As the general election looms on the horizon, a six point "long term economic plan for the South West" focusing on jobs, transport, tourism, and defence was announced by the Chancellor on a whistle stop tour of the region today.

At a speech at the National Aquarium in Plymouth the Chancellor set out the detailed plan as part of a day-long tour of the South West with Prime Minister David Cameron.

The plan includes:

1) Increase the size of the regional economy by £6.4bn in real terms by 2030 - equivalent to over £1,000 per person - by increasing the long term growth rate of the South West to at least the long term growth rate of the whole UK.

2) Create over 150,000 new jobs in the South West by supporting private businesses, advanced manufacturing and skills to ensure we maintain the current high rate of job creation.

3) Deliver at least £7.2 billion of investment in transport in the South West and deliver a step change in digital connectivity. Supporting the complete dualling of key roads including the A303, and the full electrification of Brunel’s Great Western Main Line including brand new electric trains, together with exploring the feasibility of a dedicated rail franchise for the South West and delivering 95% superfast connectivity by 2017 through the government’s superfast broadband programme.

4) Support the tourism sector to draw more people to the South West’s beautiful countryside and coastlines, with the aim of increasing the number of annual overseas visits to the South West to 3 million by 2020, creating around 7,000 more jobs.

5) Ensure the world class defence assets and cyber security industry of the South West provide the maximum benefit to the local economy. This includes new plans to expand the economic benefits of the Royal Navy and Royal Marines in Devon, the Army at Salisbury Plain, and the defence industries near Bristol, so we sustain 59,000 defence industry, 36,500 military and 17,000 civilian defence jobs in the region.

6) Build on the South West’s existing reputation in life and agricultural sciences and boost science more broadly, supporting tech clusters, green energy, promoting skills development and an innovative rural economy.

The Prime Minister and Chancellor are also setting out a specific timetable to deliver the key concepts of this plan over the five years of the next parliament, and the following decade.

The pair announced a number of new measures to improve transport links, boost tourism, and invest in defence:

Developing a comprehensive rail strategy for the South West by setting up a South West Peninsula Rail Task Force – this strategy will increase resilience, reduce journey times, and increase capacity, responding to the 3-point plan of the South West Connectivity Study. It will also address the question of the potential re-opening the inland rail route between Exeter and Plymouth.

The Coastal Communities Fund: the Chancellor today announced the successful bids for the CCF, a £10m package which will support coastal communities and is estimated to bring over 75,000 visitors to the region. This investment will create over 860 new jobs (direct and indirect) and support over 225 businesses, generating over £12m in increased visitor spending.

The Chancellor announced a new £2m challenge fund as part of the GREAT Britain campaign to promote regions and cities including in the South West, to international tourists, students and businesses. He also said that he wants to see government support for a Mayflower exhibition in Plymouth in the run up to the 400th anniversary in 2020.

The South West will be a centre of operations for the Army, Navy, Royal Marines and cyber security. The Chancellor therefore today announced a £900m investment in the Salisbury Plain area to create new service and technical accommodation for the army. GCHQ will also continue to play a major role in supporting the cyber security industry in the region, including by recruiting over 400 cyber specialists, the majority of whom will work in the region.

Working with leading experts to support the South West's technology and skills base: Mark Walport and Sally Davies bring together leading figures from industry, the NHS and academia to explore the potential for new proposals for investment in life sciences in the South West, with a particular focus on medical technologies.

The Chancellor of the Exchequer, George Osborne, said in his speech: “The South West contains some of Britain's greatest economic strengths. It should be as central to our nation's future prosperity as any other part of these islands. And the Prime Minister and I are determined that it will be.

“That's why I am here today, to set out our Long Term Economic Plan for the South West - and why the Prime Minister will be joining me later today to seek local support for it. The plan I set out is based on this insight. Over the last thirty or forty years our economy has become more imbalanced, with the gap growing between London and the rest of the country. Our ambition is to reverse that - and it can be achieved.”

