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Andrew Palmer
Business Editor
3:17 AM 3rd August 2020

Region’s Leaders Unite In Momentous Demonstration Of Support Of York As A New Government Hub

Leaders from across the region’s businesses, public bodies and organisations have come together to send the below open letter to the Government demonstrating the overwhelming support for a new Government Hub to be based in the city.

The letter summarises the unique position of York as the ideal location for a second city of Government – combining excellent connectivity and burgeoning ‘new economy’ businesses looking to grow, alongside the available York Central site.

The letter has been signed by key business leaders and organisations from across the city, including Greg Dyke, Chair of Make It York, Keith Aspden, Leader of City of York Council, Dame Mary Archer DBE, Chair of York Central Partnership and both of York’s MPs, Rachael Maskell and Julian Sturdy.

The letter calls for further detailed discussions with Government to discuss planned proposals and take the opportunity forward - highlighting the huge support from both York’s business community and residents for a move which would be transformative for the city.


The Letter in Full

York as a New Hub of Government

We are writing in response to the Prime Minister’s request to Whitehall that it submits proposals to relocate certain government departments out of London, his confirmation that he would like to see a Government Hub in York, and the possibility of moving the Houses of Parliament to York during the renovation of the Palace of Westminster.

We would like to express our strong support for any such move, which we believe would have overwhelming public support especially in York and the surrounding region, would play a major role in delivering the government’s national levelling-up agenda, and would be a very significant economic boost for the North.

We also believe York has the ideal available site, in York Central. York Central is a 46-hectare brownfield site, the same size as the Kings Cross development. It is currently largely in the ownership of Network Rail and Homes England, and is immediately adjacent to York Station, itself just 1hr 48 minutes from Kings Cross. It is one of the largest such sites in England and its strategic importance has been recognised with the award of Enterprise Zone status. The economic impact of the York Central development was originally estimated at £1.16bn in additional GVA. We believe it will be very significantly higher than that now. The Allies and Morrison Masterplan has secured outline Planning approval, and the required £155m infrastructure funding is approved and now only awaiting the detailed accessing information from Treasury. In short, it is ready to go.

As well as the direct economic impact of any significant move of central government facilities, such a move would be transformational both economically and in terms of public perception.

The unlocking of the York Central site would allow sufficient space, alongside government offices, for York’s burgeoning Creative Tech and Biotech sectors to expand. York is already home to the Quantum Communications Hub, a collaboration between leading research universities, private sector companies, and the public sector focussed on the (highly topical) commercialisation of secure communications technologies. The University of York also hosts the Institute of Safe Autonomy which is developing autonomous technologies for both land and air vehicles.
Both these “future economy” Tech sectors need the business space and facilities York Central can provide if they are to maximise their huge potential for UK Plc.

Additionally, York is home to a rail innovation community with a growing reputation for innovation and the city has an unrivalled breadth and depth of rail expertise with over 5,500 employees and 100 rail related companies represented in the city.

York has a growing Biotech economy in which it has genuine global strengths and enormous growth potential. With all the benefits that come from the short lines of communication in a city the size of York, the key players: amongst many others, the University of York, FERA Science, and the sector’s (largely) SME businesses themselves, can build an R&D, and economic and supply chain ecosystem which, with the right combination of facilities, will deliver a pipeline of new Biotech businesses and the space for them to grow from initial concept stage to economically significant commercial scale.

Given the nature of many of these businesses, and with their focus on deriving value from biowastes and by-products of agrifood supply chains, and developing high-value chemicals and advanced fuels from plants and microbes, they also further the government’s carbon reduction priorities and the region’s aspirations to become the UK’s first carbon negative location (as part of the ongoing devolution conversation).

Finally, beyond all the historically compelling reasons for York retaking its place as a second city of government, as is evident from the signatories overleaf, a government move to York and the associated unlocking of the York Central site has huge public and business support across the region, for which we are all committed to help support with a positive campaign.

After 50 years of development deadlock, this is the opportunity for the current government to be heralded for making it finally happen!

We would welcome any opportunity to meet to discuss this further, either in London or in York, and can of course provide any further information you might like to see in the meantime.

Yours sincerely,

Keith Aspden, Leader, City of York Council

Dame Mary Archer, DBE, Chair, York Central Partnership

Sir Peter Hendy CBE, Chair, Network Rail & London Legacy Development Corporation

Greg Dyke, Chair, Make It York

David Kerfoot MBE, DL, Chairman, York and North Yorkshire LEP

Roger Marsh OBE, DL, Chair, Leeds City Region Enterprise Partnership

Professor Charlie Jeffery CBE, Vice-Chancellor, University of York

Professor Karen Bryan OBE, Vice-Chancellor, York St John University

Rachael Maskell, MP for York Central

Julian Sturdy, MP for York Outer

Dr Andrew Swift,Chief Executive, Fera Science Ltd

Andrew Digwood, President, York and North Yorkshire Chamber of Commerce

Lee Probert, Chief Executive and Principal York College

Tim Whitaker, Chief Executive and Principal Askham Bryan College

Simon Morritt, Chief Executive, York Teaching Hospital NHS Foundation Trust

Stephen Lusty, Chair, York Civic Trust

Jonathan Bryant, Secretary & Chief Executive, York Conservation Trust

Carolyn Frank, Development Manager for Federation of Small Businesses North Yorkshire - On behalf of FSB York

Michael Hjort, Chair, York BID