By Daniel Hunter
In a speech to the Birmingham Made Me design expo, John Cridland, CBI Director-General, outlined his vision of a new approach to regeneration which focuses on business growth and breaks the cycle of dependency on the public sector.
Speaking ahead of the Chancellor’s Spending Review later this month, Mr Cridland said that regeneration must be built on strong partnerships between the public and private sectors.
“We need to break the cycle of dependency on the public purse to bankroll building projects, and focus more on local business strengths, leveraging the clout of the public balance sheet as a confidence booster to drive investment," Mr Cridland said.
“Businesses are changing and so must the properties they occupy. With our supply of quality office space diminishing and the need to dramatically speed-up house building, regeneration is a high priority for business leaders I speak to in cities across the UK.
“On the high street it’s a different story, with growing numbers of shops now lying empty. Businesses and local communities need to put their heads together to find solutions that will breathe new life into our town centres — not to recreate them as they once were, but to fashion them for the 21st century.
“The Government has helped to get the housing market moving with mortgage access initiatives, but we still need action on the supply side — we need shovels in the ground. Failure to build will see housing in our major cities become increasingly unaffordable. Communities without young people will not flourish, and the dreams of our young people for home ownership will be dashed.
“There is huge potential for our major cities outside London to contribute far more than they do already. But without regeneration they will continue to punch below their weight.”
A new CBI brief published this week, Locally grown — Unlocking business potential through regeneration draws on positive examples of regeneration across the UK.
Among the success stories highlighted are the i54 South Staffordshire and Media City UK in Salford, which have successfully reinforced regional sector strengths in automotive and creative industries respectively.
In Leeds a £4.3bn investment in office space has boosted employment in professional services, and the city’s earnings growth has outstripped the UK average over the past decade.
In Portsmouth, the Gunwharf Quays retail development has led to jobs being created in the surrounding area at a rate faster than the national average. Meanwhile in Aberdeen, the local authority is planning to build twice the number of houses than at the peak of the housing boom in 2007 to support its growth ambition.
In his speech, Mr Cridland said that four key policy challenges must be tackled to ensure successful UK-wide regeneration:
• Local Enterprise Partnerships must rise to the challenge The Government is strengthening LEPs with more powers and funding, but businesses still need to be convinced of their capacity to deliver growth
• Political parties must commit to the existing structures for local growth Businesses don’t want another overhaul of local governance structures
• The Government must deliver long-awaited infrastructure upgrades Businesses need to see a delivery plan complete with timescales, sequencing, transparency and accountability, so they can decide where to invest
• Planning policy and property taxation must support the private sector’s development ambition Local authorities must set out clear plans in accordance with the National Planning Policy Framework and urgent action is needed to curb the unacceptable burden of business rates for firms across the UK, especially for hard-pressed retailers
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