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Unlocking the potential of the UK's big cities

Dick Whittington was lured to London by rumours that the streets were paved with gold. Today you’d be forgiven for thinking the same was true as the capital continues to attract talent and investment from both within and beyond Britain’s borders.
But the annual Cities Outlook Report 2014 (pdf) recently found Bristol to be the only city outside London that consistently performed better than the national average. It says: “Cities such as Birmingham and Manchester should be making a far larger contribution to the national economy than is currently the case”. Other cities require serious attention to ensure a spatially balanced economy.
So it’s unsurprising that this discussion is raging in the corridors of Whitehall, with the government pushing forward a localism agenda that supports large cities through initiatives such as City Deals and Growth Deals. Labour pledges to go further with a £30 billion cash injection into an “economic devolution” plan to transfer more power and funding to core cities. But the critics remain sceptical about whether real devolutionary powers and investments will be delivered.

“Connectivity is a recognised driver of growth and success"

Connectivity is a recognised driver of growth and success. We know that it increases property values and extends functional economic areas. Bristol has good links to London and once HS2 is running Birmingham will also have a lifeline from which to cling on to London’s buoyant economy. This also makes discussions about an HS3 route linking Manchester and Leeds even more important. The Chancellor and Prime Minister have both recognised the need for spatial rebalancing, so perhaps now is the time to discuss London’s future role as opposed to it being an afterthought to the policies that will actually have an impact.
It’s a debate touched on in the acclaimed Kaleidoscope City, published this year to mark the RTPI centenary. Cambridge University professors Peter Tyler et al argue that what is required is a “new spatial grammar” that directs state economic policy and capital spending to give northern urban agglomerations the access to resources from the public and private sectors that London has secured. It’s a message reiterated by Lord Heseltine in his No Stone Unturned review, and arguably what Lord Adonis says in his Mending The Fractured Economy report.
This is not a question of stunting London’s growth, but about ways to unlock the growth of other big cities. It’s not about post-rationalising consequential and cumulative impacts either, but exploring the ways in which infrastructural and financial improvements (including devolution and centralisation) can support areas outside London through proactive policy interventions.
Zoe Green is a senior planning consultant for Atkins and the RTPI's Young Planner of the Year for 2014

The Core Cities is so important to development outside of London.... there's a great bit of research about Core Cities from GVA- http://www.gva.co.uk/supporting-our-cities-and-regions/ - it's worth a read to see the impact it'll have, especillay if you live in one of the cores.


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