The Conservatives are already delivering on the levelling up agenda – from Rother Valley to North Devon



The Prime Minister recently travelled down to Torridge and West Devon, the constituency of my parliamentary colleague Geoffrey Cox QC MP, to celebrate the re-opening of the historic Appledore shipyard. The last survivor of a centuries-old tradition of shipbuilding on the North Devon estuary, sailors from the village are rumoured to have been among those who fought the Spanish Armada in 1588. The yard itself dates back to 1855.

Though initially used to produce tugboats and fishing trawlers, by the 1990s Appledore had earned a reputation for building specialised survey vessels, such as HMS Scott, which was used by the Royal Navy to produce maps of the world’s oceans. More than 300 vessels have been built there; including military craft, bulk carriers, LPG carriers, superyachts, ferries, and oil-industry support vessels. Appledore has also been a significant contributor to Britain’s war efforts. 

In addition to preserving living history, re-opening this shipyard after a year of closure undoubtedly provides a fantastic local regeneration opportunity, the benefits of which will inevitably extend to the rest of Great Britain. Now that we have left the EU, there is renewed demand for UK-based shipbuilding, maintenance and repair facilities. The shipyard is projected to grow and develop over the coming years as they secure new contracts. Hundreds of new jobs will be created as a result.  

The site has been saved from permanent closure by the InfraStrata group, which recently acquired the iconic Harland & Wolff shipyard in Belfast that had also been under threat of termination. The investment in and re-opening of these two yards- one in the South West, the other in Northern Ireland-is exactly the kind of regional empowerment the Conservatives promised to deliver at the last election. 

Recognising that a skilled local workforce is crucial for success, the InfraStrata Group has put in place a new apprenticeship and training programme for young people. This is particularly important at a time where so many of the sectors typically hiring young staff, such as pubs, cinemas and catering have had to furlough their existing employees. 

In my own constituency of Rother Valley, I am delighted to be welcoming the development of a new manufacturing unit due to open later this year. United Caps, a company that specialises in the manufacture of plastic closures, is opening its very first UK-based plant in Dinnington, South Yorkshire in order to meet growing demand for caps and closures within the UK domestic market. United Caps is expected to invest more than £17m into the factory’s construction alone. 

Rother Valley was specifically chosen to receive this investment due to its skilled local labour force. In turn, my constituency will enjoy the bountiful employment opportunities that will help fuel the South Yorkshire economy. 

For decades this country has watched our manufacturers, farmers and fishermen suffer under EU red tape and destructive legislation. Changes to tax and trade regulation will lead to efficiency gain and increase opportunities for UK firms to consolidate and expand. 

By backing businesses, this Conservative government is delivering on the levelling up promise made at the last election. Despite the challenges presented by COVID-19, within 10 months we can already feel the tangible benefits of regional empowerment. Just think what this government can achieve over the coming years.


Alexander Stafford is the Member of Parliament for Rother Valley.