14 to watch in 2014 (part 3 of 3)

My predictions on what will be the big issues and trends for UK cities and regions in 2014. I will blog in more detail on these, and other, issues through the year. See also part 1  https://citypolicy.wordpress.com/2014/01/01/14-to-watch-in-2014-part-1-of-3/ and part 2 https://citypolicy.wordpress.com/2014/01/02/14-to-watch-in-2014-part-2-of-3/


10. Resilience

As the UK is battered by gales and flooding, I predict that resilience to extreme weather events will be prominent theme for cities in 2014. A great deal of attention has been on the role of cities in helping tackle climate change. Cities are taking a lead in developing renewable and low carbon energy solutions, and in making buildings and transport networks more energy efficient.

But is enough attention being paid to adaptation to climate change? The impacts of climate change include, hotter summers, wetter winters, and more extreme weather events. Disruption to critical infrastructure such as transport networks and energy supply can affect business continuity, impose huge economic costs and can damage investor confidence. The work of the Adaptation Sub Committee to the Committee for Climate Change has set out the risks.

Cities need to consider the risks posed by extreme weather, and to take a lead in identifying the right resilience solutions. In Leeds, the Council developed and secured funding for a flood alleviation scheme that, unlike previous proposals, is affordable, innovative (using collapsible weirs), and is in keeping with our historic waterfront. See: http://www.leeds.gov.uk/residents/Pages/floodalleviationscheme.aspx

Expect to see more cities undertaking system-wide risk assessments on how they can adapt to the effects of a changing climate.

11.  Sector policy

The Government’s national industrial strategy produced in 2012 (https://www.gov.uk/government/policies/using-industrial-strategy-to-help-the-uk-economy-and-business-compete-and-grow) signaled a return of sector policy. It identified a series of sectors where there was a strong rationale for Government support: advanced manufacturing, aerospace, automotive, life sciences, knowledge intensive services, the information economy, construction, energy, and digital and creative. Since then we have seen a range of national initiatives focused on these sectors.

Cities and LEPs are generally organising their interventions to grow the economy and producing their own strategic economic plans based on sectors. Sector groups of industry leaders are being formed, sector skills strategies developed, sector innovation hubs and catapults are being funded. There are negatives as well as positive aspects of a sector-based approach in my opinion (watch this space for further thoughts in coming weeks). But it is clear that Sector policy looks like it is here to stay.

12.  HS2 as a growth project

In 2013 the debate on the economic case for HS2 became increasingly prominent and polarised with claim and counter claim as to what will be the quantifiable economic impact. In recent years numerous studies have been produced on the topic (indeed I have had a hand in some of them).

But there are two main problems with attempts to identify the specific number in terms of the economic benefits. First, as was argued in the study I helped produce for the Core Cities Group (see: http://www.corecities.com/what-we-do/publications/understanding-transport-infrastructure-requirements-deliver-growth-england-s), current methods for assessing the economic impacts of transport projects are not suitable for high speed rail. Second, the debate has now reached the stage where there is a widespread sceptical view that any numbers are “made up”.

I predict that in 2014 the debate will move on from “what” the economic impact of HS2 will be, to “how” the project will boost the economy. The HS2 Growth Taskforce  (www.gov.uk/government/policy-advisory-groups/hs2-growth-taskforce) will produce its report in spring 2014. Expect to see recommendations on what cities and Government can do to accelerate regeneration of areas around HS2 stations, maximise the supply chain opportunities, and create new patterns of trade between cities. HS2 is not just a railway scheme; it is a project that can transform the economy of some of the UK’s largest cities.

13.  Housing growth

As the housing market picks up, expect to see more cities and local authorities planning positively for population and housing growth.

There are a number of reasons for this. The recession and housing market crash, exacerbated structural problems of undersupply of new housing, but did not remove the underlying pressures of rapid population growth and rates of household formation. Whilst regional planning was abolished, there remains a requirement for local authorities to plan for a deliverable supply of housing to meet objectively assessed need. Initiatives such as the New Homes Bonus also provide a real fiscal incentive for Council’s to plan for growth. Housing development creates jobs in construction and supply chains.

Cities need to be able to accommodate, attract and retain a growing workforce in the future. This also has implications for “livability” factors such as the quality and range of housing and the quality of place both in new communities and existing neighborhoods.

This is not just an issue for London and the South East. In Leeds we are planning for 66,000 net additional dwellings by 2028. I am happy to be corrected, but I think this is the highest number of new homes planned by any UK local authority over the same period.

14.  Grand Depart

The big UK sporting event of 2014 is in fact the largest free sporting event in the world. Yorkshire will host the Grand Depart, the first two stages of the Tour De France, starting in Leeds in under six months time.

The Grand Depart will showcase Yorkshire great cities and stunning countryside to a huge global television audience. It will include the Team Presentation (think Olympics opening ceremony) at the First Direct Arena in Leeds. There will be an international business festival to promote inward investment to and exports from Yorkshire. The 100 day cultural festival will attract visitors well in advance of the event, and the legacy of increased tourism and participation in cycling will last long afterwards.

Perhaps the most significant impact has been the way in which the securing the Grand Depart has signaled a growing sense of economic ambition and momentum in Yorkshire. The way in which the successful bid was developed independently of national Government, showed a new spirit of determination and self-confidence in Yorkshire. Major sporting events have been pivotal moments in the renaissance of other cities. Le Grand Depart 2014 can do the same for Leeds and Yorkshire.


About citypolicy

Interested in what makes cities and regions dynamic, competitive and sustainable. I blog in a personal capacity. I work for Arup as Director, Cities Advisory. I was previously with Leeds City Council as Chief Economic Development Officer.
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1 Response to 14 to watch in 2014 (part 3 of 3)

  1. Mike Chitty says:

    Nice blog Tom. What can we do as a city to ensure a more benign climate for our SME / third sector innovators and to develop their ability to produce investment ready innovation? I think this is a critical bottleneck in pursuit of best city outcomes, and minimising the negative impacts of austerity. It would support the agenda of a number of public bodies in the city too especially wrt to health and social care.

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