Northern Powerhouse and HS2 ‘insufficient’ to level up regions

Major infrastructure projects such as High Speed 2 and Northern Powerhouse Rail are unlikely to level up the North West and curb growing regional divides, according to a report to be launched in Salford this week.

The HS2 rail project, which was given the go-ahead in the House of Commons this month, and the proposed Northern Powerhouse rail network in the North of England, are “unlikely to take benefits beyond city centres to help the more deprived areas”, the report by the UK2070 Commission is expected to say.

The study will note that the UK has one of the world’s highest levels of regional economic inequality, ranking 28th out of a list of 30 nations, above only Slovakia and Ireland, according to The Sunday Times.

The final stage of a two-year inquiry into city and regional inequalities in the UK, which has included a review of policy and spatial issues impeding regional economic development, the report is to be launched in Salford this Thursday and lay bare the challenges facing government and others in “levelling up” the regions.

The UK2070 Commission was established in October 2018 by a partnership between the Lincoln Institute of Land Policy, the University of Manchester, the University of Sheffield and University College London, with support from other bodies.

The group is chaired by Lord Kerslake, chair of the independent Centre for Public Scrutiny, president of the Local Government Association, and, as of this January, chairman of Stockport Mayoral Development Corporation.

A former head of the civil service, Bob Kerslake previously led the Department for Communities & Local Government and was the first chief executive of the Homes & Communities Agency, now Homes England.

The UK2070 commission published its stage one report last May, highlighting policy issues regarding economic inequality across the UK.

The final report to be published on Thursday, called ‘Make No Little Plans’, warns that projects including HS2, with an estimated cost of £106bn, will only benefit large cities unless local transport links are also upgraded. Lobby groups including Transport for the North have already called on the Government to take into account the potential benefits to and impact on regional transport schemes, in its latest planned review of the controversial rail scheme.

The report’s findings are expected to intensify pressure on Prime Minister Boris Johnson, who pledged to “level up” the regions after winning many Labour seats in last year’s general election.

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