“Worcestershire - where's that?” That’s what London cab drivers often say to me when I tell them I’m the MP for Mid Worcestershire.

Sometimes I think Worcestershire is the UK’s best kept secret.

And if that’s true of the historic county, the upstart district of Wychavon, rising forty years old, must be even less well known – although the towns and villages that make it up are perhaps better known.

Places like Evesham, Droitwich and Broadway. And all the villages of an infamous piece of doggerel,

Upton Snodsbury, Tibberton and Crowle,
Wyre Piddle, North Piddle, Piddle in the Hole.

When Wychavon was established as a council in 1974, it appeared an awkward marriage of communities that had little in common.

Even the name was clever but contrived, recalling the salt heritage of Droitwich (salt towns often end in “wich”) and the name of the river through Evesham.

Few could have known that it would go on to become the name of one of the most successful and highly regarded councils in the land.

But Wychavon was working with promising materials.

When it comes to doing business there are five great reasons for thinking of Wychavon and the county of Worcestershire;

o Its great heritage – of both history and countryside
o Its great facilities and culture
o Its great location
o Its great businesses and workforce
o And its great councils


Let’s take them in turn.

Wychavon is, indeed, a slightly contrived geographical entity. The largest district of Worcestershire, it is an integral part of a wonderful county.

So forgive me if my peon of praise uses porous borders, slightly beyond Wychavon itself.

Worcestershire is Tolkien's Shire in “The Hobbit” and “Lord of the Rings”.

It is Narnia, as the gas lamps of Malvern give silent testimony.

It is Ambridge’s county of Borsetshire in the UK's longest running soap, Radio Four’s “The Archers”. And there’s The Bull at Inkberrow to prove it.

PG Wodehouse was almost certainly inspired by Upton Snodsbury when looking for a home for Aunt Dahlia - the only aunt who can tolerate Wooster, and who summons him to her mansion in Market Snodsbury, Worcestershire.

(Her affection, by the way, is demonstrated by frequent terse telegrams and much use of the term ‘fathead’.)

It is the county that gave birth to and inspired Elgar - our county of hope and glory.

It was home to one of our finest Prime Ministers, Stanley Baldwin.

And to one of our finest poets, A E Housman, who although a son of Bromsgrove, wrote powerfully in "A Shropshire Lad" of Wychavon’s Bredon Hill:
In summertime on Bredon
The bells they sound so clear;
Round both the shires they ring them
In steeples far and near,
A happy noise to hear.

Here of a Sunday morning
My love and I would lie,
And see the coloured counties,
And hear the larks so high
About us in the sky.

The inventor of the postage stamp Rowland Hilder was born in Wyre Forest – although he probably never expected to see the price of a stamp reach 60p!

Now in Malvern, the new world of communications is being secured by one of the world’s most important cyber security clusters.

The reluctant author of British liberty, the king who sealed Magna Carta, King John, is buried in Worcester Cathedral. And next year we celebrate the document’s 800th anniversary.

The cross of St George was first displayed here in 1265 when, at the Battle of Evesham, the future King Edward I carried it into battle against the creator of English parliamentary democracy, Simon de Montfort.

And next year we celebrate the 750th anniversary of that first parliament, and commemorate the death of de Montfort. These are important opportunities for this town.

The first and last battles of the English Civil War were waged around Worcester.

The county’s cricket team plays at the ground with the finest view in the world.

Wychavon is also home, for a few months more at least, to a premiership rugby club at Sixways. Come on you Warriors!


And I know how important good leisure facilities are to business people.

We have great leisure centres, sports clubs and a host of good golf clubs.

I’m delighted to be Vice President of Evesham Rowing Club, where 2012 gold medal winner Alex Gregory learned his sport.

And there is excellent culture in and around the county;

• The Three Choirs Festival,
• Malvern Festival Theatre,
• Shakespeare's Stratford and the Royal Shakespeare Company,
• Birmingham Symphony Hall and the Birmingham Royal Ballet,
• the new Ashmolean Museum in Broadway,
• the popular Number 8 in Pershore,
• the regular and varied festivals in Droitwich and Evesham
• And, of course, the magnificent re-opened Regal Cinema where we are today.


And then there’s our location. It is the Heart of England.