He added: “What we need is a coherent plan that identifies those strengths, makes them stronger still - and connects them to each other so that the whole is greater than the sum of its parts. If you look at the South West, stretching from Wiltshire and Bristol, to Somerset and Dorset, down to Cornwall and Devon, of course, you see the differences - they all have a unique identity. But you also see the strengths they have in common.

“What are they? There's the beautiful countryside and coastline that makes this one of the most attractive parts of the UK, and one of the most visited. There's the industries that thrive in this landscape - the agriculture, the fishing and the tourism - that are more important here than many places. But there's also the great universities, the incredible science happening here, skills and high tech manufacturing associated with the strong relationship with our armed forces. Bring these ingredients together with better transport links and you have a very attractive place to invest, to grow a business and to build a life.”

Speaking in Plymouth, he concluded: “So we have a Long Term Economic Plan for the South West. It aims to create over a hundred and fifty thousand jobs. It seeks to add over £6 billion to the local economy – equivalent to over £1,000 per person. It will support the future of our defence forces and capitalise on their economic benefit. It will deliver the next step for national cyber intelligence, and other world leading scientific innovation. It will make the most of the countryside and coastal towns.

“Our long term plan for the South West is about recognising the value of both its natural beauty and the economic strengths nurtured by the people who live here. It says that we can only have a truly national recovery if we get behind the private sector, put in the transport, support the tourism, the science and the industries of the future. And it says that if we do that: the future is bright in the west. It is a commitment to you – and to your future. And with your help, we will help deliver it.”

The Prime Minister, David Cameron said: "Our long-term economic plan for the South West is about making life better for hardworking local people. It involves backing business to create more jobs, improving transport links and building on the region's strengths to secure a brighter future.

"For too long, people living in this part of the country have suffered from Britain’s unbalanced economy – from the growing gap between London and the rest. That is what this plan sets out to change – to ensure that Britain’s recovery really is a recovery for all".

Timetable for Action – Implementation in the South West 2015-2030


Connectivity (Transport/Digital)

       The Road Investment Strategy announced at Autumn Statement 2014 will see £9.4bn committed to new schemes nationwide. £2bn of that will be spent in the South West, including upgrading of the M5, M49, A303, A30, A358 and A417 to reduce bottlenecks and provide motorway quality journeys.
       Establishment of a South west Peninsula Rail task force to develop a comprehensive rail strategy for the South West, which will address the question of potentially re-opening the inland rail link from Exeter to Plymouth via Okehampton and Tavistock that could improve local connectivity.
       Network Rail develops plans for western rail access to Heathrow, based on a link from the Great Western Main line, which could potentially deliver a 30 minute reduction in journey times between Heathrow, the Thames Valley and all points west for 12 million residents, benefitting the whole UK economy.
       Government will explore the case for establishing a new dedicated Devon and Cornwall franchise for the South West of England, bringing together parts of the current Great Western and South West Trains franchises into a coherent whole to support better timetabling and provision of rail services to and within the South West, not simply focused on journeys to London. Alongside this, Government would like to encourage local government in the region to come together to form Rail South West, with the long term aim of devolving the franchise to local decision makers (subject to the development of satisfactory capability to let and manage such contracts).
       Negotiations with First Group over the Great Western Main Line franchise will be completed, with the aim being to secure significant improvements to trains and journey times to the South West.
       Work under the Filton Four Tracks Programme will get underway to double the track between Bristol’s two main stations, reducing journey times and increasing passenger and freight services.
       Contracts are being signed to take superfast broadband coverage to 95% by 2017. . Technology pilots, including one in Exmoor National Park, will test innovative ways to bring coverage to the final 5% of premises.



