Both the present and the future are looking bright for our region, as a new report shows that the East of England is home to four out of five of the fastest growing city economies in the UK.

Ipswich Star: Top and bottom five cities by annual GVA growth, Q1 2018Top and bottom five cities by annual GVA growth, Q1 2018 (Image: Archant)

After Cambridge, Ipswich has beaten its larger neighbour Norwich to be named second best performing urban centre in the country, according to The UK Powerhouse study.

The report reveals that Ipswich had the second-highest GVA growth rate (a measure of the value of goods and services produced) recorded in the UK in the first three months of this year (2.5%). Norwich also made the top five, with recorded rates of 2.4%.

Ipswich’s position has climbed up considerably since the last Powerhouse study in January, when it was in fifth place nationally on 1.9%.

Ipswich Vision’s group chair Terry Baxter admitted he’d been surprised at first to hear the good news. “But when I then considered the amount of money and work that’s going into putting Ipswich on the map, its not really surprising. Its rewarding to see Ipswich is performing so well, especially when compared to an economic hothouse like Cambridge.”

Growth is expected to slow for each of the cities by the end of the year, although Ipswich, Norwich and Cambridge are all expected to remain in the top seven places in the UK Powerhouse rankings.

Looking forward, the report also predicts the three locations will maintain their top 10 positions by the final quarter of 2028.

Produced by Irwin Mitchell and the Centre for Economics and Business Research (Cebr), the study provides an estimate of GVA growth and job creation within 46 of the UK’s largest towns and cities.

Assessing the findings, Victoria Brackett, CEO at Irwin Mitchell’s Business Legal Services division, said: “Our latest report makes for very positive reading for cities in eastern England, with Cambridge, Norwich and Ipswich all expected to have strong long-term prospects.

“There are many positive developments in the area, with BT announcing in June that it has built the UK’s first practical quantum-secured high-speed fibre network between Cambridge and Ipswich. In addition, Ipswich also benefits from its links to Felixstowe, the largest container port in Britain, which puts it in a key position to trade with Northern Europe.

Ipswich MP Sandy Martin was pleased to see “our bright economic future” confirmed by the figures. “With our new University gaining a great reputation, the growth of IT activity and especially software design, and now the visible return to building work on the Winerack and in Princes Street, it has been obvious for months that Ipswich is moving forward,” he said. But he added - “second highest GVA growth in the UK doesn’t mean we are the richest place in the UK, or the most efficient, but it does mean that we are going in the right direction, and we’re going there faster than almost everywhere else.”

The chair of Suffolk Chamber in Greater Ipswich, Catherine Johnson, explained that with future planned and potential improvements to the road and rail networks within and leading to and from Ipswich, “the attractiveness of the county town and its surrounding area is set to be further boosted.”

The University of Suffolk’s head of Business Engagement And Entrepreneurship, Stef Thorne, said the University is “proud” to be based in Ipswich. “We are seeing more and more businesses looking to innovation to improve productivity and increase their compete advantage,” she said. “The development of the Ipswich Waterfront Innovation Centre supporting a growing community of scale ups and start ups is something we are proud of and is here because of the commitment of the University, the New Anglia LEP, IBC and SCC to develop innovation and enterprise.

“The University is engaging more and more with businesses of all sizes on knowledge exchange projects aimed at business growth.

Ipswich Borough Council Leader David Ellesmere said: “This latest report underlines the steady growth in Ipswich’s economy and is welcome news not only for the Council and its partners but also for new investors and entrepreneurs who recognise what Ipswich has to offer. We are committed through our training and skills agenda and through our work in the Vision Group to take advantage of our excellent location, new university and our reputation as a centre for innovation. This, in addition to an enviable quality of life, is driving Ipswich’s economy forward.”