An alliance of 22 mid-sized UK cities has launched its manifesto aiming to promote the role and impact of England’s mid-sized cities in the national economy. The Key Cities Group, which includes Southend-on-Sea, will grant its members a greater degree of influence over national economic policy. According to Councillor John Lamb, deputy leader of Southend-on-Sea Borough Council, the launch comes at a time when business owners are increasingly looking outside of London in response to the rising costs of setting up a business there.
With average commercial rents in London increasing by as much as 30%, entrepreneurs are increasingly electing to escape the big smoke when launching new ventures – causing a boom in various regional towns and cities across the UK. Amongst them is Southend-on-Sea which has seen a significant increase in new businesses set up with a year-on-year increase of 10% since 2010, a product of its ability to offer reasonable pricing with excellent transport links.
The average commercial rent in Southend in 2013 was significantly lower than London and the area has become one of the most connected in the country in recent times. Taking as little as 53 minutes by train, Southend business owners can find themselves in the epicentre of UK commerce in less time than some London residents. Home to the UK’s Best Airport, as voted for by Which? magazine readers, Southend gives entrepreneurs expedient access to a variety of major EU cities – a vital trait in the age of global economy. Seeing nearly 1,000,000 travellers in 2013, London Southend Airport is due to complete its terminal expansion in the coming months, making it a key player in how London’s ongoing airport capacity dispute will be resolved.
Providing a 360 degree service in terms of business accessibility, Southend-on-Sea benefits from international access, major road and rail links to London as well as being situated on the coast; important attributes to support growing international businesses. Southend has attracted in excess of £9m of funding for transport schemes in recent years including some £3.3 million Pinch Point Funding and £4.8 million of Local Sustainable Transport Funding for the delivery of transport improvements. This will help align transport improvements with economic growth, driving a modal shift in transport use, whilst increasing accessibility of services.
The increased connectivity offered has led to numerous sectors in Southend flourishing including Aviation and advanced engineering, creative and cultural, tourism and retail. Growth industries such as medical technology are basing themselves in Southend to enjoy increased access to global markets. The Government has recognised the potential of Southend and is currently negotiating a city deal, the only destination in the South East Local Enterprise area offered such an opportunity.
Councillor John Lamb, deputy leader of Southend-on-Sea Borough Council says: ‘As property prices in London continue to rise, businesses are increasingly looking for alternatives, but most do not want to sacrifice the accessibility which the capital affords. As a result, there are numerous regional options and Southend can offer all the connectivity of London without the exorbitant costs – which is why we have such a high business “birth rate”.
‘The Key Cities Group launch is indicative of the growing importance towns and cities outside of the capital have in driving forward the national economy. It provides Southend-on-Sea with the platform needed to influence policy at the highest level.’