Midlands Engine Chief Executive Roger Mendonca – Broad Marsh ‘has to be’ a priority when Government hands huge new powers to East Midlands

Date posted: June 14, 2023
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This article was originally published in Nottinghamshire Live: https://www.nottinghampost.com/news/local-news/broad-marsh-has-be-priority-8494743 

The Chief Executive of Midlands Engine says the Broad Marsh “has to be” a priority when the Government hands huge powers to the region next year. Roger Mendonca, the Chief Executive of Midlands Engine, says Nottingham will not have to worry about decisions being made by “someone in Whitehall who has never been” to the city thanks to a recently signed deal.

Work is well underway on setting up a brand new East Midlands Combined Authority, covering Nottinghamshire and Derbyshire, which will be given significant powers in areas ranging from housing to transport. The authority will receive £1.14 billion over the next 30 years and will be headed up by a directly elected East Midlands Mayor.

With the new body due to be officially up and running by next May, Roger Mendonca has now set out the opportunities that it could deliver for Nottinghamshire. During an interview at Midlands Engine’s Nottingham base in Trent Bridge House, Mr Mendonca highlighted the redevelopment of the Broad Marsh as an opportunity to “reframe” the entirety of Nottingham.

When asked if the project should be a priority in terms of investment for the new East Midlands authority, he said: “I would have thought it has to be. The masterplan that Heatherwick Studio [the firm working on Broad Marsh] has put together is really interesting because it moves away from just thinking about it as a retail site, and that’s got to be the way we are now.

“We know online retail is changing the way we think about our city centres. They have got to be places where people want to come and have a reason to come and that’s not just going to be by providing shops.

“This is an opportunity not only to reframe the Broad Marsh, it’s an opportunity to reframe the whole city.” Since the collapse of intu in 2020, work to transform the Broad Marsh area has mainly focused on demolishing the former shopping centre.

Other elements of the work so far have included the connection of Lister Gate and Collin Street and further work on developing a ‘masterplan’ for the wider project, which will include an area the size of the City Ground pitch being covered in trees and planting. But the wider redevelopment has been held back by the Government twice rejecting funding bids for it under the ‘Levelling Up Fund’.

Mr Mendonca said there had been a “lack of clarity” on why some Levelling Up bids were successful and why others were not, which he says makes it “incredibly difficult” to prepare future bids. In terms of how the new East Midlands authority could get around these issues, Mr Mendonca said: “What we want to bring into this are those powers which currently sit in central government.

“We can get what we want without having to worry about someone in Whitehall who has never been to Nottingham trying to work out whether they should support Broad Marsh or not. I think it’s a fabulous site with lots of potential because of its location around the city, particularly with everything that’s happening around the Island Quarter as well.”

Another group that has long been highlighting the potential of the Broad Marsh has been the East Midlands Chamber. Its Chief Executive, Scott Knowles, said: “The devolution deal presents a huge opportunity by providing a political structure that removes obstacles to decision-making, enhances the ability to attract investment and ultimately creates an environment conducive to business growth.

“It will help these counties and cities to take strides forward in productivity and innovation, enabling firms to drive the economic growth that creates jobs and wealth locally. The proposed governance structure must include representation from businesses, giving them a greater say on what happens in their area.

“We would hope this business voice will be used when planning the future of major development sites like the Broad Marsh area to ensure it serves their need and meets its vast potential to drive economic growth, regeneration and inward investment.” Roger Mendonca said there will “still be an element of competition” in terms of which projects get investment under the new East Midlands authority.

But he also said the new body would allow “more creative” forms of investment to be delivered, saying: “If we know we’ve got a long-term funding stream, that’s going to enable us to borrow the money so that we can invest upfront, then we’re going to get that return to pay it back off. You’ve then got more flexibility to think strategically than you have when you’re just reliant upon a grant.”

The East Midlands will follows areas including the West Midlands, Greater Manchester and Liverpool in having a mayoral authority with its own powers and money. In terms of the broader opportunities the authority could bring, Mr Mendonca added: “We’ve seen in the West Midlands how just having a mayor can make such a difference to the way that a place is perceived.

“The amount of investment that Andy Street [Mayor of the West Midlands] has managed to bring, compared to what the East Midlands has achieved in recent years, is quite stark. One of the reasons local politicians were quite keen to look at the combined authority was just seeing that happening and thinking, we don’t want to be left behind.”

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