With discussions at the annual UK Northern Powerhouse international conference last month centering largely on how to spur growth, Richard Green expands on the importance of housing and 'soft' infrastructure to the success of the Northern Powerhouse.
Public sector and business leaders met in Manchester in February to discuss the opportunities that will help fuel the Northern Powerhouse. A central theme of discussions at the event was the delivery of key transport infrastructure, which is undoubtedly one of the fundamental elements at the heart of Northern Powerhouse delivery.
Participants and delegates all spoke about the importance of infrastructure to help make the Northern Powerhouse region competitive on the global stage. But transport infrastructure must not be planned in isolation, with housing just as important to the successful growth of the economy in the north.
Housing and its associated social infrastructure such as schools and healthcare must also be part of decision making and planning for the Northern Powerhouse. It is not enough to only focus on transport connectivity as aspirers and skilled professionals must want to live and work in an area. Plans for improving existing housing stock, strengthening communities and building new homes will need to be considered now if long-term balanced UK economic growth is to be achieved.
Areas that are likely to experience an influx of major industrial and infrastructure investment such as Cumbria will need to attract and retain the best talent to the region. Key to achieving this will be to build sustainable, well-connected communities where people want to live and work.
With major new transport schemes already being mapped out, the pressure is on local and regional authorities to develop long-term strategic growth plans that open the potential for housing along route corridors. The argument for aligning housing with transport infrastructure couldn’t be clearer. Developments along these routes will not only attract more passengers onto transport infrastructure but also bring additional social and economic benefits to the region.
Housing is key to economic growth and must become a vital element of Northern Powerhouse delivery. It must not be overlooked in decision making around the allocation of funds associated with the Northern Powerhouse. A rebalance of the economy can only be achieved if city and regional authorities in the north successfully create well-connected communities close to transport links.
Richard Green is the director and business unit lead for the north of England for AECOM.