Technology and innovation

  •        The Agri-Tech Catalyst programme will spend £70m (which will be matched by private sector funding) nationwide up to 2018/19, with funds already allocated to a number of projects amounting to almost £1m for firms and universities in the South West and a further round of bids currently ongoing.
  •        Ensuring that knowledge gained by research activity is transferred and applied in farm businesses to improve efficiency and competitiveness has been identified as a priority for £1.5m of funding from the Rural Development Programme (RDP) by the Cornwall and the Isles of Scilly LEP.
  •        Completion of the conversion of Bristol Planetarium in a 3d Data Visualisation Dome by April 2015. This forms part of the Bristol R&D Testbed, a key component of the “Bristol is Open” initiative. The Testbed, which has received £4.3m of government funding, is a joint venture between the City and the University of Bristol and will create the world’s first Open Progammable city testbed, linking data from across the city so that companies can test equipment, applications and software in a real world environment.
  •        Both the 3D Visualisation Dome and the R&D Testbed are already generating interest from researchers, companies and universities around the world.
  •        Government is contributing £4m towards the £16.5m cost of the West of England University Enterprise Zone in Bristol, which will focus on robotics and health technologies. Construction will begin in March.
  •        The first phase of the Met Office’s High Performance Computer in Exeter will be operational by September, helping to cement the UK’s position as a world leader in weather and climate prediction and potentially delivering £2bn of socio-economic benefits to the UK.
  •        Business cases for ‘wind engineering’ project benefiting Bath and Exeter will be developed.
  •        The Heart of the South West LEP has identified as a priority projects to provide advisory services and knowledge transfer around Agri Sciences; promote SME competitiveness through giving business skills support; bring superfast broadband to areas not covered by the Superfast Extension Roll-out; help rural businesses to understand how superfast broadband can support them and offer bespoke support to those businesses that will benefit the most; and encourage rural businesses to reach new markets, seeking £15.5m through the rural development programme.
  •        UKTI South West will launch their Global Entrepreneur Programme, which will attract entrepreneur-led, innovation-rich businesses from all over the world.



  •        Investment of £4.4m to refund up to 50,000 Chinese tourist visas in the financial year 2015/16 to encourage more Chinese tourists to visit the UK and visit regions outside of London.
  •        This parliament, £532m has already been allocated to Local Authorities to deliver 25,580 affordable homes and 7,783 households in the South West have completed mortgages with the support of Help to Buy.
  •        The Get Britain Building scheme has committed to an investment of £54.1m which has already seen 456 homes out of a total of 700 delivered in the South West. The remaining homes will be completed by 2017.
  •        The Large Sites Fund has committed £52m to sites in the South West with 914 homes (out of a total of 6500 for the site) already completed at Cranbrook and building of homes at Sherford expected to begin in May.
  •        Decisions on proposals for eight Housing Zones in the South West are expected by Budget. These zones have requested £29m in funding and, if supported, could provide over 11,500 homes.
  •        Further building projects are being assessed in the South West under the following schemes and, assuming they are approved, work will begin in 2015.
  •    The Builders Finance Fund is considering a shortlist of 19 projects with a potential total investment of £66.8m, which could deliver 1,299 units.
  •    The Large Sites Infrastructure fund is considering a shortlist of ten projects with a potential total investment of £149m. The infrastructure being considered under this scheme has the potential to unlock 22,795 homes.
  •    Local Growth (housing infrastructure) fund is considering a shortlist of five projects with a potential total investment of £35.2m. The infrastructure being considered under this scheme has the potential to unlock 2,919 homes.


Rural Economy

  •        The South West will benefit from its share of the £3.5bn for investment up to 2020 under the Rural Development Programme (RDP) to boost farming, food, the rural economy and protect the natural environment; including £68m already allocated to be spent on local growth schemes in the region. Some of the projects that LEPs have prioritised for funding include:
  •    £9.4m to support agriculture through diverse projects covering livestock and horticultural support through to farmer specific renewable technologies such as fuel generated from biogas plants.
  •    £1.4m to roll out farm scale Anaerobic Digestion plants which could serve as heat distribution networks or energy storage in Cornwall and the Isles of Scilly.
  •        Homes across the SW will be better protected from floods thanks to an unprecedented six-year £2.3 billion flood defence programme, announced at Autumn Statement, providing better protection for at least 300,000 households by 2021. £149m of this will be invested in the South West with £19m being spent in financial year 2015/16.  The programme will also support economic recovery and growth, working alongside partners including private companies, local planning authorities and Local Enterprise Partnerships (LEPs).  Overall, the national programme will help avoid over £30bn in long-term economic damages. Some of the projects that are likely to see work started over the next 6 years are:
  •    the £30.9m flood defence scheme in Exeter to protect 4149 properties in the area.
  •    the £8.8m Dawlish Warren and Exmouth beach management scheme which will help protect almost 3000 homes and businesses.
  •    the £4.4m Exmouth tidal defence scheme, protecting 1099 properties in the area.
  •    the £3.4m Congresbury Yeo tidal banks project to protect 4,101 homes and businesses.
  •     the £3.3m Parret Estuary at Cannington Bends to protect 1257 properties.
  •        Government will invest £535.4mthrough PFI credits in essential waste management infrastructure in the South West over the next six years. This will amount to £74.1m in financial year 2015/16.



