The State of Britain

A substantial investment in tomatoes in East Anglia, dragons in Cambridgeshire and a big jump in unemployment

Reading Time: 3 minutes

Unemployment in the East of England increased by 17,000 to 109,000 between June and August, the increase of 0.5% was the highest in England and took the overall rate to 3.4%.

The South West continued to record the lowest rate at 2.4% with the UK rate at 3.9%. The highest rate was 5.8% which was recorded in the North East.

The South West also had the highest employment rate at 81.0% which compared with 78.6% in the EE. UK employment was estimated at 75.9%.

EE average property prices increased by 0.3% to £294,192, which took annual growth to an anaemic 0.1%. In comparison, UK prices grew by 0.8% to £234,853 during August, an annual growth rate of 1.3%.

The ONS’s Personal Well-being (or Happiness) Index has ranked the EE sixth out of the 12 UK ‘regions in terms of improved happiness since the last survey. Overall though, the Northern Irish were still the happiest in the UK with Londoners still the most miserable.


Two giant greenhouses costing £120m are to be built next to sewage works to grow millions of tomatoes and bring 360 agricultural jobs.

Work on the UK’s largest greenhouses has begun near Norwich and near Bury St Edmunds. The two greenhouses will cover 72 acres and could produce 1 in 10 of domestically grown tomatoes.

Britain consumes 500,000 tonnes of tomatoes a year but c80% are imported largely from the Netherlands and Spain. Heat will be pumped into the greenhouses from the nearby Anglian Water sewage works.

Scheduled for completion in autumn 2020, the projects will create 360 permanent jobs, 120 seasonal roles and cost £120m.

A study by Renaissance of the East Anglia Fisheries suggests government seed funding could pull in the private-sector investment needed to reverse decades of decline in coastal communities and add £32m to the region’s economy.

The report recommends investment in Lowestoft as a regional port; forcing boats to land their catch in the UK; and building a pontoon at Felixstowe. This could lead to the creation of 300 jobs and at least 25 vessels being added to the UK’s fleet in the southern North Sea.

Leaving the EU’s Common Fisheries Policy could mean a seven-fold increase in the value of quota fish stocks caught by UK vessels in the southern North Sea. The recommendations are supported by Norfolk and Suffolk county councils, the local fishing industry, New Anglia LEP and Associated British Ports.

Analysis by the BBC has found workers living in coastal communities in Great Britain earn on average £1,600 less per year than those living inland. In seaside towns median wages were £22,104 compared with £23,785 in non-coastal areas.


It is unusual, but some infrastructure projects are completed on time, and some are even finished a year early. The new A14 Huntingdon bypass in Cambridgeshire was not expected to be finished until late 2020, but drivers will be able to use it from this December.

The full £1.5bn 21-mile project, which includes widening the A1 between Brampton and Alconbury, widening the existing A14 between Swavesey and Milton and improving five other junctions, is expected to be completed by the end of 2020.

Drivers travelling between Cambridge and Huntingdon will save about 20 minutes on their journeys.

In the air, Norwich Airport’s plans to treble passenger numbers from 520,000 to 1.4m by 2045 have cleared their first hurdle at Norwich City Council. Rigby Group, which also owns Exeter and Coventry airports, upgraded the terminal building earlier this year and now wants a 500m expansion of the main runway to the east and the relocation of the air traffic control tower.

A new ‘Dragons’ Den’ style panel chaired by Mayor of Cambridgeshire and Peterborough James Palmer has been set up to hear pitches for a share of £50m of public money managed by the Cambridgeshire & Peterborough Combined Authority Business Board.

Officially called the Entrepreneurs Assessment Panel, bids for Local Growth Funding from local business leaders for capital investment aimed at growth and pitches for new incubator buildings, roads or infrastructure are expected.

To qualify for funding, applicants will need to demonstrate how their project will deliver on one or more of the priorities set out in the Local Industrial Strategy for Cambridgeshire and Peterborough Strategy which was launched in July.

The Board is rebuilding the ‘agency’s brand’ after its predecessor; the Greater Cambridge Greater Peterborough Local Enterprise Partnership, went into voluntary liquidation in December 2017 after the National Audit Office found that the governance of the LEP had been substandard.

The liquidation of the LEP sparked a wider review of the governance of all 38 Local Enterprise Partnerships by the Ministry of Housing, Communities and Local Government.

Huge sums are not always needed to push economic development. A £600,000 visitor centre has been proposed at the most-visited attraction in the region. Needham Lake is a 32 acre site comprising several small islands and wildlife habitats. It has been owned and managed by Mid Suffolk District since 1980 and last year had 376,000 visitors. It helps of course, that entry to the former gravel pit is free.