Type: Case Studies & Projects
The 39 Local Enterprise Partnerships (LEPs) across England are non-statutory bodies involving a partnership between businesses and local authorities. LEPs promote business, support economic growth and drive job creation. Find out more about the LEP network here.
Despite their strong economic focus, there is scope for Catchment Partnerships to engage and work with LEPs, particularly to ensure that growth supported through the funding provided by the LEP is environmentally sustainable. In many regions, the quality of the environment underpins the growth the LEP seek, while in others poor environment can be holding back potential growth. The aim should be to seek both economic and environmental benefits through delivery of the growth agenda. This note provides some basic guidance for CaBA Partnerships on how to engage their LEP and provides examples of collaboration.
Since the LEPs are non-statutory bodies there is wide variation in how they work. It is important to understand the makeup of your LEP, including its strategies and plans and areas of focus. This information will help you understand how the LEP operates and where the areas of influence lie.
Try to identify an environmental issue of relevance to your partnership that is interlinked with the local economy. By doing so, you will make the work of your partnership more relevant to the objectives of the LEP and increase the chances of establishing a longer-term relationship, and securing funding too. Flooding has proven to be one such area of common ground for some Partnerships, impacting as it does upon local communities including businesses. Urban river re-generation is another potential opportunity since it affords not only environmental improvement but community health benefits too.
Many LEPs have sector-based groups based around themes such as agri-food, low carbon, energy, construction and tourism. Aligning your environmental objectives with a relevant theme can be a good first step. The Greater Lincolnshire LEP for example has water management as a priority theme, including its sustainable use to ensure that the region is prepared for the future. New Anglia is the Government’s Green Economy Pathfinder LEP that seeks to demonstrate how economic growth can be achieved through environmental sustainability within business practice.
Back up any proposed environmental work with robust data and evidence in order to provide a strong rationale for a particular intervention or project. Try to quantify the benefits of your proposal as far as possible, aiming for an approach that will make sense to the LEP. Think through how it can realise benefits to the local economy even if this might be in broad qualitative terms, e.g. reduced economic loss from flooding, more sustainable use of water resources, more resource efficient land management etc.
Understanding natural capital and its economic value can help your partnership to build the case as to why spending on the environment is a sound investment. Certain LEPs are already using the language of Natural Capital and estimating its economic value in order to shape strategic priorities. The Wrekin Local Nature Partnership, The Marches Local Enterprise Partnership and Shropshire Wildlife Trust, have estimated the economic value of environmental assets in the Marches as at least £14.7 billion, with; the value of nature and greenspace for health estimated to be £3 billion; natural flood regulation worth £1.6 billion; peat stored in the Marches valued at £7.2 billion and; the value of wild species diversity estimated to be £1 billion.
Under funding from the Leicester and Leicestershire LEP, the Soar Catchment Partnership, in collaboration with Southampton University, used an innovative ‘fingerprinting’ approach to determine the sources of sediment eroded across the wider catchment. The Soar has rural headwaters that flow into the City of Leicester. The watercourse suffers from heavy silt loads and the siltation of pipes and culverts is an important contributing factor to the high flood risk apparent in the lower catchment, including the City of Leicester itself. Together with flood risk mapping and predictions of sediment loss and transport downstream, the fingerprinting approach has helped to target interventions throughout the Soar that will not only trap sediment and hold back water to reduce flood risk, but provide habitat and community benefits too. The work reflects the collaboration between the Partnership, which includes District and City authorities, and the LEP.
Interdependency of the economy, society and the environment had driven a high level of integration between the Cornwall and Isles of Scilly Local Enterprise Partnership, Local Nature Partnership and Health and Well Being Board. This is summarised in a developing flood management project – StAAR -in the St Austell region. This cutting-edge project pulls together the three partnerships as reducing flood risk through natural flood management protects the economics of businesses and the health of the communities living and working in the area whilst investing in a resilient environment.
Working with your Local Nature Partnership (LNP) can be a good option. LNPs were set up by the Government at the same time as the LEPs with the aim of bringing together the environmental partnerships with a broader range of contacts such as those responsible for public health, planning and local communities. Like LEPs and catchment partnerships, LNPs vary and often there is a complex arrangement of administrative boundaries when these three groups are overlaid.
In Gloucestershire the LEP and the LNP have the same boundary, meaning that there is a strong opportunity to work together. The catchment partnerships cover areas that are both partly in and outside of the county boundary. The Upper Thames Catchment Partnership emphasises the fact that it is the source of the Thames and covers the main tourist area of the Cotswolds.
Working together to develop priorities that suit both partnerships provides a stronger message to the LEP. Thus far funding has been secured for urban related projects on green infrastructure but future projects will have a wider catchment impact and this will depend on a strong coherent message from both partnerships. Shared membership of both partnerships ensures good communication on issues like natural flood management where there are clear opportunities to develop existing projects further to benefit the LEP, LNP and the catchment partnership.