Northern Powerhouse update: is Osborne finally putting his money where his mouth is?

Yesterday, the Treasury published its new National Infrastructure Delivery Plan, which outlines, in one document, plans to support large-scale housing and regeneration, as well as investment in new schools, hospitals, and prisons in the UK. Within this, Mr Osborne has been keen to re-emphasise the Government’s commitment to the Northern Powerhouse.

Since the announcement of the creation of a Northern Powerhouse back in 2014, the property industry has been alive with talk of what the announcement means, and what support the Government intends to provide to make the vision a reality. So far, most industry professionals would likely agree that, whilst they welcome the vision and the opportunities it has created for the North, Mr Osborne’s Powerhouse dream has been nothing more than a branding exercise.

The publication of the National Infrastructure Delivery Plan, however, could signify the point at which the rhetoric has become reality. The report outlines infrastructure investment and expenditure across the UK, which will total over £100bn by 2021. This spending includes:

  • A £15bn package to develop the strategic road network
  • Modernisation of the railways (including the development of HS2)
  • The delivery of Crossrail and Crossrail 2
  • Significant investment in projects in the Northern Powerhouse

Delve into the pages of the report, and you’ll find a raft of Northern infrastructure investment commitments which build on last week’s Budget, including improvements to the M1 and M56; a £75 million pot for Highways England to look at the possibility of a trans-Pennine tunnel between Sheffield and Manchester; and funding to develop options and strategies for the Northern parts of HS2 and the creation of HS3, amongst others. The chapter on the Northern Powerhouse states that the Government is investing £13 billion to deliver better transport up North, and investing in housing, science, innovation and culture.

It could be argued that a lot of the detail in the report is nothing new, with many of these plans having been floated by the Chancellor some time ago. That said, the publication of the report, which is the first attempt to codify what the Northern Powerhouse is and how much the Government will invest in it, is certainly a step in the right direction.

Politically speaking, the events of the last week which have prompted many to speak of a ‘Government in crisis’ could threaten to overshadow the publication of the Plan, and put into doubt the Chancellor’s personal ambition to be the next occupier of No. 10. Whatever the outcome to this, it would be fair to suggest that the wheels of Northern Powerhouse are now slowly in motion.

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