We are starting to see a long overdue and welcome shift in the UK’s regional investment landscape. Not too long ago, London was the magnet for investment, followed by Manchester. However, the other big cities arguably spent too long comparing themselves to Manchester and trying to copy its success with investors.
This seems to have passed now. The other big English cities are now firmly focusing on creating their own competitive advantage and leveraging that to drive growth and success. Underpinning the growth of places like Bristol, Birmingham, Leeds, Liverpool, Newcastle and Sheffield are some fundamentals.
For a start, the regions are all benefitting from an expensive London market coupled with some difficult political landscapes to navigate in the Capital. Charged issues like those surrounding the Haringey Delivery Vehicle are a red flag for investors and developers, meaning that the regions not only offer good value but an entirely different risk profile. Perhaps more importantly, the regions have stepped up to the plate to capitalise on this shift.
Many key regions have introduced Metro Mayors, providing a focus and personality to give clear and consistent messaging and direction for the future of the area. Additionally, the Combined Authorities (CA) have been given power and resources by Government, which they can utilise with their localised expertise and knowledge to accelerate growth in the region. This includes investing in big ticket infrastructure projects that create the foundations for development and growth. Birmingham New Street is a prime example of this, alongside Paradise Circus, for which the Council has remodelled a whole section of the city. This is happening successfully across the other key regions as well. Newcastle has Science Central and now Liverpool has Paddington Village.
The CAs are creating new governance structures that allow decisions to be made quickly, giving investors and developers a clear ‘customer journey’ to enable them to become effective partners in growth.
The successful cities that will emerge from this process understand that it’s their job to create the foundations for investment through infrastructure, and will seek to recover a proper return on their investment which can then be reinvested in public services. They will seek to partner with the private sector and leverage in investment and resources to create confident and vibrant economies.
There is no one-size fits all approach for delivering regeneration or infrastructure projects, and not every large regional city is pulling in the same direction. But isn’t that the point? We don’t want our cities to be identikit replicas of an ‘ideal’ model. We want them to push on, innovate and capitalise on what makes them great as individual places.