There are issues with skills, infrastructure and connectivity in the North of England that have been neglected by successive Government’s for decades.

Fraser Tinsley, chartered town planner at BH Planning and Design

“Its grim up north!” We all know that this is a nonsense, but it has been part of the lexicon for far too long. There are issues with skills, infrastructure and connectivity in the North of England that have been neglected by successive Government’s for decades. In a globally competitive world, the fact that it takes nearly three hours to travel between Newcastle and Manchester, two of the North’s key economic growth drivers, is just one example of an issue holding the North of England back.

The Government’s Levelling Up Fund Prospectus, published in March 2021, identifies a total of £4.8 billion to be invested over the coming four years to support town centre and high street regeneration, local transport projects, and cultural and heritage assets across the country. This is a big deal and has the potential to spur growth in an area with huge potential.

Each parliamentary constituency area is able to bid to Government for up to £20m in funding (more for transport related projects) and Councils across the region are currently beavering away preparing bids to the Levelling Up Fund Tranche 2 which it is anticipated will need to be submitted around Christmas of this year.

While there is potential for up to £600m of investment to come into the North East region alone from Levelling Up if each parliamentary constituency is successful in achieving £20m from the Fund, the real potential of Levelling Up is not in the very welcome funding from Government. Yes the Government funding has the potential to unlock private sector investment as we emerge from the Coronavirus pandemic. However, just as important as the money will be the confidence in the North of England as a dynamic forward-looking area with a key role to play in the UK on the international stage. Bids that are able to demonstrate how they are able to lever private sector investment, especially from abroad, and how they can be sustained to make a lasting change to an area are likely to be more successful in achieving funding.

The first tranche of bids to the Levelling Up Fund were submitted in June 2021. These were generally shovel ready off-the-shelf projects that had been languishing in Council filing cabinets for years waiting for funding to become available. The forthcoming Tranche 2 bids will likely be the focus for most local Councils preparing bids to Government.

For more information on what is being proposed in your area in terms of Levelling Up, your first port of call should be your local Council or your local MP who will need to sign off any bids for funding from the fund.

Time will tell but Levelling Up could be the biggest change in direction for England in over half a century which has too long focused on London and the South East as the drivers for national economic growth. There is now the potential to shape a future for the North of England that responds to the rapidly changing technological, environmental and cultural context and grasps the opportunities that this offers. The challenges facing our high streets and changing working patterns on the residential development sector as a result of the likely continuing focus on the potential for home and flexible working are just two examples of where Levelling Up may offer huge opportunities. Maybe then we can cast the concept of it being “grim up north” to the dustbin of history where it quite rightly belongs.

To contact Fraser, please email [email protected]

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In assocation with BH Planning and Design
Posted 17th August 2021

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