Nicola Rigby, Director in Planning, Development and Regeneration at GVA
Recent weeks have seen the Northern Powerhouse take a major step forward.
Recognition of the means to create high value and volume growth have gone some way to overcoming the criticisms launched at the Investment Pitchbook prepared in Autumn 2015. Back then it focused on the scale of individual projects across the north rather than the contribution they could make to the wider ambitions of the Northern Powerhouse.
The private sector ‘sell’ to the north is clear – invest in the north now and benefit from the rental growth to come. Public sector investment in strategic infrastructure, coupled with quality of life, greater access to housing markets and a skilled labour force will fuel that growth, supplemented by target growth sectors and the associated key assets across our northern towns and cities.
Nevertheless, what’s still missing is the link between that narrative and the projects on the ground. Without that, how can we prioritise public sector investment in infrastructure to unlock development opportunities? This piece of the jigsaw is the genuine business case that needs to sit behind infrastructure investment lobbying, and ultimately decisions. This goes beyond the traditional ‘bang for your buck’ consideration of private sector leverage from public sector money, and needs to factor in a wider appreciation of the extent to which infrastructure is creating high value growth opportunities in key Northern Powerhouse capabilities (and the opportunity cost of not investing).
There is nothing new here. For Logistics think ports, rail freight, road infrastructure; for Financial and Professional and Digital think city and town centre cluster opportunities. But either way, this is where our focus must now turn – an appropriate, sufficient, and timely property infrastructure to house the much needed jobs in the north, and infrastructure investment to unlocks those major opportunities.