to planning expertise.
  • Governance arrangements to enable private sector input into strategic planning should remove the potential for conflict of interests.

Sustainable development

  • It is important that LEPs reflect a balanced approach to economic growth and development. Local planning authorities should ensure that appropriate planning policy frameworks are in place to guide LEPs.
  • LEPs should assess the social and environmental implications of decisions as part of their project appraisal processes.
  • LEPs should engage in strategic dialogue with local authorities, Local Nature Partnerships, and Health and Wellbeing Boards in their area to identify the potential for achieving mutually beneficial outcomes.