Government is already sitting up and taking notice of the aspirations being made by the Gloucestershire 2050 project aimed at developing a clear vision for the future of life in the county.
This was revealed by the leader of Gloucestershire County Council, Councillor Mark Hawthorne, when he addressed a Business West debate on 2050.
“We are already seeing the benefits of having this conversation on 2050 with the government”, said Mark Hawthorne speaking at the Bowden Hall Hotel, Upton St Leonards.
He added: “If we get this right, it will give businesses the confidence to invest in Gloucestershire because we have a vision of where we want to go and an ambition about what we want to achieve.
“We will then be able to give out young people something to look forward to in this county by the time 2050 arrives.”
Mark Hawthorne said that as a result of the 2050 project, talks are now being held with the West of England Combined Authority to develop closer links.
“One of the conversations we are now having as part of the 2050 exercise is how we have a better relationship with our sub-regional counterparts”, he commented.
“I can tell you now that we are working very closely with the West of England Combined Authority to get them and Gloucestershire working together.”
Mark Hawthorne said that the 2050 project was creating what he described as an “exciting moment” but warned that one of the key issues facing Gloucestershire was the drain of young people - around 400 every year from the county.
Over the next 20 years, he said that Gloucestershire had the ability to create as many as 100,000 jobs but the pool of young people available to fill them could be as low as 7,000.
To say the least, I think this is alarming due to the demographic of our county as we are net importer of older people and that is increasing at a faster rate than in many parts of the country.
I thought Mark Hawthorne gave a very honest and detailed presentation at the event.
But from what he said it was obvious that the 2050 project would not involve a change in the county’s governance - there are six district councils and a county council with just under 400 councillors.
I am on record writing in the Citizen and Echo that I believe it will not be easy to get agreement on the vision for 2050 unless you have a unitary system here with fewer councils.
This is a view shared at the event by another of the speakers, Sir Henry Elwes, a former chairman of the county council and a former Lord Lieutenant of Gloucestershire.
He said: “Whatever we want to do cannot be done by an out of date system of local government which is no longer fit for purpose.”
The public consultation on the 2050 project, which has been organised initially by the University of Gloucestershire, ends on July 31.
Independent consultants are then preparing a report for September on the way forward for the project.
I hope that report will recommend a sustainable business model - something like the Gloucester Heritage Urban Regeneration Company, which can really get to grips with the aspirations for 2050.
I do believe there is now momentum with the project, particularly with some joined-up thinking at long last by Cheltenham and Gloucester.
But what we must not do in my opinion is to leave it all to the politicians.