The One Powerhouse Consortium believes the regions of England need a plan. Scotland has one, Wales has one and Northern Ireland has. England and the UK does not
The technical name for the plans that we have in mind are called Spatial Plans.
The process of preparing our plans has already begun. Our technical partners (Atkins in The North, Aecom in the Southeast and Barton Willmore in the South West and The Midlands) have prepared preliminary drafts all of which can be viewed here.
There is a growing consensus that the UK needs a more concerted approach to addressing its very wide regional inequalities.
A range of agencies and commentators have reached a similar conclusion that the UK needs a more concerted approach to addressing its very wide regional inequalities.
Government’s Industrial Strategy and the National Infrastructure Assessment are important steps in the right direction but don’t focus attention on the dynamics of places and spaces and the opportunities created by spatial planning.
The Industrial Strategy – together with the 39 Local Industrial Strategies now being developed – would be strengthened by a visionary and imaginative national economic plan.
The One Powerhouse Consortium will be working closely with The UK2070 Commission. This commission, chaired by Lord Kerslake, is making the case for this approach and we will be playing our part by the development of ‘prototype’ or ‘blueprint’ plans.
Both the UK2070 Commission and the One Powerhouse Consortium believe that the best basis for a national spatial economic plan is through the assembly of 7 separate spatial frameworks or ‘blueprints’: the four ‘provinces’ or mega-regions of England and the three devolved nations.
Each would set out their assets (both actual and latent), their future networks, and their long-term opportunities. These ‘blueprints’ would identify the regional economic structure in terms of assets and networks. Common components might be based upon a) the scope of the plans; b) a series of clear visions; c) a framework for investment; and d) institutional capacity and likely partnerships.
At the moment we are looking at the North of England (The Northern Powerhouse), The Midlands (The Midlands Engine), the South West (The Great South West as well as the Bristol city region) and the South East (including London).
It is proposed that each regional blueprint might consider:
An assessment of the economic and social structure including economic hubs and sectors driving growth and strategic networks including transport, utilities and environmental assets.
Economic independencies and collaborations identifying the defined economic areas within which jobs, supply chains and economic activities operate.
Population trends, including the identification of particularly vulnerable places and communities.
Existing and potential capacity or development including pinch points & underused capacities of infrastructure systems.
Building on these analyses the blueprints will set out a vision identifying key opportunities for regeneration and for long term economic advance including some or all of the following:
Critical economic assets
- Existing assets needing sustained investment and development and undervalued economic assets (e.g. such as international cultural and educational quarters).
- New and emerging assets (e.g. Advanced Manufacturing clusters or international higher educational and research centres)
- Key innovation opportunities in science, health and research including robotics and artificial intelligence. Opportunities or the relocation especially of governmental assets (e.g. defence related institutions and bases).
Other Major areas for development
- Projects with significant potential for land improvement where land could be worked on of demand. Particularly vulnerable communities which should be a long-term focus for ‘safety nets’, health and welfare investment
- Leisure and tourism opportunities and investment opportunities including new national parks, national historic areas or international heritage assets. Major cultural and sporting investments, including facilities broadcasting and the arts Areas for major infrastructure development
- Major projects for transport infrastructure better the regions internally and with each other. Major projects for energy generation and the development of environmental capital. Major projects for land reclamation and coastal defence
Each blueprint will make some general consideration of levels of the investment that might be required in order to translate the visions into reality.
Clearly this is not the place for any detailed appraisal but, where notional work has been done or where benchmarks might exist, it would be good to have some understanding of the scale or resources that might be required and a sense of the timetable over which they might be deployed.
It would also be useful to understand what funding arrangements, existing or future, and incentives or mechanisms might be helpful to unlock strategic investment.
Each blueprint will benefit from a discussion of the opportunities to build on existing institutions and related delivery mechanisms in order to secure and accommodate any of the above. This might include:
The role of Local Enterprise Partnerships and their local industrial strategies; The role of combined, local or other strategic authorities; The role of business bodies and/or large employers in the region; The role of education, health and other public institutions including environmental agencies; The role of civil society organisations.
It is expected that much of the plan will be based upon the research and analysis of these bodies along with their own pre-existing plans. To this extent we would expect regional plans to be developed and produced in close collaboration with LEPs and other relevant bodies. The One Powerhouse Project Group will be identifying ‘Regional Partnership’ leads to support this collaboration.