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The Economic Development of Norwich City


Located inNorth-east London, Norwich city is one of the largest towns in Norfolk. The city is also ranked fourth in the county in terms of population, hosting approximately 4000 people per square mile. Despite the global downturn and the cases of economic recession, Norwich city has remained one of the most resilient cities in the United Kingdom, by maintaining its growth despite the significant negative effects of recession (Norwich City Council, 2013). Nevertheless, the effects of national and global economic instability are continually felt in all societies, thus the city faces vital challenges in its attempt to remain stable and forge towards the attainment of sustainable economic growth (Musterd and Gritsai, 2013). While exploring the steps undertaken by the city to attain its current level of economic development and growth, the current paper presents a critical discussion on the policies implemented to locally and regionally support the economic development of the city. The paper evaluates the effectiveness of the policies in contributing towards the attainment of enhanced economic growth and gives recommendations on the probable changes and improvements that should be made to ensure the policies accomplish the desired goal.

Economic Growth of the City over the past 20 years

Norwich City was established after the Norman Conquest in 1096. The establishment of settlements around the region led to the creation of Norwich market and later Norwich town. Since its year of establishment, the city has reported significant changes it is economic development (David, 1989). In the early years, the involvement of the locals in agricultural activities formed the basis for the enhanced economic development reported in the middle ages. Wool, mainly from Norfolk’s sheepwalks was the main commodity that the community traded in (Norwich City Council, 2013). The implications of this trade were enhanced economic growth not only to the city of Norwich but equally made England rich. According to Bathelt (1998) the resulting wealth from wool trade realized throughout the Middle Age was able to finance many construction projects leading to the development of the many medieval churches that are evident to date. In fact, it is observed that Norwich city has many medieval churches than any other city in England, further contributing to the economic development of the city in terms of infrastructure.

The increasing volumes of wool that were being released from Norwich contributed to the establishment of wide trade-links between the city and other regional and international. The commodity gained access to other markets from Spain to Scandinavia (Kline and Moretti, 2014). The city equally exported the commodity to other countries outside Europe further contributing to enhanced economic growth. The economic growth and development reported in the middle age period was thus attributed to the agricultural works supported mainly by the locals.

The use of agricultural activities and manufacturing as the major activities driving the economic growth of the city continued to the 20th century. According to Writers Center Norwich (2012) Norwich still have many manufacturing firms at the beginning of the 20th century mainly dealing with the manufacture of clothes, shoes and joinery, aircraft design and manufacture and structural engineering. The city was also involved in the manufacture of chocolates during the period. Further developments in the later parts of the century led to the growth of the brewery industry further enhancing the economic growth and development of the city (Pike et al., 2015). The manufacturing activities did not only lead to expansive trade in regional and international markets, but also led to the creation of wealth that needed in supporting construction activities further improving the economic development of the city.

Even though agricultural activities still drive the economic development and growth of the region, the government has also taken a center-stage in fostering the economic growth and development of the region. In the past 10 years, major development activities have been initiated as well as supported by the local and national government of England (Musterd and Gritsai, 2013). Since the implementation of the Local Government Act 1972 city of Norwich is managed by Norfolk County Council and Norwich City Council. The County Council is charged with the responsibility of developing and implementing policies on management of social, school and library services within the region. On the other hand, the city council is charged with the role of managing local service including, housing, tourism and leisure activities (Pike et al., 2015). The current economic growth is observed in the city is thus enhanced by the role played by the government in improving the quality of services offered in the region.

Policies and Economic Growth and Development

The city and county governments embarked on fostering economic growth at a time when Norwich city reported the lowest level of development in its history. The city had reported a wide concern for infrastructural development, shortage of commercial premises and land as well as labor-market problems following a bomb attack, issues that significantly retarded the growth of the region (Bathelt, 1998). The government thus focused on the development and implementation of policies that aimed at improving the economic growth of the region. The formation of the Economic Development Committee led to the creation of policies that were summed in the five-year Economic Development Strategy. This first strategic plan would have played a vital role in the progression towards the attainment of economic growth, if properly executed. Nevertheless, the implementation of the activities included in the plan remained a major challenge to the city council. According to Musterd and Gritsai (2013) the failure of the Committee to promote corporate decision-making and planning, contributed to the failures registered. Also, the failure by the city council to develop a coherent plan, one that would involve the four local authorities (South Norfolk, Norfolk County Council, Norwich city and Broadland) in the support towards the attainment of economic development. These challenges affected negatively the effective implementation of the Economic development strategy and the consequent attainment of the desired benefits.

