Wednesday, 17 October 2007

Would Better Transport Links To London Add To The Suffolk Brain Drain?

A Meeting Organised By EUFO

The Ipswich Institute
10th October 2007


STEPHEN AGUILAR-MILLAN, European Futures Observatory

Recently, the County Council hosted a forum on transport within Suffolk in the Twenty-First Century (see link). In this discussion, it was presumed that improved transport links with London would assist the development of the local economy in Suffolk. However, this may not necessarily be the case. Improved transport links make it easier for talent to flow out of the county as well as for opportunities to flow into the county. The purpose of the discussion was to examine some of these contentions.

The current position is that talent flows out of Suffolk. The more talented youngsters tend to leave the county - mainly for higher education and better career prospects – never to return. As a relatively under-developed economy, Suffolk lacks the inherent career opportunities to attract bright graduates into the county. It is argued by some, such as the Suffolk Development Agency, that improved transport links to London would assist the commercial development of Suffolk, thus improving the career paths within the Suffolk economy. As a starting point for the discussion, we assumed that, by magic, those improved transport links would be made overnight. In which case, would that be enough to stem the brain drain?

The statistics about business location proved to be interesting. When asked why they located in Suffolk, 46.5% of the respondents to the EUFO survey stated that it was because Suffolk is a nice place in which to live. This suggests to us that about half of the small business community is located in Suffolk precisely because it is relatively unspoilt and relatively under-developed. If Suffolk were to be made more accessible through better transport links to London, one wonders whether or not this cultural and environmental advantage would be sacrificed. Would Ipswich turn into a northern Croydon? I am afraid that this is a question that we were unable to answer. However, we could express our hopes and our fears for the future.

READ the full report.

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