County welcomes royal visitor

I was delighted to be able to welcome HRH the Duke of Gloucester to the county for the official opening of our new state of the art, £180m energy recovery plant at Four Ashes.

It’s a pretty impressive plant which will generate enough power for 35,000 homes and has created 40 new jobs. Even better news is that the facility will also help save Staffordshire taxpayers around £250million over the next 25 years and help us achieve our target of Zero Waste to Landfill. School children will also be able to visit the onsite education centre helping young people understand why it is important to recycle and that energy is a finite resource.

The Duke also went on to Chasewater Country Park to hear about the work that’s helped turn the site into a regional hub for water and leisure activities. He also met up with county archaeologist Steve Dean, to find out more about the Staffordshire Hoard which was unearthed just a short distance away.

At our Cabinet meeting on Wednesday we took an important step forward in making sure we are able to bring well paid jobs to the county with the signing off of the Local Enterprise Partnership’s strategic economic plan. This is a long-term plan to create several 1,000 higher skilled and better paid jobs through growing our economy. By working with businesses, Stoke-on-Trent City Council and partners we will continue to make the area a prime location for inward investment.

It is worth remembering that in 2008, Staffordshire had a poor reputation as the worst performing economic sub region of the worst performing region in the UK. In fact when everywhere else was prospering our wealth creation was going backwards. How things have changed as we are now the fastest growing part of the fastest growing economy in the developed world after just five years’ work.

Another important area of the County Council’s work is in managing our natural resources; how we get these out of the ground and how we make sure we reduce the impact on our local communities and our countryside.

The minerals industry is an important part of the Staffordshire economy, supplying the necessary materials for the construction sector and the building of everything from new houses, schools to roads. The sector contributes around £300m to the local economy per year and in 2011, 660 people were employed in the sector.

Our draft Minerals Local Plan is what we use to work out the supplies of sand, gravel and other materials we need to support the county’s growth over the next 15 years and we are keen to hear what people have to say. You can view the details and let us know what you think at www.staffordshire.gov.uk/planning

On a much sadder note, on Wednesday we all heard the news that teenager Stephen Sutton from Burntwood had passed away following his fight with terminal cancer. Stephen was a remarkable young man who has left an extraordinary legacy. He will be remembered not just for the millions of pounds he raised, but for his amazing spirit, bravery and sheer selfless determination to help other young cancer sufferers. His story is truly an inspirational one, and we all share in his family’s sadness of losing one of Staffordshire’s most courageous sons at such a young age – our thoughts are very much with his family at this time.

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