The Secretary of State for Communities & Local Government Greg Clark praised the partnership between Liverpool and Manchester at MIPIM UK and pointed to “huge overseas interest” in the regions, as he launched the British Property Federation’s Regional Magnetism report.
BPF’s report included six recommendations for local government on how to unlock the economic potential of cities outside of London, including prioritising investment in infrastructure, strong leadership, and a varied housing offer.
Clark referred to discussions in Parliament over the Cities & Devolution Bill which would devolve further power to the regions. He said: “This is an enabling bill, which will mean it is no longer the case that everything has to be uniform across the country.
“At MIPIM UK, this diversity is reflected across all the stands, showing the differing industries and the nature of the economies. There is a palpable interest now from overseas in the opportunities the regions have to offer, and we are seeing our regional players rise to the challenge with viable investments that can be made.”
He pointed to an increase in cross-border partnerships: “Modern cities are based on connections between each other, whether that’s Liverpool and Manchester sharing a stand, or Leeds and Sheffield. There is already a strong momentum behind our cities, and in a few weeks we will have the legislative power to give expression to the ambitions of everyone here.”
The BPF’s report followed a series of roundtables held across the country this year including in Manchester and Liverpool. The recommendations were:
- Infrastructure: Prioritising the upgrading of strategic infrastructure will help provide the catalyst for wider regeneration and leverage wider private sector activity in cities, ensuring further investment and economic growth.
- Not be caught in constitutional quagmire: Devolution across the country must consider all functions in the whole, from planning and skills to health and design, and not be restrained by issues of constitutional governance, such as elected Mayors.
- Vision: Local authorities should work together to form a clear vision of what they want to achieve and play to the individual strengths and offers of their region.
- Excellence demonstrated through marketing: A strong identity is imperative to attracting inward investment, and areas must market themselves to investors who may not know why an area is worth investing in.
- Strong leadership: Growth needs a champion, whether an elected mayor or otherwise. Areas need a determined leader who will help drive the shared vision and articulate it clearly to potential investors, providing a focus point with which to engage.
- Tenure of housing: It is important that areas have the right mix, as this will attract and retain a new generation of workers, who in turn attract occupiers and investment to an area.
Melanie Leech, chief executive of the BPF, said: “There is a considerable capital, both domestic and international, that is looking to invest beyond London and move into the regions. Combined with the current devolution agenda, this offers the UK’s major cities a unique chance to market themselves and create sustainable growth, and offers central Government a golden opportunity to balance the economy.
“There is a shared responsibility between local and combined authorities, central government and the private sector to create the environment that will attract investment and unlock growth, and today’s recommendations are designed to support central and local Government as they play their part in creating places where people want to live, work and play.”
David Partridge, managing director, Argent, said: “It is clear that city regions across the UK have an enormous appetite for growth, and it is encouraging that they are looking to partner with private capital to encourage regeneration and investment and create great places. There are a number of things that areas can do to make themselves attractive to investors, and these recommendations are an excellent place to start. As exemplified by the regeneration schemes such as Kings Cross, great places are those where people have the amenities to live and work, and world-class infrastructure is the starting point for many large regeneration projects. Against the current backdrop of devolution there is huge scope for growth across the country, and we are excited that so many new opportunities and partnerships with dynamic City Regions will emerge over the next few years.”