Enterprise M3 chief Geoff French wants the LEP to move up a gear

Enterprise M3 LEP chairman Geoff French

Enterprise M3 LEP chairman Geoff French

First published in Business by

THIS New Year promises to be a busy one for Enterprise M3 as the Local Enterprise Partnership aims to go up a gear.

LEP chairman Geoff French said he was pleased with last year’s developments and flagged up the Enterprise M3-led response to the Highway Agency’s Pinch Point Programme consultation as a highlight.

“At long last this has resulted in bringing forward the improvements to the Black Dam Roundabout,” said Geoff, commenting on road improvements set to start next year at Junction 6 of the M3 and the Black Dam Roundabout, costing £4.3million.

Another highlight is that Enterprise M3 has started to disperse some funds through the LEP’s Growing Enterprise Fund – although this is yet to involve projects in Basingstoke.

“We’ve probably allocated about £12million so far of the almost £22m we’ve got,” said Geoff. “When you think it was only in July 2011 that we had our first board meeting, things have developed well.”

Having replaced the Regional Development Agencies, Geoff notes that LEPs seem to be generally regarded as being reasonably successful.

Enterprise M3 has been “kept lean and mean”, with its board members working on a voluntary basis.

And there is plenty of work to do.

“We are now in the throes of establishing a local transport body,” said Geoff. “This is where the LEP and the highways authorities – in our case Hampshire County Council and Surrey County Council – are being brought together to agree on the priorities of improvement for the area.

“And through all this, what we are desperately trying to do is to make sure we understand what it is that businesses of all sizes in our area want.”

Since its initial concept, the LEP has certainly grown geographically and in stature, being given extra funding and responsibility by the Government.

Geoff said: “Enterprise M3 grew up from Basingstoke – it was Basingstoke’s ambition in the first place that got it going. Now it has grown to embrace most of Hampshire and most of Surrey.

“But Basingstoke is still near the centre of the LEP and the guys at the borough council deserve a lot of credit for getting it started.”

Just before Christmas, Enterprise M3 compiled its Strategy for Growth document which can be accessed from enterprisem3.org.uk.

Although the published deadline for feedback has passed, Geoff is still keen to hear from anyone  who wants to add their views.

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