Oh it is all so exciting! I am off to the Middle East today (for the first time ever!) as I take the Crewe Constellation opportunity out for a bit of soft market testing in Dubai and Abu Dhabi, courtesy of that formidable inward investment platform, the DIT and EG, which are jointly running a quality trade mission in the Middle East this week.
And why wouldn’t the Constellation Partnership seize on such an opportunity? Regular readers will know we are looking to promote 100,000 new homes around the HS2 interchange at Crewe, as well as a potential new office location at our urban heart at Crewe – utilising the platform of HS2 and the exciting Arup masterplan for Crewe station.
This Middle East trade mission is timely, given the Constellation’s excellent showing at MIPIM, where we had a hugely successful launch of the new branding and a most favourable response to the projects that we showed. But our massive success at MIPIM has raised expectations, and the market is already getting excited about Crewe. It is a nice problem to have, and long may this state of affairs continue, but can we deliver? The government is watching like a hawk. Rightly.
A station “package” could be hugely appealing to potential partners, taking in the delivery of an inspirational station treatment but also utilising all the (quite significant and in the control of the public sector) land holding around Crewe. So we have a project to sell that is nothing short of spectacular. One that takes full advantage of the billions of pounds of UK government investment into our high-speed rail link. In just over 10 years’ time, Crewe will be 55 minutes out of London, 15 minutes out of Birmingham and 15 minutes out of Manchester, at what will be THE best connected rail hub in the whole of the country. It could be the jewel in the crown of BOTH the Northern Powerhouse AND the Midlands Engine. So a new office location, coupled perhaps with some quality residential towers could be well within our sights (as I joke to my people, not so much a Canary, as a Canary-Chick; but I am in deadly earnest about the potential. Remember, I knew Canary before it was a hole in the ground. I’m that old. And I say to you, hand on heart, that Crewe has much more of a platform to succeed, given its transport connections and political support).
So, as chair of the Constellation Partnership, which involves all the local authorities around the Crewe conurbation as well as the UK government, I will be presenting this huge opportunity to potential Middle East investors before we take it further onto a global platform later this year. And we are enlisting the expert support of Sir Edward Lister, with his trade adviser to DIT hat on (not neglecting also the great contribution he is making with his HCA hat on, we are lucky to have him).
Are we up for it? Well, at the last meeting of the partnership board, I looked all the political leaders in the eye and asked if they were prepared to realise the potential and step up to populate this ambition. Not one of them flinched. They will do all they can to support this economic growth project. We have empowered civic leadership in spades. It is game-on.