North­ern Pow­er­house lacks vi­sion for hous­ing

Financial Mirror (Cyprus) - - FRONT PAGE -

North­ern Pow­er­house, the gov­ern­ment­backed ini­tia­tive to boost eco­nomic growth in the north of Eng­land, is still be­ing talked about as a great pol­icy that will see cities such as Manch­ester, Leeds and Liver­pool be­come more akin to their south­ern coun­ter­parts such as Birm­ing­ham and Lon­don.

It has a shiny new web­site, it has part­ners, it is go­ing to be cre­at­ing jobs, join­ing up cities with new in­fra­struc­ture, boost ed­u­ca­tion in what is de­scribed as ‘a show of force for the North’, yet the most up to date piece of news on this web­site was pub­lished on De­cem­ber 6.

There will be GBP 13 bln spent on trans­port, 3.3 bln on ‘growth deals’ and 70 mln on a schools strat­egy, but there is noth­ing about hous­ing. It makes you won­der where peo­ple will live when the great projects men­tioned get un­der­way and what plans there are for boost­ing the num­ber of homes in the re­gion.

In other parts of the coun­try, var­i­ous in­fra­struc­ture funds are be­ing al­lo­cated to boost home build­ing – as we all know new homes need new roads, new schools, etc. – but there does not seem to be much joined up writ­ing and you have to ask where the lo­cal con­sul­ta­tion is.

It is well known that lack of in­fra­struc­ture or ma­jor de­lays holds up home build­ing and a re­port ear­lier this year from the Hous­ing and Fi­nance Institute high­lighted this is­sue. It seems that one of the prob­lems is that hous­ing as part of a re­gen­er­a­tion vi­sion is left at a very lo­cal level and at this point com­mu­ni­ca­tion breaks down.

It is all very well that the govern­ment has a strat­egy that it pub­lished in its Hous­ing White Pa­per ear­lier this year, and even then it was de­layed by sev­eral months. Since then, the hous­ing min­is­ter has changed, Brexit has be­come all-con­sum­ing and we are still left to won­der how hous­ing will be in­cor­po­rated into the great North­ern Pow­er­house vi­sion.

The an­swer lies in com­mu­ni­ca­tion. Take the Swiss for ex­am­ple. They have in­fra­struc­ture projects that in­volve build­ing mas­sive tun­nels through moun­tains, they have to deal with ru­ral ar­eas that are be­com­ing ghost towns as young pro­fes­sion­als move to cities for jobs and they have a form of govern­ment, of­ten de­scribed as be­ing as close to di­rect democ­racy that is pos­si­ble, where cit­i­zens may chal­lenge any law voted by the Fed­eral As­sem­bly and where ref­er­en­dums are al­most two a penny.

There are les­sons that can be learned from the Swiss in terms of launch­ing ma­jor in­fra­struc­ture poli­cies that are not only sup­ported by lo­cal peo­ple but also make a dif­fer­ence. The UK govern­ment’s high speed rail projects have seen a swathe of op­po­si­tion and what makes the head­lines is how badly lo­cal peo­ple are af­fected in terms of homes, roads, and jobs, rather than the good points.

There is one ex­am­ple cur­rently un­der­way in Switzer­land that per­haps shows how it should be done. An­der­matt in the Swiss Alps was dy­ing, young peo­ple were leav­ing in droves for jobs else­where, the Swiss Army left, tak­ing with them jobs and rev­enue that sup­ported the town and tourism num­bers had dropped.

Along came a wealthy de­vel­oper with a vi­sion. He pro­posed al­most dou­bling the size of the town, link­ing up its small ski area with the one in the next val­ley by build­ing new lifts and pistes and bring­ing four and five star ho­tel ac­com­mo­da­tion to the town as well as cre­at­ing a golf course to at­tract peo­ple all year round.

There were a lot of ob­sta­cles such as wildlife, the lo­cals, buy­ing land that the Army no longer used, strength­en­ing roads into the town and a more del­i­cate ques­tion of who would buy the 500 apart­ments be­ing pro­posed as part of the project. Switzer­land has laws that re­strict the con­struc­tion of sec­ond homes to 20% of a de­vel­op­ment project and Lex Koller, which means that an over­seas buyer must ap­ply for a per­mit to pur­chase and is re­stricted in sell­ing terms too.

If this had been the UK, the project would never have got­ten off the ground with op­po­si­tion on hous­ing plan­ning grounds, en­vi­ron­men­tal grounds and talk of why so much was be­ing poured into what was in ef­fect a ru­ral back­wa­ter.

But the An­der­matt Swiss Alps project is prov­ing to be an ex­am­ple of a wealthy de­vel­oper, lo­cals, and the govern­ment work­ing to­gether to ful­fil a vi­sion. The project was able to se­cure an ex­emp­tion from Lex Koller and the sec­ond home law, the first time this has been done in Switzer­land, got the back­ing of 96% of lo­cals in a poll, pro­vided much needed lo­cal jobs and is at­tract­ing buy­ers from all over the world.

Bri­tish Chan­cel­lor Philip Hammond met last week with Greater Manch­ester mayor Andy Burn­ham, Liver­pool’s Steve Rotheram and the new mayor of Tees Val­ley Ben Houchen to dis­cuss in­vest­ment in the north, in­clud­ing new trans­port fund­ing.

Ahead of the visit, the Chan­cel­lor said that the North­ern Pow­er­house needed to reach its full po­ten­tial. “Boost­ing pro­duc­tiv­ity in the North is at the very heart of the Govern­ment’s am­bi­tion to build an econ­omy that works for ev­ery­one. As we pre­pare to leave the Euro­pean Union it is even more im­por­tant that we sup­port the North­ern Pow­er­house to reach its full po­ten­tial. That’s why we are in­vest­ing record amounts in in­fra­struc­ture, and work­ing with metro may­ors to en­cour­age growth and cre­ate op­por­tu­ni­ties through­out the North,” he said.

But you ded­i­ca­tion dif­fer­ence.

A re­port pub­lished a cou­ple of days ago by the In­sti­tu­tion of Civil En­gi­neers (ICE) North East high­lighted the need to align the North­ern Pow­er­house strat­egy along­side re­gional co-or­di­na­tion and an am­bi­tious in­vest­ment pro­gramme.

It made two im­por­tant rec­om­men­da­tions, namely that the north must adopt a more proac­tive and am­bi­tious ap­proach to en­cour­age pri­vate in­vest­ment and to ad­dress the north’s hous­ing short­age; lo­cal author­i­ties should put in place stan­dard ap­proaches to as­sess­ing need and have ac­cess to flex­i­ble fund­ing ar­range­ments for new de­vel­op­ments. Per­haps they should have a jolly to Switzer­land to see how it can be done. have there to won­der how much re­ally is to mak­ing a

Newspapers in English

Newspapers from Cyprus

© PressReader. All rights reserved.