Lincolnshire - the land of opportunity
Jenna shares her key takeaways from a recent Lincolnshire Economic Forum panel that she took part in.
Jenna Frudd, new business and relationship manager in our Midlands team, recently joined a panel discussion hosted by Lincolnshire Economic Forum. The event focused on how Lincolnshire is leading the way in sustainability, efficient food production, agritech and green energy. Here, Jenna shares her key takeaways from the event.
“It was a pleasure to take a seat at the Lincolnshire Economic Forum event, which demonstrated just how much the county is thriving and attracting new investment. It also highlighted the steps that are being taken to position Lincolnshire as a leader across a wide range of sectors.
“The event provided a fantastic opportunity to learn more about how businesses are working to meet Lincolnshire’s Green Masterplan, to become net-zero carbon by 2050. This included Willmott Dixon’s vision, alongside other industry leaders.
“It was also the perfect platform to announce that Willmott Dixon has established a base in Lincolnshire. The move follows a decade of growing our presence in the region with a strong pipeline of work, which, when coupled with an abundance of new opportunities arising in the area, meant that the decision was inevitable. So far, the news has been very well received.
“In my role as a relationship manager, I am passionate about creating strategic partnerships, and look forward to further embedding Willmott Dixon into the county’s vibrant business community.
Linking up Lincolnshire with green energy
“Professor Duncan Botting, chief executive of the Global Smart Transformation, and chair of the Greater Lincolnshire LEP Energy Council, also joined me on the panel – and called Lincolnshire one of the ‘best-kept secrets from an energy perspective.’
“It is easy to see why, as Lincolnshire is already home to one of the UK’s largest wind farms, and to Humber Estuary - which offers fantastic opportunities for hydrogen energy, and is already connected with at least 25% of the UK’s energy production. Its wide network of anaerobic digestion plants also presents enormous energy production potential, as the heat can be provided to the National Grid to supply energy to large residential and agricultural settings.
“With large swathes of the county being disused or arable land, currently there are some issues with connectivity – as traditionally electricity was only required to connect to residential areas. As opportunities for agritech grow to support the farming industry, which is already up against the challenges presented by Brexit and political uncertainty, connectivity needs to improve to ensure that new technology can be deployed to save time and reduce cost.
"How to better utilise off-grid renewable energy options was another subject of conversation, and for good reason. The renewables market is an important part of the energy mix in the area, as its low carbon and energy economy is worth £1.2bn per annum to Greater Lincolnshire and is set to grow with future investment.
“Thoughts are also being turned to the booming tourism in the area. However, with 6,000 caravans currently powered by LPG fossil fuel, hopes are that the uptake of more sustainable energy sources will start to become more widely used.
Building careers for the future
“At Willmott Dixon, we are currently working on the build of 42 affordable, energy-efficient homes in Lincoln, and a brand new £7m College and Public Sector Hub in Horncastle. We are also playing a key part in the county’s £86m Special Educational Needs and Disabilities (SEND) schools programme, as we lead on six school extension schemes. Historically, we have been proud to help shape Lincolnshire’s infrastructure through several high-profile Lincolnshire developments - such as creating a new gateway to the region through the Lincoln Transport Hub, building Lea Fields Crematorium in Gainsborough and creating a campus for police, fire and ambulance services at South Park.
"With our work in Lincolnshire set to grow, we look forward to providing further employment opportunities in the region.
“Helen Molloy, partner at Shakespeare Martineau, rightly said that one of the biggest issues that needs to be addressed is our collective ability to attract and retain talent in Lincolnshire. Helen acknowledged that, ten years ago, the University of Lincoln was not a ranked university, but has since climbed to reach 46th place.
“As someone that’s been in the construction industry for 30 years, I can understand Helen’s concern over skills and employment. At Willmott Dixon, we have worked hard to attract and retain talent, address gender parity and work hard with schools and universities to help bridge the skills gap. We are proud of our management training programme, which is going some way to redress the balance at senior levels, with over 50% of candidates on this programme being female.
“The wealth of opportunity in construction, and indeed in the region, is something that through private and public sector collaboration we can really capitalise on.
The transport issue that connects us all
“Ruth Carver, chief executive at Greater Lincolnshire LEP, acknowledged that some progress had been made in terms of travel and infrastructure, with developments such as the Lincoln Eastern Bypass, the Spalding Western Relief Road and Grantham Eastern Release Road.
“Of course, there was also the £1.1m North Hykeham Relief Road, which has created greater links across the region and allowed for the area to flourish. These developments have been key to Lincolnshire’s ability to secure investment and drive greater opportunity to the area. We anticipate that, with the levelling up agenda, further transport improvements to better connect the area to the surrounding regions will remain key.
The levelling up agenda
“Another important topic of conversation was how the levelling up agenda should be used to support eastern powerhouses – to ensure that funding is distributed more evenly and to move attention outside of just the South East.
“Professor Duncan again pressed that Lincolnshire’s networks ‘won’t go where people aren't’, so investment is needed to create infrastructure outside of typical network centres, to allow Lincolnshire to become more self-sufficient. The lack of connectivity is a serious issue, and presents a series of knock-on effects, such as impeding the uptake of electric vehicles. Other methods such as green hydrogen can help to tackle this issue for commercial vehicles, which is something we are also exploring at Willmott Dixon.
“Professor Duncan went on to raise how local and hyperlocal approaches are being taken to meet ambitious energy targets, with ‘local area energy plans’ in place with the Local Enterprise Partnership (LEP) for five different locations in Lincolnshire. This fresh approach engages parishes and villages to further localise plans, which allows areas to accelerate progress.
“What is clear from the discussion at this event, is that with further investment, the county can match it with enthusiasm and drive to become a shining example to the rest of the UK - with its rapid economic growth and lands of opportunity.
“Lincolnshire has big ambitions, and a growing skills base to facilitate it – but investment in infrastructure, connectivity, employment opportunities and green energy is needed to reach them. Importantly, it’s down to effective private and public sector collaboration that can make it possible.”
For more information about our work in the region, visit: www.willmottdixon.co.uk/lincolnshire