  •        £3.2bn is already being spent on the maintenance and repair of ships and yards, including HMNB Devonport, where it sustains 4000 jobs.
  •        A second offshore patrol vessel built at Appledore shipyard is expected to be handed over to the Irish Navy.
  •        The A400M is a multi-national tactical and strategic lift aircraft with over 170 ordered so far by partner countries. All the wings will be made in Filton, securing 8,000 jobs. 24 pairs of wings will be delivered to the MoD and customers in other partner nations in 2015.
  •        A £15m contract to militarise the new Royal Fleet Auxiliary tankers awarded to A&P Engineering, based in Falmouth.
  •        Investment in Salisbury Plain to create the new Army Basing Area for units returning from Germany – £900m to create service personnel accommodation and infrastructure, with the work being competed down the supply chain. In addition 1000 Service Families Homes to be built in this area by 2020.
  •        C£1.4M of LIBOR fines will be used to improve childcare provision for service personnel in the South West. This will be spent on upgrading or opening new facilities across Tidworth, Warminster, Perham Down, Blandford, Bovington, Taunton, Collingwood and Bulford.
  •        C£1M in LIBOR fines will be used for a Gurkha Homes project in Wiltshire which will build small clusters of homes for older Gurkha veterans and their partners.




Connectivity (Transport/Digital)

  •        Electrification of rail lines from London to Bristol, Newbury and Oxford will be completed as part of an investment in 235miles of new electric lines, making journeys smoother and more comfortable for passengers and quieter for people living near railways.
  •        Bristol area rail improvements begin, including converting Filton Abbeywood station to four platforms, an extra platform at Bristol Parkway and two new platforms and major investment at Bristol Temple Meads plus a new junction will be created at Bristol East.

Technology and Innovation

  •        Work completed on the West of England University Enterprise Zone, the first clients expected by July.


Tourism and housing

  •        The Large Sites Infrastructure fund will issue contracts for further schemes by March.


Rural economy

       Ongoing work on key flood defence works will see investment of £33.5m in financial year 2016/17.
       Ongoing investment in essential waste management infrastructure through PFI credits in the South West will amount to £85.7m in financial year 2016/17.



  •        28 pairs of wings for the A400M tactical and strategic lift aircraft will be delivered to UK and partner nations, safeguarding 8000 jobs building their wings in Filton.
  •        A third maritime patrol vessel built at Appledore shipyard is expected to be handed over to the Irish Navy.



Connectivity (Transport/Digital)

  •        Electrification of rail lines from London to Cardiff complete.
  •        The first IEP super express trains will be introduced by Great Western, improving reliability and reducing environmental impacts.
  •        Superfast broadband coverage reaches 95%


Tourism and Housing

  •        700 new homes will have been built in the South West supported by £55m of investment through the Get Britain Building scheme.


Rural economy

  •        By the end of 2017, through the Priority School Building Programme, 16 schools will have been rebuilt or refurbished, with capacity for nearly 6,000 children
  •        Ongoing work on key flood defence works will see investment of £26.3m in financial year 2017/18
  •        Ongoing investment in essential waste management infrastructure through PFI credits in the South West will amount to £89.5m in financial year 2017/18.


Technology and Innovation

  •        The Met Office’s new High Performance Computer will be fully operational.
  •        ‘Wind Engineering’ projects will commence.
  •        Government rollout of superfast broadband will reach 95% of premises nationwide.



  •        26 pairs of wings for the A400m tactical and strategic lift aircraft will be delivered to partner nations.