Reading time: 4 minutes
From planning permission to assistance with workforce recruitment and training, a supportive local authority can add real value for investing businesses. Margie Oliver and Adrian Miller, of Redcar & Cleveland Borough Council (RCBC), explain how their organisation supports companies investing on the Wilton International site.
Streamlining the planning and permissions process
Arranging the necessary permissions for a new industrial project can be time-consuming – a factor that RCBC does everything possible to minimise. When it comes to planning, the council has two major strings to its bow.
One is the support it offers through the planning process itself, as Adrian Miller, who heads up planning at the council, explains.
“We provide a free planning pre-application service. An investor can request a meeting with the planning team and we bring together colleagues from other service teams to give extensive pre-planning advice on planning policy and procedures. We’re able to iron out, in advance of submission, many of the planning issues that might be raised by a proposal. We can work with an investor to agree a planning permission that may be implemented quickly and cost effectively.”
Another big plus is the council’s ability to make decisions quickly once applications are received.
“We are a high-performing authority,” says Adrian. “That means we excel against performance indicators set by the government. There are two at present – speed of decision and quality of decision. In terms of speed, we determine over 90% of applications within the statutory timeframe or in a timescale agreed with applicants.”
“Additionally, the Director has extensive delegated powers which means that not all planning applications are required to be decided by the planning committee, and most planning applications, including major applications, can be determined under these powers. This streamlines the planning process and improves the speed of decision.”
A local support network – across the private and public sectors
Thanks to the longevity of the Wilton International site and the strong relationship with the council, there’s a robust support network to take new investors through the process of planning and developing at the site.
“There’s active collaboration between public sector bodies to make sure investment around Wilton is supported, including bringing in private sector stakeholders,” says Margie Oliver, Inward Investment Officer at RCBC.
“Wherever an enquiry arrives, the joined-up nature of the network means there’s end-to-end handholding throughout the process of making a decision to invest, going through planning and getting a business up and running.”
One example is the training and employment hubs the authority provides to help investors find and skill up staff locally. This is provided completely free of charge.
“It’s effectively an extension of their HR function,” says Margie. “Sometimes an investor from overseas may not be familiar with the processes here, or have the local contacts. We help them recruit the appropriately trained workforce for their plant.”
“We do things like put out job ads, run job fairs and work with partners here to widely promote their opportunities. We also work with training providers if needed to make sure local people have the right skills for them when they arrive. We’ll provide them with meeting rooms to hold interviews or information events, so they don’t have to do all the legwork.”
“Businesses can take as much or as little support as they want, whether it’s us placing a job ad or recruiting and training a whole workforce on their behalf.”
Industrial heritage and expertise
The council’s support forms part of a much wider network of expertise in the region.
“The Wilton site has a long history of petrochemical processing and heavy industry, so there’s significant cluster of expertise on site and in the region,” says Margie. “NEPIC, the North East Process Industry Cluster, centres around Wilton and is an active member organisation with a number of businesses involved.”
“Companies setting up here are tapping into a lot of industry intelligence and a lot of industry support.”
“That’s also reflected in the transport and infrastructure here. Obviously there is power generation on the Wilton International site, which caters to high-energy-use businesses. There’s also road and rail connection, port and pipelines. And on the R&D side, you have a lot of lab space with the Wilton Centre science park next door, which supports early-stage projects which are then commercialised.”
A warm welcome for investing industrial businesses
The message from Redcar and Cleveland Borough Council is clear. The authority welcomes industrial investors with open arms, and works proactively to help deliver investment projects at Wilton International as quickly and efficiently as possible. In that mission, they’re supported by an equally committed regional network, capable of addressing the various challenges faced by new inward investors.