The county sits between its famous hills - the Malverns, Bredon, the Lickey Hills and fine countryside on either side of Britain’s longest river, the Severn and along one of its most famous – the Avon.

It runs from the beautiful Cotswolds village of Broadway to the border of Birmingham. Within the county, this district has a truly strategic location for business.

Wychavon’s businesses enjoy easy access to the motorway network, to the M5, M50, M40 and M42 putting Birmingham, Bristol, Swindon, Oxford and Cardiff all within the hour.

Recent investment in the rail network has dramatically improved access to London, and I hope to see further improvements in the near future.

Birmingham International Airport is on our doorstep.

All this and good value property too. It’s a great combination.

Indeed, Endurance Wind Power has recently set up their European HQ at Hartlebury precisely because of our strategic location and proximity to Birmingham Airport


When it comes to education, Worcestershire is well placed to provide skilled workers too.

We have excellent state schools - and well known and successful private ones too in Malvern, Worcester and Bromsgrove.

There is an increasingly successful and popular university in Worcester - you’ll hear from the Vice-Chancellor later.

And there is a network of further education colleges around the county – with particular congratulations to South Worcestershire College who have just had a sparkling Ofsted assessment.


Our county is famous for its Worcestershire Sauce, its Morgan Cars and its asparagus, all still proudly flourishing in 21st Century.

We have a highly diverse economy from growing fruit and vegetables to, quite literally, the most advanced technology anywhere in UK.

Indeed, in Wychavon our business activity ranges quite literally from asparagus – and not just in the Vale of Evesham – to rocket science at Roxel’s facilities at Summerfield on the border with Wyre Forest.

But there are many other celebrated names in Worcestershire:

• Worcester Bosch in the city

• GKN whose HQ is at Redditch

• Harris paint brushes at Bromsgrove

• And the advanced technology company QinetiQ at Malvern

And there is a host of other engineering firms here in Wychavon supplying the automotive, aerospace and defence sectors, and many more.

That includes national HQs like those of flooring manufacturer Karndean or forensic science equipment supplier, Foster +Freeman, both on Vale Park, Evesham.

Anyone who says manufacturing is dead in the UK just doesn’t understand our strength in depth in Wychavon.

And our farming and growing means we have outstanding food businesses too, including:

• One of the biggest dairies in Europe; Robert Wiseman at Droitwich
• One of biggest salad production lines in the Vale of Evesham; Kanes Foods

The strong presence of logistics firms and warehousing shows their enthusiasm to exploit Worcestershire’s strategic location.


Its towns and villages have a strong and abiding sense of community and there is also a growing sense of a common identity - thanks in very large part to the outstanding success of the district council and the strong support of the county council.

Wychavon district council consistently demonstrates a real passion for its work and the people it serves.

Its high quality customer service is recognised in surveys of local people.

The council’s record of achieving national awards such as LGC Council of the Year, and the Times Best Council continues, with re–accreditation at Investors in People Gold Award level.

Excellent use of communication and high levels of resident consultation create a strong local identity.

The re-opening of the Droitwich canals, the new leisure centre in Evesham and the community hospital in Pershore are all products of the district council’s determined leadership and vision.

The next big projects in my constituency include:

• Securing the future of Hartlebury castle which will do much to support tourism jobs in north Wychavon, and

• Working with the county council to deliver the Worcester Technology Park at junction 6 of the M5.

The imaginative way the council brought Waitrose to Droitwich and is now working to do the same in Evesham is testimony to a real entrepreneurial spirit, all too rare in local authorities.

It is a real pleasure to work with such an innovative, forward-looking, business-friendly council.

On top of all that we have a strong Chamber of Commerce, an in increasingly effective Local Enterprise Partnership and a good network of professional support for business.

I’m not saying we don’t still face our challenges. Challenges like:

• Getting the bridge here in Evesham open - finally.

• Getting the South Worcestershire Development plan adopted.

• Building the Worcestershire Parkway station.

• Completing the redoubling of the North Cotswold Line.

But over the years I have watched Wychavon being transformed as a place to live and work thanks, in large part, to Wychavon’s “can do” attitude.

And it has been my privilege to work alongside both the district and county councils to help these things happen.

Wychavon is a great place to live, work and grow - and it’s open for business.


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