Planes, trains and automobiles – it’s time to jumpstart our stalling economy

Ed Catchpole

Regional Director, Yorkshire & Central

Poor connectivity and outdated infrastructure are holding back transformational regeneration across the UK.  You don’t need to be a planning expert to see that.

HS2 and Network North have been at the forefront of national debate in recent weeks, but for many living across the north of England our creaking transport system is a permanent frustration and has been a priority for decades.

Airport investment and major roads improvements, rail modernisation and better bus services – these are the things that enable people to get where they need to be and create places for new communities and homes. 

We also desperately need to keep business moving. Transport investment is non-negotiable for the UK if we are to create the additional network capacity the logistics sector is crying out for and help our country kick its productivity problem.

If developers and investors are to commit to lengthy, difficult and complex regeneration that will deliver much-needed new homes and land for modern industry to flourish, we need a longer-term view from government. 

According to data from the Campaign for Better Transport, the initial appraisal of HS2 found that the project would generate a benefit worth £1.30 for every £1 spent. Scrapping the Birmingham-Manchester section of the line reduces that benefit to just 20p for every £1 spent. 

There is therefore now a huge amount riding on the delivery of numerous smaller projects to fill the void. And of course there is logic in trying to redeploy funding to projects which will have a quicker, more direct and more visible benefit for people and business.

So all eyes will be on the Chancellor when he delivers the Autumn Statement this week – in particular on whether we will see a further commitment to funding essential new transport infrastructure set out in the Network North policy document. These initiatives – if delivered – will benefit a great many towns and communities.

From Harworth’s perspective, we have presented our case alongside local authority partners in Derbyshire, and are calling for government funding of the Chesterfield to Staveley Regeneration Route. This is a proposed new road that would unlock a large swathe of allocated, brownfield developable land – creating new housing and high-quality jobs in a community that felt the brunt of deindustrialisation. 

Meanwhile in North Yorkshire we are hopeful that our plans for Gascoigne Interchange – to regenerate a former brownfield site for commercial development – can move forward soon. The site benefits from extensive rail connectivity of regional significance, but too often we find that the strategic case and powerful impact of projects like this are undermined or delayed. 

As a developer focused on long-term and strategic regeneration, we can provide capital and work in close partnership with the public sector to unlock the major transport infrastructure we all need – such as the new station that’s coming forward at our site in Waverley and will help to connect the largest mixed-use regeneration scheme in Yorkshire to the wider area.

These are just a few examples of how joined-up, public-private partnerships can act as the catalyst for wider regeneration, and benefit local communities in a way which goes well beyond a new stretch of tarmac or rail line. 

The agglomeration effect of projects like these can be profound, and the social and economic case is huge.  ‘If you build it, they will come’ is never truer than in transport-driven regeneration. Look at the way the Elizabeth line has surpassed expectations on usage and economic impact in London and then consider the transformational impact a project like that could have in the north of England.

It’s a widely accepted view that our country’s approach to value for money is flawed, and inherently biased towards the south east. We need to push for a broader and more strategic model for assessing ROI than the Treasury’s Green Book currently provides.

There are also certain things you can’t put on a spreadsheet, and symbolic importance is one of them. 

We’ll be watching the Chancellor’s address keenly and hoping he will make a positive statement which squarely supports vital investment in our regions’ transport.