Despite the challenges, the city council managed to develop and implement other strategies such as the “Housing Strategy 2013-2018”, “Talent march”, and “Tourism development action plan” that focused on improving the economic wealth of the city and consequently its growth (Norwich City Council, 2013). The “talent march” strategy focused on tackling youth unemployment through a program designed to offer employability support and advice to the youths in the region. Tourism development action plan was formulated to aid in enhancing the tourism activities in Norwich that will consequently increase the amount of wealth being generated within the locality. According to Nunkoo (2015) the idea of implementing the action plan was mainly to form collaborations with the private sector organizations including the English Tourist Board with the aim of identifying potential growth areas that will enhance visitor spending as well as improve opportunities for recreational facilities and visitor spending. The planned activities were well financed and received massive support from both the national and local government leading to the full implementation of the Tourism development plan.

The “Housing strategy” has also remained effective in assisting the city achieve its goal of being a decent city. The implementation of the strategy saw most individuals from informal settings get access to better houses, necessitating the building of additional houses thus contributed to the improved infrastructural development (Norwich City Council, 2013). Some challenges were however reported during the implementation of the Talent march, including minimal funding from the national government and lack of effective plan from the local government. The implications were failure to resolve the labor-market issues that were main focus of the policy.

The Extent of Economic Development Attained

The policies initiated by the local government have been effective in promoting economic growth and development. Nevertheless, the policies focused on sectorial development have yielded better results in relation to those aiming are resolving labor-market issues. The increase in tourism attraction sites has been observed following the collaborations between the city and the neighboring local authorities to implement tourism based policies (Nunkoo, 2015). Also, the naming of Norwich as a UNESCO City of Literature has further increased the number of visitors received in the city to more than 17.7 million visitors per day (Writers Center Norwich, 2012). Even though the number of visitors to the city has increased, there expenditure rates have remained lower. Pike et al (2015) have reported that Brighton and Hove cities receive $ 639 million more revenue than Norwich yet they report approximately 10 million fewer visitor that Norwich city. Future policies need to emphasize on strategies that will enhance the visitors’ expenditure rate for higher income and enhanced economic growth to be reported.

The housing policy has not only led to the significant subsidization of building materials but have also availed affordable houses to the residents. According to Norwich City Council (2013) the housing policy has resulted in increase in number of quality houses in the city thus contributing positively towards its economic growth, based on the improved infrastructural development. Other policies supporting construction activities have also resulted in the creation of durable road networks exposing Norwich to other regional cities in London, thereby improving the trade performance in the region.

Despite the significant developments in the construction and tourism sectors, the policies implemented to address labor issues have been less effective. The “talent march” policy that is currently supported by the local government did not yield any significant result. The management of various YTS programs that aimed at sponsoring youths’ education yielded minimal results since most of them have remained uneducated and unemployed (3.9% unemployment rate in relation to 2,7% reported in England in the year 2012) (Norwich City Council, 2013) . In fact, Ricardo and Sánchez (2011) asserted that the number of graduate youths in Norwich city has remained relatively lower in comparison with other cities in England.

The market-survey conducted in the year 2013 revealed that a more integrated approach is needed to completely resolve the labor-market issues. Also, Kline and Moretti (2014) have reported that a collaborative approach both in terms of enhanced coordination of the existing training programs and encouraging more partnerships to foster strategic approaches designed to resolve labor-market issues, including education and job creation for the youths. Also, there is need for the city council to develop policies that do not only focus on economic growth, but also takes into consideration the need for the attainment of sustainability (Norwich City Council, 2010). Resolving the labor-market and sustainability issues promises the attainment of a higher economic development and growth.

Conclusion and Recommendations

Norwich city has a vibrant economy that has shown resilience in the times of economic recession. The analysis of the historical economic development of the town indicates that the economy has mainly been driven by manufacturing activities. However, recent developments have seen the local and regional governments take part in the city’s development process through implementation of policies designed to support the economic development in the major sectors of the economy. Significant benefits have been reported in the construction and tourism sectors, however, more still needs to be done in the education and labor markets. Also, most of the policies put in place have only emphasized on economic growth and development without taking into consideration the issue of sustainability. It is therefore recommended that the city council develop and implement policies that emphasizes on development and regeneration to support the attainment of sustainable economic growth of the city. Also, the local and regional governments should leverage into new investments that will support education and training of the youths to improve their level of creativity and innovativeness. Formation of new partnerships and growth of existing businesses should also be promoted to generate and sustain jobs that will contribute further towards enhanced economic growth. The effective implementation of the recommended policies will enhance the possibility of Norwich city to attain a sustainable economic growth and development.


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