The State of Britain

South East oil projects go ahead and the Chiltern Hills the least deprived area of England

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The Ministry of Housing, Communities and Local Government has published its deprivation index which looks at an area’s levels of income, employment, education, health and crime as well as housing services and living environment. Jaywick in Essex, near Clacton-on-Sea, was previously found to be the most deprived in the last two reports in 2010 and 2015 and it has won this unwelcome accolade again. Jaywick is followed by nine areas of the North West as the most deprived in England, Sheerness is the first South East entry ranked 48th. The Ministry divides England up into 32,844 neighbourhoods averaging about 1,500 residents or 650 households each.

In terms of local authorities, 30% of Hastings was classified as deprived which ranked the town 17th worst in the UK. In Gravesham, deprivation fell by c6%, the eighth fastest fall in the UK, and was the regional star performer. The least deprived area of England is an area near Great Missenden in the Chiltern Hills, Buckinghamshire.

The MHCLG found concentrations of deprivation in a number of coastal towns, some of which are in the South East, and there was new money for the region in the latest tranche from the Coastal Communities Fund, with Dover a winner. The £2.4m project ‘Dover Soul’, will upgrade the town’s Market Square and Old Town with a view to increasing the number of visitors and re-establishing the area as a leisure destination.

Also Hastings, Margate and Newhaven are some of the SE towns invited to apply for regeneration funding as part of the £3.6bn Towns Fund which is targeted at 100 English towns. Towns must submit economic growth plans with a focus on improved transport, broadband connectivity, skills and culture. The South East and London were also awarded £14.3m as part of a £95m pot to revive historic high streets, with Hastings again benefiting, along with Chatham and Ramsgate.

Esso is to build a hydrogen generating plant, an automotive diesel oil production facility and diesel storage tank at Fawley, near Southampton, after New Forest District Council planning committee agreed its application. The £800m project will expand production, reduce diesel imports, create 1,000 construction jobs and safeguard the existing 2,000 jobs on site. The refinery, on Southampton Water, covers an area of more than 1,000 hectares and provides 20% of the UK’s refinery capacity.

Also in Southampton, plans for a £150m redevelopment of a derelict Toys R Us site have been outlined by the city council. The proposals include an office block, 275 flats, restaurants and shops at the Western Esplanade. A new promenade linking Southampton Central train station to the West Quay shopping centre is also planned. The first £75m phase will encompass a 70,000 sq ft office building as well as new restaurants, cafes, shops and a leisure attraction. More homes will be built as part of the second stage before a further development containing a hotel or office space could be constructed as part of the final phase. The council plans to borrow £27m to build the phase one office block.

Surrey County Council has approved a 25-year drilling plan from UK Oil and Gas Investments which aims to operate four oil wells at the Horse Hill site, about two miles from Gatwick Airport. The site covers about 2 hectares of former farmland near Horley. The company was also granted permission for a water re-injection well which aids oil recovery. The company had previously claimed to be able to meet 10- 30% of the UK’s oil demands from the project.

Arjowiggins paper mill in Aberdeen has been sold, months after administrators said negotiations had ended without a sale, if the firm had folded then 82 jobs in Chartham and 27 jobs in Basingstoke were threatened. The deal has been supported with £7m of funding from Scottish Enterprise.

The saga over South Western Railway’s £45m upgrade of its 30-year-old Class 442 trains known as ‘plastic pigs’ continues. The Class 442s were originally due to be brought back into service in December 2018 after refurbishment in Bournemouth and Eastleigh. The delayed reintroduction was aborted in May due to a safety problem with the door locks. The first trains came into service in June but new motors to improve reliability have yet to be fitted. Now they are suspected of accidentally turning signals yellow or red as they pass through Earlsfield station in south west London; you couldn’t make it up.

The Stats
For the first time, the ONS has published quarterly GDP estimates for the South East of England, the eight other English regions and Wales. GDP figures have been available for the UK since the 1940s, for Scotland since 2002 and Northern Ireland since 2013. The latest available figures, which are for the year ended 2018, showed the South East economy grew by 2.8%. This ranked the region third of the twelve UK ‘regions.’ The East Midlands topped the table with growth of 3.4% whilst at the bottom the South West economy declined by 1.1%.. UK growth over the same period was 1.5%.

The quarter to Dec 2018 showed the education industry grew by 7.8% and made the largest positive contribution to growth but construction fell by 2.2% and public administration and defence fell by 1.6%. These made the largest negative contributions to growth in the region. Overall, the services sector was the main driver of GDP whereas production was flat. More recent estimates (six months later) for the year ended June 2019, published by ESCoE last month, ranked the South East seventh with growth of 1.4%, which suggests the region’s economy has weakened this year relative to other parts of the UK.

More data from the ONS showed unemployment in the South East decreased by 8,000 to 135,000 between May and July, the drop of 0.2% took the overall rate down to 2.8%, the second lowest rate in the UK. The South West had the lowest rate at 2.4% with the UK rate at 3.8%. The highest rate was 5.0% which was recorded in the North East. The South West also had the highest employment rate at 80.8% which compared with 79.8% in the South East. UK employment was estimated at 76.1%.

South East average property prices fell by 0.7% to £320,454, which meant annually prices had fallen by 2.0%. In comparison, UK prices grew by 0.5% to £232,710 during July, an annual growth rate of 0.7%.