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The ‘new normal’

Published: 1 July 2020Close-up of shop door with yes we are open signNick Fewings @Unsplash

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Patsy Dell, Director – Hertfordshire Growth, Hertfordshire Growth Board

There is a lot of talk about creating a “new normal” as businesses and organisations across the UK, both in the public and private sectors, plan resilience and recovery phases brought about and made necessary by Covid-19.

However, in Hertfordshire, for more than two years we’ve been carefully developing a new, collaborative approach for the county and building the foundations for place-based and economic success for residents and businesses now, and for generations to come.

Throughout the last 12 months, we’ve done that by adopting a comprehensive, long-term place-based approach to the county’s strategic planning, infrastructure and economic needs. Collaborating effectively by developing a vision and a range of programmes on issues including climate change and housing affordability – and this already-established joined-up working model in a two-tier system has certainly helped us so far in working through the current crisis.

Covid-19 has provided clear early evidence of the importance and benefits of strong joint-working and playing to our local strengths as an overarching approach. This pandemic has just emphasised, in a manner we could not have envisaged, the importance of continually striving to innovate and create positive change, together.

The Hertfordshire Growth Board – its members are the County Council, 10 district and borough councils, and the Hertfordshire Local Enterprise Partnership (LEP) – is the fulcrum of this local collaboration, and has played a significant role in the economic resilience and recovery work as part of a wider strategic response to coronavirus. The Hertfordshire LEP is, naturally, leading on immediate economic impact support countywide while the Growth Board’s focus is more ubiquitous, looking at placed-based responses and project acceleration but we are clear where that mutually supporting approach to recovery needs to be driven from.

Putting in place the most effective response to Covid-19 right now, including providing reassurance to our business community, and devising the right strategy for the future aren’t mutually exclusive – and work on supporting our growth and place ambitions has continued during this time.

Yet, it is also fundamental and entirely appropriate to assess what was already happening in the months before the outbreak of the pandemic, so we’re reviewing the previous economic and place-based vision, provided by the Local Industrial Strategy, as well as ongoing Growth Board commitments and associated intervention programmes – such as joint spatial plans, new communities and town centre regeneration – to make sure they support our Covid-proof ambitions.

We reacted swiftly to take stock of current priorities, putting a ‘Covid-19 recovery and economic restart’ lens over each element of our work programmes to see how they could support mitigating immediate economic shocks. And, of course, the need to support the recovery of our key sectors and the creation of new jobs remains far more acute than it was at the start of 2020.

The Growth Board’s member councils have kept planning and other construction-related services going throughout the crisis, running as close to business-as-usual as possible, and we’ve been in regular contact with our partners in the construction industry and sector. That means understanding how we can help them through these extremely challenging times including for example being flexible with Section 106 and Community Infrastructure Levy (CIL) contributions where possible.

The Growth Board exists to provide effective place leadership and governance while also being the single point of contact around the delivery of our place ambitions with central Government – and, through our ethos of collaboration, we’re confident that Hertfordshire is doing everything it can to emerge from this crisis in a strong position.

“This pandemic has just emphasised, in a manner we could not have envisaged, the importance of continually striving to innovate and create positive change, together.”

Patsy Dell, Director, Hertfordshire Growth, Hertfordshire Growth Board