It hardly needs to be said that Dorset, like the rest of the world, has been significantly impacted by COVID-19.
Consequently, improvements in infrastructure, broadband access, productivity and housing are top of the agenda at Dorset Local Enterprise Partnership (LEP). These structural improvements will help address challenges faced in priority areas where there are persistent pockets of coastal, rural and urban deprivation and a high incidence of 16-to-24-year-olds not in employment, education or training.
Together with its partners, Dorset LEP is tackling these challenges head on, while also attracting investment, exploring high-value growth areas and safeguarding precious natural environment for generations now and in the future.
Its capital investment portfolio of 74 projects, valued at over £119m, has already created and safeguarded over 6,400 new jobs and apprenticeships in Dorset, and facilitated the development of more than 215,000sqm of commercial space. Additionally, almost 12,000 people have acquired new skills and qualifications thanks to Dorset LEP’s investments which have also enabled more than 25,000sqm of learning space across the county.
Dorset LEP also runs Dorset Careers Hub, bringing together employers, schools and colleges to transform careers education. Working with local sector leaders such as Marriott, NHS, JP Morgan, RedWeb, Superior, ASM and RAF, Dorset LEP is helping young people in over 75 schools across our region and committed to ensuring they progress into promising careers and fulfil their potential in jobs that mobilises our local economy.
Dorset LEP has invested more than £2m in ultrafast broadband and has also funded the creation of anchor points for full-fibre gigabit connectivity in rural areas, supporting more than 16,000 residents and businesses.
Cecilia Bufton, chairman of Dorset LEP said: “High-speed digital infrastructure is essential to Dorset’s economic growth. The impact of COVID-19 has demonstrated the absolute necessity to have reliable, resilient and up-to-date digital connectivity. The better connected we are, the more we can provide the right conditions for businesses to thrive and create highly skilled jobs.”
Dorset LEP is also acutely aware that filling future employment opportunities means ensuring affordable housing is available to enable local people to stay in the county and retain and attract people to our region.
Over 2,440 new, affordable, homes have already been built, with more to follow thanks to Dorset LEP investments, such as £5m Local Growth Funding to help unlock Holes Bay and enable England’s largest brownfield site re-generation. The LEP has also worked with the region’s two local authorities to secure a £16.6 million pledge from the Government’s Housing Infrastructure Fund. Among the communities to benefit are East Dorset, Poole, Gillingham, Weymouth and Portland.
Cecilia Bufton, chairman of Dorset LEP said: “We have already added significant value to Dorset and the wider economy over the past decade. The solid foundations we have laid will accelerate further growth.
“Both the Board and the hard-working team at Dorset LEP are continuing their work to capitalise on Dorset’s strengths and deliver on the potential for jobs, growth, innovation, COVID-19 recovery, net zero ambitions and careers support. This concerted effort, in collaboration with our partners, will deliver our shared goal of levelling up, so that no-one is left behind.”
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