Doncaster Chamber launches ambitious, business-led vision for city in new manifesto

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An ambitious new vision for Doncaster, developed by the local Chamber of Commerce with considerable input from indigenous businesses, has today been published; envisaging a prosperous decade ahead for the city.

As its name suggests, Doncaster ‘35: A Manifesto for a Winning City is a forward-thinking plan that anticipates what the next ten years will have in store for Doncaster, and outlines the practical steps that must be taken to put it on the best possible trajectory.

Grounded in equal parts optimism and pragmatism, the document explores how the Chamber itself — alongside the private sector it represents, colleagues in the local authority and regional government, as well as other assorted partners — can help Doncaster overcome its greatest challenges, while also seizing the opportunities that are within its grasp.

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The overarching goal behind all of this is to get to the point where we have a flourishing economic environment that serves as a “gold standard for what small, modern cities with an industrial heritage will look like in the year 2035”.

Doncaster Chamber launches ambitious, business-led vision for city in new manifesto.Doncaster Chamber launches ambitious, business-led vision for city in new manifesto.
Doncaster Chamber launches ambitious, business-led vision for city in new manifesto.

Of course, realising such grand aspirations requires bold ideas and outside-the-box thinking. Which is why the Chamber sought the opinions of local business leaders (from across all different sectors) when putting together this manifesto.

Through a series of in-depth interviews and a roundtable workshop, these subject matter experts discussed a wide range of subjects. Among other things, they gave their views on the: tired state of our city centre; the skills gaps that are currently holding us back; the quality of strategic partnerships across South Yorkshire; the need for more big-ticket investments to really put Doncaster on the map; and persisting issues relating to our transport infrastructure. Not only did the businesses articulate their top concerns during this exhaustive consultation process but, in many cases, they also offered potential solutions to the problems they had identified.

Drawing upon these insights — as well as extensive desk research — Doncaster ’35 considers four major themes (“City Centre”, “Workforce”, “Transport” and “Strategic Institutions & Partnerships”). In each instance, the manifesto breaks down where the city currently is, where it would like to be in a decade’s time, and what needs to happen in order to get there.

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Throughout the document there is a mix of calls to action for public sector partners, as well as commitments from the Chamber and the business community it represents. In terms of the former, there are calls for things like: improvements to the cleanliness and relative safety of our city centre; the development of a “South Yorkshire Airport City” scheme; measures to increase local access to higher education; and extra momentum being put into Team Doncaster.

Dan Fell.Dan Fell.
Dan Fell.

Meanwhile, the Chamber’s offer includes: ensuring that its members are feeding into the city centre masterplan; working with partners to develop Doncaster as a centre for excellence when it comes to transport; and contributing to the campaign to get a university campus (or equivalent) established somewhere the city. The full list of priorities and commitments can be read by downloading the manifesto here

Doncaster ’35: A Manifesto for a Winning City was unveiled earlier today at the annual Doncaster, What’s Next? Business Conference. Introducing the document at this official launch, Dan Fell, Chief Exec of Doncaster Chamber, said: “Through characteristic Yorkshire grit and determination, Doncaster — and the key partnerships that make it so strong— has accomplished much over the past twenty years.

A spokesman said: “From securing City Status to opening a renowned University Technical College and valiantly pulling together to reboot Doncaster Sheffield Airport (DSA); we have a lot to be proud of. At the same time as this, we know that we cannot afford to dine out on past glories forever.

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“If anything, the assorted hardships of the past couple of years — from the disappointing loss of the former HS2 College to the near miss with our bid to be the home of Great British Railways, and the macroeconomic headwinds that have embattled our urban core — have proven just how important it is that we do not lose momentum. Indeed, those who truly want what’s best for Doncaster know that we must constantly aim higher and always be impatient for progress. That’s where this manifesto comes in.

