Towards sustainable cities


Tony Reddin

Sustainability and more particularly sustainable cities are terms no doubt familiar to most of us. But for those in the property and construction sector, what does this really mean and how will this agenda impact on businesses in the sector going forward, asks Tony Reddin.

Put simply, a sustainable city is one that develops with consideration of its environmental impact. But in reality a sustainable city must go further and bear in mind the economic and social impact of its development.

It is clear that UK cities are at a crossroads in their growth strategy. Faced with the triple challenges of sustainable economic growth, making more efficient use of limited resources and addressing climate change, they have to rethink how they plan and invest for the future. The property and construction sector needs to be aware of these challenges and adapt to ensure they are in the best position to take advantage of the opportunities that will present themselves going forward.

At the same time, property businesses are on a parallel path as they seek to juggle the demands of changing consumer demand and financing growth whilst addressing the impact that their activities have on the environment.

Grant Thornton has produced a Sustainable Cities report, which concluded that smarter and greater collaboration between the public and private sector is critical to the success of creating sustainable cities and the private sector businesses that are capable of embracing this approach will be best placed to take advantage.

The research we have undertaken makes it clear that the historic landscape is evolving. The Localism Bill together with the creation of Local Enterprise Partnerships means that the traditional public-private sector interface has now shifted which may mean a level playing field for the time being for those in the private sector. The key question is how property and construction businesses can find effective ways of engagement with the public sector that meet the objectives of both public and private stakeholders. Similarly, the role of neighbourhoods in delivering sustainable cities should not be underestimated. A number of cities are trying to encourage a variety of community-led initiatives and the interaction between communities and the private sector is an important consideration.

Collaboration between UK cities will help drive the development of truly sustainable cities. Unfortunately, this collaboration is somewhat limited at present both nationally and here in the North West. It is important that resources such as energy are shared for common benefit and best practices identified across regions to save reinventing the wheel. The task at hand now is to start to create delivery structures and implement programmes that draw upon the experience and resources of the private sector and encourage cities such as Liverpool and Manchester to work closely together whilst competing economically.

Tony Reddin is senior manager at Grant Thornton UK LLP in Manchester. He joined Grant Thornton in 1997 after studying law at Liverpool University. Reddin is a member of Grant Thornton's property and construction group and stamp taxes group. He has over 13 years' experience working in tax and has worked closely with large private limited companies and owner-managed businesses. He has gained extensive experience in the structuring of property transactions, capital allowance and land remediation claims and stamp duty land tax mitigation.