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14/05/2015

Professional bodies lay out 16 steps for tackling underperforming towns and cities

Words: Laura Edgar

Four economic and regeneration professional bodies, including the RTPI, have collaborated on a report that focuses on economic potential.

The Association of Town and City Management (ATCM), Royal Institute of Chartered Surveyors (RICS) and Royal Town Planning Institute (RTPI) have collaborated with the Institute of Economic Development (IED) on a report, A brighter future for our towns and cities (pdf), laying out 16 steps that local authorities, Local Enterprise Partnerships and government can take to improve performance. Steps cover aspects of place-making, skills retention, partnership building, devolution and strategic infrastructure investment.

The four professional bodies involved in the report comprise the Commission for Underperforming Towns and Cities, established last year by report author and IED chair, Keith Burge.

Rountable discussions across the UK were organised and attended by the commission, from which Burge was able to write the report.

A brighter future for our towns and cities lays out 16 recommendations that provide steps that local authorities, Local Enterprise Partnerships and government can take to improve performance, covering place-making, skills retention, partnership building, devolution and strategic infrastructure investment.

The recommendations include: strategic development plans for places that are underperforming; an overhaul of business rates and empowering and resourcing Local Enterprise Partnerships so they can “manage positive change.”

Burge said that even in a time of austerity there are things that the government and other bodies could and should do to narrow the gap between underperforming towns and cities and those that are more successful.

“We do not have to make a choice between people and place, only between action and inertia. We vote for action,” Burge stated.

RTPI chief executive Trudi Elliott stated that it is essential that underperforming towns and cities are not abandoned. “In collaboration with other professional bodies, we have outlined practical measures for boosting local economies. We call on the new government to encourage positive regeneration outcomes through investment in local planning, the incentivisation of cooperation between local authorities, and better coordination of policies for housing, infrastructure and service delivery.”

Shanaaz Carroll, ATCM CEO (interim) said: “In 2013, an article in The Economist suggested that Britain’s consistently underperforming towns and cities did not merit any further interventions, with residents relocated to more successful areas.”

This, Carroll said, was something ATCM and the commission fundamentally disagreed with. The report “will provide the basis for towns and cities to ensure they are achieving their full economic and social potential.”

Jeremy Blackburn, head of policy and parliamentary affairs at RICS, said that the election of a new government is a good time to reassess what has been done to drive growth and regenerate the high street.

“The focus on City Deals at one end and high streets on the other has missed key settlements out so far – yet these towns are where many of us live, work, and feel passionate about. This report sets out our combined thinking how to turn these towns around, so that the next few years are not just the strong doing what they can and the weak suffering what they must,” he concluded.

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