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Growth in high gear

HS2 train concept art

The planning world is awash with initiatives like HS2 and Local Enterprise Partnerships. But what's the best way to create regeneration and renewal?

Planners are not the “enemies of enterprise”, says RTPI president Peter Geraghty. “They are not the town hall bureaucrats who obstruct economic growth. On the contrary, they provide policies and land allocations and co-ordinate delivery. They make things happen.”
The phrase, coined by David Cameron in 2011, may have lingered on but planners are not standing idly by. 
“How can planning policy accelerate economic growth?” is one of the key questions at the Institute of Economic Development (IED) and Regeneration and Renewal Annual Conference 2013, entitled Going for Growth. 
The IED has been committed to demonstrating the value of economic development work for local and regional communities for more than 30 years. This year, former deputy Prime Minister Lord Heseltine will head up an impressive list of speakers, one year on from presenting his No Stone Unturned report. 
 A skills deficit, creaking infrastructure, weak investment in business, devolved power and the perceived regional divide in the UK are perennial challenges for enabling economic development. 
A newer issue is the effectiveness of the Single Local Growth Fund and this will be addressed by Bernadette Kelly, director-general for markets and framework at the Department for Business, Innovation and Skills. 
What Whitehall considers a compelling bid to the fund and what government can do to help Local Enterprise Partnerships that fail to win significant sums from it are also on the morning’s agenda. Kelly will be joined by Dr Sue Baxter, the deputy director of the EU programme at BIS, and will talk about the new European landscape.
But how planners can enable the growth agenda is specifically addressed at midday. Planners are responsible for both stimulating and supporting growth and must not only spot opportunities but mediate competing interests. However, they must be given the resource and authority to do so.  
Matthew Spry, director at Nathaniel Lichfield and Partners, and Marc Hume, director of renewal and recreation at the London Borough of Bromley, will ask whether the planning system is accelerating the rate of growth and consider how to create a cultural change that will affect policy and remove barriers. 
Directly afterwards, Martin Blackwell, chief executive for the Association of Town Centre Management, will promote the vitality and viability of town and city centres. He will explain how they can house business and investment to become vibrant, inclusive, competitive communities. 
Diane Savory, chair of Gloucestershire LEP and Nigel Jobson, head of property of SuperGroup, will then provide the new high street toolkit. This session will highlight innovative approaches to boosting growth through town management and strategies for reinvigorating town and city centres. 
The Centre for Local Economic Strategies says there are 10 danger signs for councils’ economic strategies:
• Focus on development and equality as well as growth. Most economic strategies are still fixated on growth, yet it is also about equality and social relations.
• Ease emphasis on traditional economic concerns. Too many strategies focus on the ‘hard’ economics of small business start-ups and availability of land or premises, for example, rather than neighbourhood renewal and environmental sustainability.
• Focus on social and employment issues. There is a lack of relationship between the economy and social issues, such as worklessness.
• Acknowledge the economy in non-economic local strategies. Non-economic strategies are not strategically drawn together within a local authority area’s Sustainable Communities Strategy. This leads to inefficiency, policy mismatch and a lack of clarity. 
• Increase connection between economic development and land use planning. Planning is not in all cases imbued with local economic thinking and progression.

Collaborate with the third sector. They are a key facet of local economic life.
• Beware devolution. Strengthening sub-regional government threatens correct identification of very specific local and sub-local economic issues and may damage the interests of secondary town centres and rural areas.
Focus on the availability of investment capital. Many local economic strategies have poor recognition and associated policy in relation to the availability of investment capital and financing more generally.
• Foster an innovative and risk-taking culture. Many strategies lack a clear policy on creativity and entrepreneurialism, but they are key aspects of economic strength.
• Demonstrate accountability and evaluation of strategies. There should be a clear democratic connection between citizens and economic planning.