“Shaped by our member community, and developed in plain sight of our strategic partners, Doncaster ’35 is an ambitious, business-led vision for the future. One in which we candidly address the problems facing our city right now, highlight the exciting opportunities in front of us, call for bold leadership, make some challenging asks, and commit to rolling up our own sleeves to as well.

“The world is changing faster than ever before and yet the current pace of change is the slowest it will ever be. With that said, we want our city to not only keep pace, but to set it. We hope that others share our determination.”

Sarah Naylor, Head of Commercial and Dispute Resolution at Switalskis Solicitors: “The future envisioned by Doncaster ’35 is one in which businesses are not only flourishing, but actively driving the changes they want to see and making our city a better place in the process. It’s a refreshingly optimistic take on where we are going to be in a decade’s time.”

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Tariq Shah, CEO of Vigo Group: “‘If Doncaster is to truly maximise its potential and rival other places around the UK, then it’s imperative that we have a healthy and vibrant urban core. Businesses know this and so too do our residents. Rejuvenating our city centre must therefore be a top priority, driven by a bold vision for the high street that is prosperous, exciting and, most importantly of all, heading towards a brighter future.”

Gemma Peebles, Principal of Harrison College: “The education system cannot be viewed in a silo and it’s imperative that schools, colleges, and other providers are working closely with the business community to ensure that our young people are getting set up for prosperous futures. If we can foster this greater sense of collaboration between education and industry, then we can really make a positive impact.”

Mark Taylor, Founder and CEO of Automated Analytics: “We need to be brave and ambitious when thinking about what the next decade holds for our city. If we get this right, then Doncaster can be leading the charge in emerging sectors like AI, cyber and digital, eventually becoming synonymous with those fields.”

Mark Chadwick, Owner of Stadium Garage and #SaveDSA Campaigner: “It’s great to see that DSA features so prominently in this manifesto. The support that has been shown for this project by the general public and businesses has been amazing. The plans for our airport go far beyond just a trip abroad: with cargo, green aviation, and other initiatives that will boost our economy and employment prospects for years to come.”

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Lindsy James, Director of Active Fusion: “Any vision for where Doncaster is going to be in the next ten years must also consider its younger population. They represent that future, after all. With that said, we need to have great ambitions for how we can nurture the next generation.”

Victoria Snowdon, Director at Anthony Snowden Architect: “There are lots of interesting ideas at the moment for how we can reboot Doncaster City Centre, including ways in which we can better utilise green spaces, address safety concerns, improve its cleanliness, transform the high street and generally make it make it better a place to live, work and spend leisure time.”

Robert Leggott, Chief Executive Officer at Togel Contractors: “Having risen from a low base to heights unthinkable in the ‘70s, ‘80s & ‘90s, we now have a City to be proud of. The foundations have been laid for further opportunity, growth and developments [that businesses must] embrace.’

Jim Carley, Managing Director of Carley Consult: “While it is vital that we take control of our own economic destiny, not all of the changes that we want to see can be enacted at a local level. That’s why we need to make sure that Doncaster has a seat at the table nationally, through outreach to government decision-makers and vociferous advocacy campaigns. Doncaster’s voice needs to be heard far.”

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Tom Grundy, Chief Executive Officer at Hybrid Air Vehicles: “As pioneers of zero-emission aircrafts, it’s encouraging to see that a more sustainable future for aviation is such a big part of the vision for Doncaster’s future. If we can seize the opportunities that are in front of us here, then we can really put this city on the map.”

Jill Wood, Managing Director, Signum Facilities Management: “There are a lot of important points in here about preparing the workforce of tomorrow, and this is one area where I believe it’s vital that businesses roll up their sleeves and get involved. Greater private sector representation in education governance roles could be a real game-changer, driving innovation and better aligning education with industry needs.”

So Him Fong, Managing Director of King Asia Foods: “As the past few years have shown, whenever we pull together in service of a common goal we can accomplish some truly amazing things for our city. Doncaster ’35 has plenty of ideas for what our next big win could be if we continue to show that united front.”

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