HAMPSHIRE and the rest of the south could win new national recognition by achieving ‘National Park City’ status.

That will be one of the possibilities discussed at a conference which will also ask what is blocking investment in the south.

The Regenerate South Conference will be held at the University of Winchester on Tuesday, June 4. It is hosted by Business South, the social enterprise which champions the region’s economy.

The keynote speaker will be Ben Smith, from the professional services firm ARUP, who is a trustee at National Park City.

He will speak about London becoming the first city to receive National Park City status, what that means and the likely economic benefits it will bring.

He will ask whether there is an opportunity for the Central South of England to follow suit, because of its position between the New Forest and South Downs National Parks.

The conference provides opportunities for potential investors, developers, agents, businesses and consultants to meet and debate the future of the Central South.

Other speakers include John Denham, chair of the Southern Policy Centre and former MP for Southampton Itchen, who will report on research into economic strategies for the region.

He said: “Our research is asking whether the strategies published by Local Enterprise Partnerships (LEPs) and local authorities identify and promote regional strengths, such as strong transport connections and three strong complementary and ambitious waterside cities, as fully as they might.

“The work of Business South, Regen South and our own project all reflect the growing demand for a stronger regional identity. By working together we can help forge a message that strengthens both business and the crucial work of LEPs and local councils.”

The conference will finish with an interactive panel session chaired by Robin Shepherd of architect Barton Willmore, focusing on the question “What is blocking investment in the South?”.

Tim Hancock, chair of Regenerate South and managing director of planning and design business Terence O’Rourke, said: “The South of England represents one of the most significant and successful economic regions in the UK.

“Regenerate South firmly believes there is a great deal to gain from business, LEPs, MPs and local councillors working together to maintain and grow the area.

“The conference provides an opportunity for groups and individuals to come together and help shape the vision for the future of the region and continue to demonstrate the benefits of living, working and investing here.”

The conference is in its fifth year and attracts more than 200 investors and developers.

Conference-goers will have the opportunity to meet with local authorities, landowners and businesses to develop local connections and working relationships.

The event runs from 9.30am-2pm, sponsored by Winchester City Council, Coffin Mew, Ridge and Hampshire County Council.

Places can be booked at businesssouth.org/events/regenerate-south-annual-conference/