Solent economy to draw on seafaring excellence to boost fortunes

Daily Echo: River Test and Southampton Water as seen from the air River Test and Southampton Water as seen from the air

A NEW master plan to breathe new life into the Solent's maritime and industrial fortunes has today been announced.

Top ministers have unveiled an ambitious regeneration scheme drawing on the region's seafaring excellence.

Both Southampton and Portsmouth will seek to benefit from the blueprint offering a shot in the arm boosting the economy and generate new growth.

The report follows last year's shock announcement by BAE Systems to axe shipbuilding in Portsmouth with the loss of 1,000 jobs.

The work, linked to the linked to the Solent Strategic Economic Plan, has been commissioned by Minister for Portsmouth Michael Fallon and is led by Rear Admiral Rob Stevens CB.

It identifies marine and maritime as the region's largest sector and establishes a the route to reinvigorate its global reputation for excellence through leadership, planning, new technologist and brand promotion.

A new Marine and Maritime Group will deliver a seven year stragic plan with key recommendations include: - Improving and increasing capacity transport links and access to Southampton, Portsmouth and Marchwood ports.

• Improving transport between Southampton and Portsmouth.

• Creating Marine Manufacturing hubs in both cities and the Isle of Wight for key firms to work more closely with councils, educational and research establishments.

• Developing a National Large Structures Composite Centre to improve the composite manufacturing techniques in the marine, oil and gas and construction industries in partnership with local universities and regulators.

• Greater flexibility for Further Education (FE) colleges to adapt the national curriculum to meet local industry skills demands.

• Promoting Sir Ben Ainslie's campaign to win the America's cup from the Solent.

• Creating of five new science, technology, engineering mathematics (STEM) centres and recommends improved funding for STEM courses.

Rear Admiral Stevens and Mr Fallon and launched the report at the carbon fibre engineering company Magma Structures in Portsmouth today.

Mr Fallon said: “The Solent is well placed to have a world beating marine and maritime industry.

“It has ports that lie just 20 miles from the world's busiest shipping route from Shanghai to Rotterdam - and a business base, skills, traditions research and educational strengths that are second to none. “But it had no comprehensive plan to help secure the huge opportunities that exist.

“This is an impressive piece of work which forms a strong basis for government, business and councils to deliver.”

Rear Admiral Stevens said it will unify and enhance the region's marine excellence and added: “My hope is that the measures, when implemented, will rekindle the pride, heritage and ambition of the region.”

Solent LEP chief executive Gary Jeffries Chief Executive said his group is considering the report's recommendations and said: "It clearly demonstrates the opportunity presented by the Solent area to create a globally recognised centre of excellence for the marine and maritime sector in the UK.”

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