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How can businesses help to improve their local infrastructure?

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28 April 2014
The below article was featured in the May 2014 edition of Cotswold Life Business & Professional Magazine. To read the full magazine please click here.

Ruth has been a tax adviser in Gloucestershire for over twenty years, she knows only too well how frustrating it can be when you are off for a meeting and you have left plenty of time for the journey but you turn the corner and suddenly ahead of
you is a large queue of traffic. As you grind to a halt you know you are going to have to make that call on your hands free mobile to say that you are going to be late. When you are driving abroad you often think how wonderfully well the traffic flows on multi-lane highways and how you wish it were like that at home on a daily basis!
 
Is there anything you, as a business, can do about this?
 
Well yes, you can make your voice heard. Governments will listen to the voices of businesses if they are raised loudly enough. You could get involved with your Local Enterprise Partnership (LEP) and raise your views directly to your LEP or through one of the specialist sector groups.
 
In Gloucestershire, GFirst LEP have proposed infrastructure improvements as a central plank in their funding submission to government, or Strategic Economic Plan (SEP), for the county as set out on the LEP website www.gfirstlep.com/gfirst-LEP/Our-Priorities/Our-Vision.
 
As part of a wide ranging strategy the plan focuses on three major transport needs for Gloucestershire. The first is the ‘A417 missing link’; the only section of single carriageway on the road linking the M4 at Swindon to the M5 near Gloucester and Cheltenham. This is a notorious traffic black spot and one of the most heavily congested roads in the South West. Plans to put in a dual carriageway have been found to be viable, and even value for money, despite the hefty price tag of about £255m. Businesses can pledge their backing through the following lin www.a417missinglink.co.uk.
 
The second and third proposals are about improving Junctions 9 and 10 of the M5. Near Junction 9 there may soon be a new Sainsbury’s superstore and a large garden centre and retail outlet development. In addition the Ministry of Defence storage depot is due to be decommissioned with the land being released for employment and housing. It is very unlikely that the current Junction 9 will be able to cope with the resulting increases in traffic flows.
 
Junction 10 is currently a 2 way rather than a 4 way junction. The Highways Agency commissioned a report in 2012 which concluded that an all-ways junction could be constructed, but that further evidence of need was required before proceeding.The cost would be about £21m but, if it goes ahead, it would release employment land around the junction. Evidence is needed from local businesses that this employment land is needed. It is surely logical to have business parks next to the M5 rather than elsewhere in our county.
 
Gloucestershire Infrastructure Investment Fund
 
GFirst LEP already has an infrastructure pot of £8.4m from the Government’s Growing Places Fund. This is currently being used to unlock stalled infrastructure development projects that aim to release developments, creating new jobs, housing and regeneration. The fund is a revolving loan fund so local projects from both the public and private sector are potentially eligible. Further information is available by emailing edteam@gloucestershire.gov.uk.
 
You probably get e-mails in your inbox all the time asking you to complete surveys on travel issues for your business. Next time please don’t click the delete button but instead add your concerns about the road or rail system to the voices of other local businesses. When Ruth isn’t busy working alongside the local LEP on business issues, she specialises in advising companies and their owners and, in particular, transactions, restructurings, and expert witness work and tax savings ideas.